This blog is timely considering a month of constant heart breaking losses and set backs:
We all face tough days or times. It’s a part of life.
But how you react, think and act during these tough times makes a big difference. With a helpful set of habits the outlook on life can change in a huge and remarkable way. I know from experience, I was a big, die-hard pessimist years ago.
So this week I’d like to simply share five of my favorite timeless tips on optimism. Fundamentals that the wise people that came before us have lived by for hundreds and thousands of years.
1. Remember: It is not too late to change your life.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
It may feel like you have been on the same path and stuck in the same habits for so long that you are stuck permanently on your current route.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. I didn’t make many positive changes to my own life before I was 25 (i’m 34 now). And over the past 7+ years I have received thousands of emails from readers of all ages – between 14 and 72 – that have told me about how they have recently changed their life in a positive way.
You may not be able to change your life in any way you want right now. But work with what you have where you are right now.
Make just a small change if that is what is possible. That small change and success will give you confidence and optimism and you can build upon that to make more and perhaps even bigger changes over the year.
2. Don’t make mountains out of molehills.
“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.”
It is easy to let thoughts spin out of control. To let them grow from just one thought or one situation into a big thing in your mind.
So what can you do about it?
One thought combination that has helped me with this habit is to:
- Step 1: Say stop right away. If you have read anything I have written about self-esteem then you may have seen that I often mention using a stop-word or phrase. This also works well for optimism.
In this case it simply means that as soon as you become aware of that you are starting to make a mountain out of a molehill you say or shout STOP! or something similar in your mind. I tend to use the phrase: No, no, no, we are not going down that road again.
- Step 2: Broaden the perspective. After I have used my stop-phrase I ask myself this about the perceived problem: Will this matter in 5 years? Or even 5 weeks? The answer is almost always no. And my mind is once again more chill, calm and level-headed.
3. Find a more helpful way to view your troubles.
“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”
“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.”
Not all troubles in life are molehills (or simply made out of air).
And these more substantial challenges can easily to get drag you down.
But if you view them in a helpful and optimistic way then, yes, they may still hurt. But they tend to often hurt a lot less and can even be a source of optimistic excitement.
For example, I did not to like making mistakes or failing at all. I often chose to stand still and to not do anything to not risk anything.
But nowadays I have learned that these things tend to truly be a blessing in disguise.
What has changed?
I view them differently and act upon them differently than I used to. I ask myself:
- What is one opportunity in this situation?
- How will this experience help me in the long run?
These questions help me to make good use of a situation that may seem negative at first.
And after having gone through this process over and over again I am a lot less afraid of making mistakes or failing. Because by now I know from experience that by handling challenges in this way I have gained many benefits and grown as a person over the past years.
4. Focus on the small steps you can take.
“Having a positive mental attitude is asking how something can be done rather than saying it can’t be done.”
Focus on what you can do about your situation and take action on. Not on asking yourself over and over why something happened to you or why you failed. That will only lead to pessimism and feeling powerless.
Instead, ask yourself: what is one small step I can take today to get the ball rolling and improve this situation?
Just take that one small step today. Then another tomorrow. The small steps tend to add up quickly and, as I mentioned above, will breed confidence and optimism that allow you to take more and bigger steps.
5. Learn to reduce and handle worries.
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
Worries can be very destructive.
But most of the things you fear will happen never happen. They are just nightmares or monsters in your own mind. And if they happen then they will most often not be as painful or bad as you expected. Worrying is most often just a waste of the time you have here.
I know, this is easy to say. But what can you do about it?
What has worked for me is a similar combination to the one that I mentioned above.
- Say stop. I first use my stop phrase: No, no, no, we are not going down that road again.
- Look back into the past. Then I ask myself a question based on Churchill’s quote: how many of my worries and things I feared came into my reality in the past? The answer is always the same for me: very few.
These two steps help me to calm down and to think more clearly about things once again
Life Is a Battle!
Exhaustion Is Not a Status Symbol
How Does the Militarization of Fitness Affect Your Workout?
- No pain, no gain. You have to suffer to get in shape.
- More is always more. Duh.
- Working out is not fun, but it's an obligation.
- If I don’t almost throw up, I’m holding back too much.
