One step at a time

Creating an enjoyable journey for myself and my family.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Almost everyday I have a conversation with someone about taking care of yourself. Recently it came up with a lady I go to church with who stays home with her busy toddlers, like me. Caring for yourself has come up with strangers at the YMCA, my yoga instructor, my brother, my neighbor and my landlord. The fact that this subject keeps coming up has made me consider my position more consciously. How does one "take care of themselves?"

There are millions of self-help books dedicated to this topic, seminars taught daily from coast-to-coast and millions of psychiatrists, counselors and therapists who have dedicated their lives to helping others discover the best ways to take care of themselves. I offer only my opinion. I hope something I suggests helps you to take better care of yourself.

Psychology Today says of self-care, "Self-care is not self-indulgence.  Popularly, the terms self-care and self-indulgence are used interchangeably, as in "Oh, go ahead, indulge.  You deserve it."  We tell ourselves that we are practicing self-care when, in fact, we are engaging in self-indulgence.  Self-indulgence is characterized by avoidance of the effortful and substitution of quick and easy antidotes.  We tell ourselves that the stresses of the day have drained our energy and that vegging on the sofa with a quart of ice cream is all we can expect of ourselves.  Rather than shouldering the hard work of self-care, we settle for temporary and largely symbolic fixes - some of which actually stress our systems further."

Self-care begins with a healthy diet, regular exercise and getting enough sleep. If you know these areas of your life need improvement, start there. Make simple goals for improvement that won't overwhelm you, for example, "This week I will eat one salad instead of a carb-heavy meal I normally eat."  Or, "This week I will ask a friend to join me in doing a physical activity I enjoy, like playing tennis." Just having a goal written down on your fridge can help you remember that you and your needs are important. 

Here are some strategies for relieving tension and caring for yourself:
1. Deep Breathing
2. Guided Imagery
3. Mediation
4. Progressive muscle relaxation
5. Yoga
6. Praying
7. Music
8. Walking outside in the sunshine
9. Positive self-talk
10. Playing with children

One critical mistake I've made when managing my stress and tension is relying too heavily on my spouse. People get married to have someone around, besides their mother, who will tell them everything is going to be ok and give them a band-aid. This is a helpful and positive role your spouse can play in your life, but they are not an open keg you can tap to fill your emotional cup. Hence the SELF in self-care. 

I know it can seem daunting, but when you accept the challenge of caring for yourself the rewards are huge. You, your spouse, your children, your friends, neighbors, and complete strangers all benefit. 

I found that positive affirmations can also be extremely helpful in relieving stress, shifting your awareness and reframing your situation. Here are a few that have been especially helpful to me:

"I accept myself for who I am right now."
"I allow myself to think and dream in unlimited ways." 
"I expect only the best to happen and it does."
"I trust that everything comes at the perfect time and in the perfect way."
"All my experiences are opportunities to gain more power, clarity and vision." 

There is a Chinese Proverb that says, "Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are." Spend some time by yourself. Get to know who you are and what you need. You'll find much more satisfying solutions to your challenges if you do. Take good care of yourself.