Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Self-Care for your Welfare

January 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Woman drinking coffee or tea at home

We’re instructed on every airplane flight to put on our own oxygen mask before assisting others, so it figures that if we’re run down, stressed out, and unfit, we’re at just as big a disadvantage. This is the year of self-care, where we grab that metaphorical oxygen mask of wellness and fill ourselves full of breath and strength one step at a time.

  1. Breathe. It’s likely you’ll be doing this anyway (or the rest of the list will be worthless). What we mean is breathe evenly, breathe thoroughly, and breathe completely. You remember that awesome feeling after a head cold disappears and you take in full breaths? Your breathing apparatus can actually do that for you all the time. Practice making your exhales longer than your inhales. Breathe in for, say, a count of five and out for a count of seven. Fill from the belly up to your chest as you count the inhale, then let the breath go slowly from top to bottom as you exhale. Practice this simple technique for a few minutes every day until your body registers how good slower, deeper breaths feel.
  1. Move. Take a walk, dance to the music, play sock basketball, park further from your destination, walk to talk to a work colleague rather than call, ditch the golf cart, paddle your dinghy, and be inefficient as you do tasks. Yes, you read that right — instead of putting all the laundry in the basket at once, make two or three trips, and walk around the entire store even though you just need something in aisle six. Move enough and you’re exercising, but to qualify as self-care, moving doesn’t have to be strenuous or prolonged. You just want to remind yourself that it feels better to boogie than it does to bog down.
  1. Pause. This is a mental exercise, not a physical command. Give your mind a break and stop dwelling on the past or the future. Just be in the present moment. If you’re walking the dog, listen to the birds. If you’re playing with your kids, tune into their smiles. Savor the warmth, aroma, and taste of a cup of coffee or tea, luxuriate in a steamy shower, or watch a sunset unfurl and retreat.
  1. Nourish. An engine can’t run on an empty tank. However, you can’t just stuff a loaf of bread and a sack of sugar into your gas tank and expect it go forward — it needs the proper fuel. So do you! Self-care isn’t about depriving yourself of what tastes good, but to propel yourself forward, you need a body filled with essential whole foods that maximize efficiency.
  1. Soothe. Does the soft flannel shirt cost the same as the stiffer one? Go for the smoother material and savor the texture against your skin. Do murder mysteries before bed make you jumpy? Read a romantic novel for a change. Light a candle, skip the news, or eat a pastry. Do what makes you less jangly and watch the stress retreat.
  1. Socialize. Invite a friend along on your walk, take a yoga class, coach a youth league, join a boating organization, attend religious services, volunteer, or sign up for an adult education class. Talk to enough people and you’ll learn you’re not the only one experiencing stress. A new acquaintance may also have a solution or a coping technique you can use.
  1. Overlook. As the song says, “Let it go!” You can’t internalize and personalize everything, or you’ll be lugging around so many heavy boulders that you won’t be able to take a step forward without collapsing under the weight.
  1. Try. Taste something new, buy the trial size, sign up for an introductory class, or take a different route. So what if you didn’t like it? Now you know why.
  1. Laugh. If you dance like Frankenstein’s monster or can’t understand a word of Introduction to Mandarin, laugh it off. You can’t fail at valuing yourself.
  1. Learn. Self-care is your launching point — when you are less stressed and more invigorated, you face the world differently. Take notes along your journey; dispensing with the pointless and increasing what’s become priceless is the best way to care for yourself.

This article is not intended to dispense medical or nutritional advice. Take into account your physical limitations, consult with your doctor, and obtain personalized guidance.


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