- You’re only as good as your last workout.
- I feel like a loser when I miss a workout.
So What’s the Other Option?
Using Intensity Wisely and Normalizing Discomfort
With the holiday weekend approaching, I wanted to remind you about a couple of excellent resources for healthy AND tasty recipes. Its all about the mindset: Try not thinking about passing on high fat, processed and recreational sugary foods as depriving yourself. What you are truly depriving yourself of when you choose these options is good health.
Enjoying a quality of life and health expressed in your personal Vision of Wellness is a freedom worth fighting for!
Heart Healthy Recipes (American Heart Association)
Healthy Recipes (American Diabetes Association)
Enjoy a Freedom Fighting Holiday!
Yours Truly In Health,
I have been following Geneen Roth since 1986. She continues to inspire me:
Last week, when I was at a gas station filling the tank, washing my windshield, checking the oil, and adding little whooshes of air to my tires, I noticed a woman in the car next to me eating a piece of pizza. And then another. And then the entire pizza. After that, she ate a box of donuts and a carton of ice cream. I wanted to walk over to her and say, “Oh, honey, tell me what’s going on….” Then I remembered that when I was bingeing, I would have run down anything that stood between me and food. So I decided to preserve my life and not interrupt the Binge Trance. Still, I couldn’t get her out of my mind for the rest of the day.
Bingeing used to thrill me. From the moment I decided to binge, to the hunting and gathering of the food that would be its centerpiece, through the eating (um, inhaling) of those foods, I would be heart-pounding, eyes-gleaming enthralled.
A binge had the power to stop time. To stop everything that was disturbing me: the worries, the nitty-gritty tasks I was avoiding, the arguments I was having with a friend or family member. Bingeing was a way to sidestep my life and enter a world in which nothing existed but me and food. It was, as I’ve called it in my books, “a plunge into oblivion.”
The hardest part of bingeing was, natch, when I reached the end. The last bite would be taken, and I’d be surrounded by the evidence of my romp (which was really more like a rampage) through the grocery store: empty cans, crumpled cellophane packages, torn cardboard boxes. I’d end a binge feeling unbearably full – and incredibly empty. Only now I had added another layer of pain to my list of pre-binge worries: my seemingly out-of-control relationship to food and my ever-increasing body size. The truth was that rather than take any of my pain away, I’d just doubled it by bingeing, and the resulting desperation was almost unbearable.
Having paid close attention to my many binges, and having been asked countless binge questions over the years, I think I’ve gleaned some wisdom that’s worth sharing.
First, we all need to have built-in plunges into oblivion. We need to give ourselves permission to check out from the frantic, overwhelming pace of our lives. If you watch small children, you’ll see that they race around madly and then collapse. They put out huge amounts of energy, and then they need to rest. We’re like that, too, but we’ve forgotten about the downtime part.
We think we can be on the run endlessly and be fine.
The rhythm of exertion needs to be followed by rest. There is a time to run around and a time to plunge into oblivion. If we don’t build the latter into our lives, we suffer. Either we become utterly exhausted or we sneak a plunge on the sly, sometimes while sitting in a car at a gas station. We grab time for ourselves by bingeing, and because we don’t feel we’re allowed the luxury of downtime, we end up hurting ourselves.
Downtime is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. The food-free version could include reading, knitting, even watching soap operas. But if you are so tired that you can’t imagine doing one more thing, what you should do is simple: nothing. Even for five minutes a day. If it’s too outlandish to consider resting and either doing nothing or doing what you love, then it’s time to take a second look at how you’ve constructed a life that includes everyone but you.
I also have some advice on what you can do when you find yourself knee-deep in the Binge Trance. Try to become aware of the part of you that is separate from the activity, the part that is witnessing what you are doing and saying, “Wow, I am sitting in my car at a gas station by myself surrounded by $50 worth of pizza and donuts – I wonder what’s going on?” Pay attention to that voice at least as much as you are paying attention to the next bite. Be curious about what you are doing.
