Last month I was invited to speak to a group of young women about prioritizing self-care and well-being in their career. I began the talk with the often-repeated but generally discounted phrase that “self-care is not selfish” and then I followed with the thought that self-care is smart and strategic. Choosing to prioritize self-care is an important signal to ourselves that we matter, that our health matters, and that our well-being is an asset in all aspects of our lives. The benefits of prioritizing self-care and well-being are significant, and the downsides of ignoring them are many.
Each of us defines what the terms “self-care” and “well-being” mean for us, and our definitions will be as unique as we are. To prioritize self-care we must understand why it is important to us, and then understand just how important it is. In a recent re-examination of my self-care priorities, I came up with these five (it was actually a longer list, but I had to prioritize!) and share them for your consideration…
It is enormously helpful to be aware of your breathing and to focus on slowing it down especially…
… (a) when you are in a stressful situation at work … or in any part of your life… in person or on a call… any stressful situation
… (b) when you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, angry or upset
… (c) when you are feeling tired or sad
In these moments, focus on your breathing. It truly helps, and deep breathing is something you can do discretely without anyone knowing or noticing. I suggest that you practice it often!
Why do I include priorities in an exploration of self-care and well-being? Because examining and re-examining our priorities is not just about making self-care a priority, it is about making daily choices about ALL of our priorities – our family priorities, our health priorities, our spiritual priorities, our work priorities, and yes… our self-care priorities.
Every morning, as you think about – or glance over – your very long “to do” list, I urge you to decide what is most important. I do this by asking myself… “How will I invest every moment of my precious time and energy today?”
Moving? Why moving and not exercise? I have learned that any kind of movement, even if it is only for a few minutes, helps a lot – stretching, walking, dancing, shaking it off – it all helps. Many of you have exercise routines, or you run, or practice yoga – and these are all important because they work for you. But even when we do not feel that we have time to honor a full commitment to exercise, we can find a few moments to move! Moving helps us release stress, and we need not limit it to a specific block of time we have set aside. We need not label it “exercise” or “working out” because it is neither. Throughout our day, we can stretch… we can roll our shoulders… we can roll our necks… we can stretch out our hands that are so tired from typing on our keyboards or phones. We can MOVE! And it really helps.
OBSERVING OUR SELF-TALK
Ah, we could spend several days on this topic – it is a favorite of mine because when we are committed to our personal well-being, we cannot underestimate the detrimental effects of our own inner critic, that nagging voice inside our head that criticizes, judges and maybe even ridicules us as we make our way through the day.
Be aware of that voice and – if you are not already doing so – talk back! Somewhere, quietly behind that critical inner voice, is a loving, encouraging, supportive voice. Try to find that voice, and listen to her instead.
I have recently read a lot about the importance of sleep, and it has affected all of my choices about rest. For years I believed that I was one of those lucky people who did not need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Studies say otherwise. We all need sleep, and we work more effectively and efficiently when we get enough sleep. Sleep helps us stay healthy, facilitates learning, helps us retain important information, and can help us be successful in all aspects of our life. Prioritize sleep whenever you can.
I hope you will share your suggestions in the “Leave a Comment” section below because your ideas about self-care and well-being can help us all!
With love and huge hugs to you all on Galentine’s Day and every day!
Photo credit: © Melinda Nagy | Dreamstime.com