What time? That’s what many of us respond with when someone asks us if we take time out of our day for Personal Self-Care (PSC). Between getting up and ready for the day, working for 8-12 hours, taking care of kids and family, grocery shopping, never ending laundry, dishes, managing bills, and social events, it’s no wonder the question of PSC seems daunting. We may feel like we don’t have the time to even think about PSC, let alone take the time to actually do something about it.
But pushing our PSC to a dead last on our daily to do lists, is not a healthy or functional way to live. Neglecting PSC is one of the worst things one can do for their health. There are countless studies that show how the body shuts down and attacks itself when one doesn’t take time for PSC and de-stress. But, how do you set aside time for PSC when you’re already feeling overly busy and stressed? How do you balance PSC while also keeping strong on the path of career success? What strategies can you have in place in your routine to help you implement PSC?
Growing up in the 80’s, I remember a time when it seemed like all we had was time. People spent alot more time outdoors, hanging out in groups of friends creating spontaneous fun with no limits on time. It was a time before cell phones, before the internet, and before Netflix, and time was spent much more in the moment in real time. But, now it’s a different world, centered on an obsession with technology and social media. We spend much less time outside making friends while riding our bikes around town, having picnics in the park, or learning how to break dance with friends in the driveway. These were the small aspects of living in the moment we used to appreciate. Today it seems all we do in society is stay busy. We will eagerly plan our week out, our month, and often may find ourselves overbooked well in advanced. The obsession with staying busy is really a detrimental one, that we often don’t think enough about. If you want to see a friend, you often have to schedule it before they make their plans, if you want to get penciled in. So much has changed from the days of “stopping by” to see if your buddy was free to hang out. The reality is, that we as an American society really have neglected our PSC, something that came naturally in the 80’s, seems archaic to a millennial.
Oftentimes today, we find that we put much of our energy into activities that exhaust us, but then don’t take the time to restore ourselves through PSC. So let’s look at what PSC is, and how to incorporate it into your daily life.
What is PSC?
Personal Self-Care is any activity we do to improve the state of our mental, emotional, and physical health. It’s taking time out of your day to refuel for your personal well-being. It’s doing activities that restore you, rather than drain you.
Here are some of the essential ways that one needs to “take time” for their Personal Self-Care:
Taking time for a “Break” – Goal: To Replenish.
There is a reason that they call your break at work a “break.” It’s because it has been determined that there are negative health effects and therefore concerns that were occurring when people didn’t take periodic breaks. Heart attacks, strokes, hypertension are just a few of the many concerns. As a result, many states put in place laws to help protect employees and provide them with necessary paid breaks from work. Why are they so concerned? Well, because people die from acute stress, and 75% of doctors visits are for stress related ailments. Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: Heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. And not taking breaks has a huge impact on escalating stress to the point of resulting in these illnesses.
So, how often should you take a break? The idea here isn’t so much about designating specific times for a break, though that may be, but rather that you incorporate it into your day to day routine. You may start small, with remembering to take deep breaths, and then later decide you want to set aside 30 minutes a day for yourself. But, what do you do on a break? What are you breaking from? When you stop to take a break, you quiet your mind from all your to do lists for that moment, and you focus on doing something that replenishes and uplifts you. That may be for some a phone call to a loved one, for others it may be sitting in a quiet space silently by oneself. It may be going to get coffee with a co-worker, or friend, or taking a brief walk. Whichever it is, it’s important to take these breaks. This not only helps you be more creative and productive while working, but it also feeds into your overall health, well-being and work performance. So next time you go to take your break at work, make sure you’re doing something that invests in your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Taking time to “Appreciate” – Goal: To be Inspired and Grateful.
I have this friend who when I ask them how they are doing, they always respond with “I’m grateful.” I asked them one day why they choose that word to describe their state of being, and they said, “by saying I’m grateful, I then choose to be grateful, and that’s the best thing I can be.” It was a small thing, but it actually really helped our circle of friends to practice more gratitude. It’s amazing how we have that opportunity to influence and inspire others through our own attitude. It’s these small things that start to build up to be life changing things. When we practice PSC, we stop to smell the roses and we seek ways to better our lives. One of the best ways we can refuel ourselves, is to appreciate what we have. When we do this, we find inspiration in our lives, we refuel and feel more content and internally full. Make a conscious effort to take the time in your daily routine to appreciate the things in your life, and you will be surprised by how your attitude is changed for the better, becoming increasingly positive.