And at the very least, taste the food you are eating. My experience in bingeing – whether it’s on two cookies or an entire cake – is that I am so caught up in getting the food in my mouth, I forget to taste it, to enjoy it. And as long as you are eating, you might as well enjoy it. If bingeing is the only time you give yourself permission to eat your favorite foods, why let the moment pass you by without noticing the crunch of those foods? Since binges are a way to give yourself something, let yourself receive it. The positive by-product of this awareness is that compulsion and mindfulness cannot coexist. Once you become aware of what you are doing, it’s harder to continue with the same momentum.
What if you finish every last bite or drop? What do you say to yourself, how do you treat yourself? I have a three-word directive for coming off a binge: Be unspeakably kind. In the empty fullness left after bingeing, the “I can’t believe you did this again, what’s the matter with you, you are a failure now and forevermore” voices sense a place to step in. And when they do, they roar.
Don’t let them. If they threaten to overtake you, imagine them, as a therapist friend of mine says, as teeny screeching mice the size of your thumbnail. Imagine putting them in a jar and covering it with a very strong lid. Since their squawking can’t hurt you now, treat yourself as if you were doing your very best. Live as if you deserve to be here, regardless of what you have just eaten. And know that every time you remind yourself that you belong here, regardless of what you weigh, you are speaking the truth.
Amazing blog written by my mentor and coach, Ellen Schuman
I Want to Lose Weight
This is “Healthy Weight Week”! Now sponsored by Green Mountain at Fox Run, “Healthy Weight Week is an educational event to help change public perception that weight determines health and that dieting is a viable health solution.”
Oh, if I had a dollar for every time in my life I’ve said, “ I want to lose weight. If I could just lose this weight, I’d be happy ”. Add another 50 cents for every time I felt pressured (Mom, you know who you are) and was told I “should” want to lose weight, I’d be rich!
We’re all bombarded with the messages daily; some overt, some covert….thin equals pretty. Diet commercials encourage me to “Say hello to my new beginning”. Why? Because my current life isn’t worth living if I happen to live at a higher weight than a Victoria’s Secret model? I’m to emulate some now bikini-worthy celebrity who was paid a million plus dollars to live on meal replacements? Or I’m to substitute Special K Cereal products for two of three meals a day, so I can “lose up to 6 lbs. in two weeks”?
A weight loss segment on Good Morning America ends with the two seemingly intelligent women anchors spontaneously saying, in unison, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. Then, they high five each other and laugh, as if they have just chanted their battle cry, and they’re winning. My hair salon was promoting its hair products and these words were on the cover of the brochure, “Get the Skinny”. We’re talking hair products here! Really? No wonder we feel badly about ourselves. We’re told even our hair is too fat!
Alleged weight loss “experts” on the Biggest Loser (even our family physicians) say, “If you want to lose weight, try behavior modification”. But think about it. Weight is not a BEHAVIOR. What you weigh today is not a “behavior” to be modified. Not sure that’s so? Just talk to people who have tried to “modify weight”, who have spent a fair (sad) portion of their lives focused on their weight, and they’ll tell you they weigh more today than they did the day they accepted dieted as a religion or as a required and acceptable way to live.
So, if you’re ready to,
1) let go of dieting as your way to feel “in control”
2) reject the pursuit of weight loss as a national past time and moral imperative
3) stop believing that weight loss is THE route to health and happiness and, instead, begin to explore new ways to make a life that brings you your best health, energy, and joy…
what do you do next?
My recommendation…embrace SELF-CARE! Focus on healthy behavior, not on weight and weight bias. Develop new healthy habits you’re willing to practice, a step at a time, that will improve your emotional, physical, nutritional, social, and spiritual health…no matter what you happen to weight on any given day.
Begin to feel more at home in and be more loving to your body. Maybe start with gratitude. Notice the many pleasures your body provides; taste, sight, hearing, pleasure of touch, and smell. Your body takes you through each and every day and allows you to experience it all! It provides the pleasure of taking a walk with a friend, watching movies, dancing, making love, enjoying great music, eating great food. Gratitude and self-care can go a long way when it comes to feeling at home in your body.
“Feeling at home in your body,” also means taking ownership and responsibility for your body.Treat it well. Give it great fuel. Take it in for repair, when needed. (Would you treat your car any less well?) Please accept your body as it is now, with weight wherever it happens to be today, along with all of your aches and pains, and challenges. Its the only body you’ll ever have!
Think about it. If you respect your body vs. loathing it, will you be more willing to take good care of it? Will you be much more likely to make healthier choices if your focus is on being as healthy as possible, rather than on being as thin as possible? (Very little I did in my attempts to get thin would be considered healthy, by anyone’s standards.)
Here’s to self-care and to your best health possible! As you take wonderful care of your body, your body will do exactly what it’s naturally meant to do when you treat it well…
The following is an article written by Dr. Michelle May, founder of "Am I Hungry" a program centered around Intuitive Eating.
Your Picture of health
Have you ever seen a photo mosaic? From a distance, it looks like an ordinary portrait, but up close, you realize that it’s actually comprised of thousands of small detailed photographs.
Your health is like that: a mosaic of the thousands of small decisions you make about your eating, physical activity, and well-being. No single decision determines the outcome, but altogether, they create your picture of health. Here are six surprisingly small resolutions that add up to big changes:
1. Find the middle ground.
Think of eating and physical activity as a pendulum with two extremes: All and Nothing. What happens if you draw a pendulum in one direction and let it go? Of course, it swings to the opposite extreme. Too often, this is how people approach their eating and exercise choices: all or nothing.
No individual snack, meal, or drink—or day on the couch—will ruin your picture of health, but a pattern of overconsumption or disregard for your health will affect the end result. Since perfection is not possible (or even necessary), find the balance in-between. When your eating and exercise plan take into account your schedule, preferences, goals, health concerns, and other issues specific to you, you’re able to establish a healthy lifestyle that is flexible enough to withstand the realities of your daily life.
2. Use nutrition information as a tool, not a weapon.
Rigid rules set you up for failure because when your favorites are off-limits, you’ll still want them. This can trigger cravings, overeating, and guilt, so you may find yourself in the trap I call the “eat-repent-repeat” cycle. Instead, enjoy the foods you really love without guilt. This freedom actually decreases cravings and overeating, and increases enjoyment and moderation. When guilt is no longer a factor, common sense prevails.
Remember that all foods can fit into a healthy diet. Just keep in mind the common-sense principles of balance, variety, and moderation when deciding what to eat: balance eating for enjoyment with eating for nourishment; choose a variety of foods to feel healthy and satisfied; and practice moderation in all things.
If your eating is out of balance, simply ask yourself, “Is there a healthier choice I could make without feeling deprived?” You may discover that you are just as satisfied with frozen yogurt in place of ice cream, whole grain crackers instead of chips, or a small instead of a large. That is balance, variety, and moderation.
3. Check your fuel gauge.
You wouldn’t pull into a gas station to fill up without first checking your fuel gauge. But how often do you eat just because it’s there? To recognize the difference between wanting to eat and needing to eat, pause and ask yourself, “Am I hungry?”
It’s a deceptively simple question. You’ll probably be surprised to discover how often you feel like eating just because you’re bored, tired, stressed, or want a reward. Eating food your body doesn’t need leads to weight gain—and doesn’t meet your emotional needs very well either.
By asking “Am I hungry?”, you may sometimes realize that you’re too hungry. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, sets you up for overeating and poor choices. Keep nutrient rich foods on hand for snacks. Examples of great choices include a handful of nuts, fresh or dried fruit, whole grain crackers with string cheese, or a pouch of ready-to-eat tuna.
4. End eating on autopilot.
Eating on the run doesn’t work because multitasking is a myth. Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time so everything else goes on autopilot—especially eating. Thiat’is why you can get to the end of a meal and feel stuffed, but strangely unsatisfied.
On the other hand, mindful eating is eating with intention and attention. Eat with the intention of feeling better when you’re done than you did when you started. Eat with attention by taking a break to eat. Make eating an opportunity to refuel and recharge. Minimize distractions, pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, and appreciate the aromas, appearance, and flavors of the meal. Awareness of your body’s fuel needs and conscious enjoyment of the entire experience leads to greater satisfaction with less food.
As you experience the benefits of eating more mindfully, ask yourself what other areas of your life would improve with less multitasking and more intention and attention.
5. Exercise for health, not punishment.
Don’t make the mistake of exercising to earn the right to eat or pay penance for eating, as in, “I was so bad at dinner last night; I’ll spend an extra hour on the treadmill.” This negative approach leads to dread and avoidance. Instead, exercise for energy, productivity, health, function, and longevity.