Taking time to “Meditate” – Goal: To Learn, Listen, and Grow.
Mediation is defined as the act of “engaging in thought or contemplation; to reflect.” This is one area of my life, which I guard diligently. The reason is that I have learned throughout my life that when I take the time to meditate, I am always better for it. I have a strong personal desire to always be learning and growing. I honestly feel like if I am not bettering myself daily, and taking care of myself in the process, I’m doing this thing called life wrong. One of the ways I meditate, is I sit in silence, and reflect. When I’m in my car, instead of putting on my much loved Avett Brothers music, I instead go out of my way to create silence, and opportunities to reflect and listen. I don’t have a lot of opportunities during my day to do this, so I diligently seek to implement this whenever I’m alone and not engaging with something or someone directly. So why is Meditation so important?
Meditation is what feeds your soul with inspiration, learning, and understanding, and as an added plus, it helps to relieve anxiety. Through yoga, many people learn how to properly breathe, and stretch, giving them more inner physical strength. This gives them more confidence, and helps them think more clearly. When people pray, they give their cares away and stop worrying, and that helps relieve anxiety. There are many ways to meditate, but taking the time to do this will greatly improve your mental, emotional and physical well-being.
Taking time to “Create Plans and Goals” – Goal: To Invest.
Oftentimes the reasons we stress are because we are not spending enough time planning and setting goals. We spend too much time worrying and too little time investing in our lives. It is essential to your PSC that you take some time to set goals both short and long term. By creating a clear vision for your life, you reduce anxiety and provide a way to conquer your fears as they arise. There are several ways to set goals, but one suggestion is to create a list of 20 goals. Make 10 short term and 10 long term goals, and then create a plan and timeline for how and when you will reach those goals. Keeping your goals realistic and obtainable, are key to ones success.
Taking time for your “Health” – Goal: To Thrive.
Take a deep breath. Now do it again, this time take a deep breath for 5 seconds inhaling, and 5 seconds exhaling. Now repeat this 5 to 6 times. Feel better? Most definitely you feel more relaxed, and calm. This is because breathing deep breaths helps release oxygen to the brain, helping your body to calm itself.
While I was a pre-school teacher, if a new child entered our class who hadn’t yet learned how to process their emotions appropriately, they would often cry and get frustrated on their first day. In those moments, they had a difficult time managing their emotions and also their breathing. They would have little control and awareness over their state of being, and struggled to realize what they needed. So in that moment I would tell them to take a deep breath, and remind them that they are going to be ok. I would then take a deep breath myself, and then ask them to take one. After about 5 to 6 deep breaths together, they would calm down 99% of the time. Sometimes we simply just forget to breathe, and that can create a lot of stress on the body, mind, and heart. So remembering to pay attention to your physical needs, like sleep, is very important to your PSC. If you don’t take care of your physical needs, you may find yourself becoming depressed, or declining one way or another in your overall health. Taking time for yourself and getting your much-needed PSC, has its benefits on the brain as well, making you more focused, and productive.
Positive self-talk is one aspect of PSC that often gets overlooked. I remember talking to a friend in college and confiding in them with some personal struggles I was dealing with. I’ll never forget the wisdom they shared with me in that moment. They said, “Christina, you’re too hard on yourself. When you feel like you must be strong all the time, you don’t allow yourself to be a real person. You need to learn how to be kind to yourself and allow yourself that freedom. It doesn’t make you weak, it actually makes you stronger.” From that moment on, I made it a personal goal of mine to always be kind to myself, and I found in time that I was actually more kind to others, and overall I became much more content and happy. If you find yourself, stuck in negative thoughts, I encourage you to think kinder, allowing space for yourself to be a real person. Replace those negative thoughts with positive ones in your day to day routine, and you will soon find yourself feeling more confident, content and happy.