Find activities that you really enjoy and that work well in your schedule. Even busy people quickly discover that it’s a great return on their investment when they focus on the benefits. Exercise is so valuable in fact, that if you’re too busy to exercise, you’re just too busy.
If you aren’t in shape yet, start small and you’ll quickly adapt. Picture that pendulum: small steps practiced consistently are more effective than one large, temporary overhaul.
6. Take responsibility for your well-being.
Self-care is not an indulgence, it is a necessity. But don’t expect someone else to say, “You know what you really need? Time for yourself!” You have to believe you deserve it and be willing to invest your precious resources to make sure you get it.
Even the little things—restful sleep, connecting with family and friends, time for favorite hobbies, quiet relaxation—all contribute to your effectiveness, health, and vitality. When you keep the big picture in mind, tile by tile, choice by choice, you’ll create a masterpiece of good health and your best year yet!
I recently attended a Pilates Conference sponsored by a leading equipment manufacturer, Balanced Body. In attendance were Pilates instructors from around the world. It was so amazing to be among enthusiast's sharing our passion for Pilates and helping others. With a desire to get a taste of the evolving repertoire and new ways to move on the reformer I signed up for a few intermediate/advanced master classes. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m a Pilates teacher who has been doing this specific type of functional movement for 7 years. Well, I was soon humbled by my first class. Unbeknownst to me during registration, this was a 90 minute class using a Pilates “Arc” on the reformer (image below).
With a fusion of my thoracic and lumbar spine, this “Arc” was NOT my friend. My back would never in my lifetime have the ability to extend over this prop. I was immediately faced by 2 choices: Option 1: An ego based, muscling through the workout on the Arc with obvious limitations and paying for it with an all too familiar muscle spasm and/or inflammation in my lower back for the rest of the day. OR Option 2: treating myself as I do with all of my client’s with limitations by showing empathy and compassion and perform effective variations WITHOUT the Arc. Truth be told, my ego won for the first few exercises and I quickly felt pain radiating down my back. That was all I needed to remind me of the importance of self-compassion and respecting my own limitations. I immediately hopped off the “!*!*!” Arc, found a foam roller and began gently applying massage to my muscles that were seizing up to protect my spine. Fortunately, I was able to course correct by revisiting my second option: share my limitations with the teacher and perform most of the class w/out the Arc.
Every class following this experience involved many exercises that I could not do without making significant modifications. This is the wonderful fact about Pilates! There are so many exercises, which can be performed with adjustments and assists to achieve the same result! At first, I felt like having a little pity party, for not having the ability to perform exercises as beautifully as most of the other students and impress the master teachers. Once I shifted my mindset to the positive and focused on lessons learned from the experience I actually felt a sense of gratitude for my limitations and for the gifts of empathy and compassion acquired because of them. When I shared with the instructors about my fusion they were more than accommodating and even used it as an opportunity to teach other student instructors how to work with a fused spine = )
Lessons from this experience I’d like to share:
- Don’t allow limitations prevent you from participating fully in your life.
- If there is something you are getting a nudge to try just show up! Allow yourself to feel the anxiety and discomfort of trying something new knowing it will pass. If you find that you aren’t enjoying the experience you can modify, take a break or just leave. It’s never too late to course-correct.
- Speak Up!
- Always practice self-compassion!
- Never compare yourself to others!
Thank you for reading = ) Now get out there and Rock What You've Got!
I found the following article which really resonated with me regarding making time for self-care. Enjoy!
In the circles that I run in, self-care is big. On the other hand, in American society at large self-care is fairly frowned upon. Long work weeks are expected, frivolities are considered unnecessary, and it’s selfish to spend time or money on yourself. Self-care is HARD, particularly in a climate where it’s not supported. Most of us tend to believe that we shouldn’t need to pamper ourselves, or that we’re only allowed to when things are falling apart. The way that many people view “me time” is to work yourself to the bone and then take one gigantic vacation that completely recharges your battery. Generally this is a really inefficient and bad plan that simply doesn’t work, so I’d like to first advocate for the necessity of self-care in all lives, second try to promote a more integrated and continuous model of self-care, and finally offer some tips and tricks that I have found effective.
So first and foremost, self-care is not about being selfish. It’s not about being self-absorbed. It’s not about putting yourself before everybody else. Self-care is about making sure that you’re taking care of your body and your mind and your senses so that you can function well. At the end of the day, the best way to give to other people or to be effective at your job or to be a good parent is to practice some self-care because it makes you more in tune with what you need, it gives you resources, and it helps you to have enough energy to do what you need to do. It’s like emotional fuel: you wouldn’t ask yourself to do a workout without eating, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to make it through a long day without some emotional energy.
Now what I’m not advocating is that we always put ourselves first and never help others, or that we spend all of our money pampering and spoiling ourselves. What I am advocating is that we take some time each day to do things that make us feel calm, soothed, and energized. I am advocating that we always take a balanced approach when we’re trying to help others: only give out of what you have. If someone asks you to listen and you are on your last legs, you’re allowed to say no. However if someone is looking like they’re down and you’re feeling really strong and positive, it might be good to go over and ask how you can help. Self-care can help you get in touch with when you feel you can help and when you can’t, which overall will make you more effective. Practicing regular self-care will not take up too much time in your life, but it will likely leave you feeling better and more capable at work and in your relationships.
In many circumstances, I think we all assume that if each one of us just takes care of someone else, then somehow we’ll all end up taken care of. Unfortunately that doesn’t work; someone always gets missed, or things are uneven, or energy gets lost in the transfer. The best person to take care of you on a daily basis is yourself, because you are the only person who knows what you are experiencing and feeling, and you’re the only one who can figure out what you want or need. You are the only one who’s there all the time, and you’re the best judge of what needs to happen.
In addition, it’s important for us to be relatively self-sufficient in terms of our emotional health. Obviously there are times when we can’t do this, but most of us wouldn’t like it if we had to ask someone else to plan and cook all our meals, make up our workouts for us, and feed us our pills. There are some people who have to do this and it creates a lot of strain in their relationships and often makes them frustrated and unhappy (there absolutely isn’t anything wrong with you if you’re in this situation, but I don’t think it’s what anyone strives for and we generally aim for independence in our caretaking). However with our emotional health we often expect other people to take full responsibility for it. I think it’s time we learn to take care of ourselves. Self care is exactly this: it’s learning to identify what you need and how to get it.
Overall, the benefits of self care are that we all will feel better and function better with some self-care, we can take care of ourselves better than anyone else, and we can be more self-sufficient if we practice self-care.
So hopefully now that I’ve convinced you that self-care is useful, I want to talk a little more about the style of self-care that I’m advocating. Sometimes it can be useful to do something big for yourself. One of my future self-care plans is to get a tattoo of the eating disorder recovery symbol, and for me that’s a huge piece of self-care. Taking a vacation can be self-care. But for the most part we already know about these larger things and we know how to do them. We generally view that as what we’re supposed to do: feel miserable all week long and then party hard on the weekend. I’ve never particularly understood this model and I think it sucks. Instead of only focusing on these larger things, I think we need to shift our focus to the day to day, because one big action only leaves you feeling better for so long.
Many of us worry about our relationship or our job or the large things that affect our lives and generally strive to improve these things, but we don’t stop to think about the actual texture of each day. That day to day texture, more than the ability to rattle off our successes, is what makes us happier individuals who are capable of contributing and caring. Improving the day to day can be incredibly difficult. We may not get to choose what projects we’re working on, or if our partner is having a rough day. What we can change is our self-care routine. We can allow ourselves that mocha every morning if it significantly impacts our happiness. We can take five minutes during our lunch break to focus on our breath and come back to the present. We can find a few things that really make a difference to us and make sure we schedule some time each and every day to do them. No excuses. And it’s also handy to have a longer list of slightly larger things in your back pocket for the bad days, so that you can manage.
So all of you are onboard, right? You’re all clamoring to start your self-care right this exact minute, but you’re sitting out there just like I was with no clue of what it means to soothe yourself or what will actually be effective in making yourself calmer. Partially you have to discover for yourself. Everybody’s a little different in what floats his or her boat, so I can’t tell you what exactly will work for you. Try some experimentation. For a few weeks try to incorporate something a little different each day. To get you started, here are some suggestions of things that work for me or that have worked for others. There are also lists galore on The Google, so if none of these things strike your fancy, you can venture out into the wide world of the internet. One thing to keep in mind is that many of these things might sound silly or trite at first. Keep an open mind. Some of the things that I dismissed most quickly the first few times around have been proving to be the most helpful.
Without further ado: Self-Care Tips
- The first thing I always suggest to people who are looking for ways to self-care is to start with the senses. I never realized before how closely emotions and physicality are tied together, but it’s amazing how quickly your emotions calm if you can calm down your body. So try to be good to your senses: they’re how you perceive the world. This can come in any number of forms, and will be very personal. You could buy something incredibly tasty once a week, and really take the time to savor it. I personally am a texture person, which means that I have a couple of very fuzzy blankets and a pair of footie pajamas so that if I’m having a rough day I can immediately sooth myself by touching something soft. Lighting a scented candle might be your thing. Taking a hot bath. Wearing comfortable clothes. Taking some time to look at cute kittens online in the middle of your day. Listening to music. Anything that engages your senses and brings you into the present moment, while also being calming.
- Moving your body can be GREAT, especially if you work a desk job. If you can get out and go for a short walk, your body can feel a lot better.
- Reading a book for pleasure.
- If you’re a fidgeter, get some silly putty or something similar. You can likely have it with you at work, and just use it if things start to get stressful.
- Giving yourself permission to say no, or to skip something if it won’t make you happy and if you don’t have the energy. Particularly if you’re someone who has an overloaded schedule and some of the things on it are supposed to be fun, don’t go if it won’t make you happy.
- Do yourself the favor of trying to take care of your body. Get enough sleep (THIS IS SO IMPORTANT I CAN’T EVEN SAY IT ENOUGH), eat regularly and try to be fairly healthy (that doesn’t mean cutting out delicious things), try to exercise some, take whatever meds you’re on but don’t take non-prescription things. It is amazing what doing these basic things can mean for your emotional well-being.
- Spend time with people you like. Talk to them.
- Art can be really helpful, in whatever form this means to you. Exercising your creative drive feels GREAT. Painting, playing music, writing, going to a play…let yourself experience art. I can no longer go a day without writing, and if I tried I would go CRAZY.
- For a little extra, added pampering, something like a massage is wonderful. For the menfolks out there, I know that this might damage your manpride, but pedicures are also fantastic. You get a little foot massage and you feel lovely afterwards. Related to this, getting a new haircut or something to make yourself feel extra spiff are great.
- Dress up. Or dress down. This one really is about personal preference. If it makes you feel a little more springy to put on a cute dress, then GO FOR IT. If, on the other hand, you’re sick of having to wear clothes that are uncomfortable, then wear sweatpants for a day (as you are capable). Particularly when it comes to dressing up, don’t let anyone shame you for how you dress. If you’re overdressed, then OWN IT. It doesn’t matter. Just smile and tell anyone who asks that you wanted to dress up for yourself.
- Let yourself watch shitty TV with no guilt. Every Friday is bride night on TLC, which means Say Yes to the Dress. Guess where you can find me every Friday night? Guess how much shame I feel over that? Exactly 0. Now sometimes parking in front of the TV can leave you feeling pretty shitty, but consciously choosing to watch something you enjoy is different from just falling into the routine of sitting in front of the TV and channel surfing.
- For those who may be on the higher anxiety side, or have diagnoses, or even just those who have a tendency to get lost in their own heads, it can be good to pull yourself back to reality. This isn’t exactly self-care, but it is a practice of regularly taking care of your emotions. There are a number of suggestions as alternatives for cutting, and I think they can be fairly effective for anyone who feels anxiety or who wants to use negative coping techniques. They include things like holding on to an ice cube, drawing on yourself, flicking your wrist with a rubber band, or take a cold shower.
- Mindfulness! Meditation! This was one of those things that I was skeptical of at first. It seems very woo woo, I know. But there are evidence-based mindfulness techniques, and you could join a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction group, or simply look up some of those techniques online. These are great ways to recharge a little, or simply calm your mind.