“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” -Etty Hillesum
This past year has been a season of reviewing my life, learning about the importance of self-care and making it a priority as I implemented various aspects of Lifestyle Medicine’s Six Pillars of Wellness. Too often, we lack the ability and understanding of the importance of caring for ourselves as we often put the care of others a priority over ourselves.
My questions for you is, “How good are you at caring for yourself?” If you are like me, you are often low on that list of priorities. My hope is that you will make yourself…your health, your wellness…a priority moving forward and be encouraged by the benefits of doing so, amidst the busyness of life
Each of us wants to live the best life that we can and live it fully. Each of us is a unique being and what motivates and inspires me will be different than what motivates and inspires you. What matters most with developing a self-care program is that it focuses on you. Self-care includes everything that you deliberately do for your own mental, physical, and emotional well-being and includes things that you do to nourish your soul. As simple as it sounds, many of us pay little attention to self-care and most of us do not do a good job at it.
Self-care is important as it encourages you to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself which then benefits those around you. We cannot give to others what we do not have for ourselves. Self-care allows us to reinvigorate ourselves so that we can be the best version of us for those in our lives.
It is easy to wake up in the morning and unintentionally start the negative talk…I slept poorly, I ache, I’m tired, today is going to be a challenge, etc. When we start with that negative mindset, we set ourselves up to receive the negativity of the day and are less likely to see the positives that the day may hold.
When we start our day with a more positive intent, such as today is a brand-new day with opportunities that abound, then that is what we will see no matter what challenges the day may bring. How can we start our day off on the right foot? By taking a small amount of time for ourselves as our day begins and making ourselves a priority.
I start off with a brief 10-minute meditation and have learned how to breathe, relax areas of my body that may be holding tension and how to quiet my mind and not let my thoughts invade my quiet time. I follow that with a small inspirational reading that is positive and encouraging, whether from the Bible, a book of poetry, a devotional, or a book of quotes. I take time to write down three things that I am thankful for as I sit down with my morning cup of coffee. It can be something that happened the day before, a person, a gift, or something beautiful that I saw. There is always something for which I can be thankful
I also start my day with writing down my intentions for that day, what I will do that I will hold myself accountable for. It may be something as simple as eating healthy, moving more, finishing tasks I start, having a positive attitude, looking for a way to bless someone, or smiling more. From my personal faith perspective, I also jot down something that I must let be and give to God to handle, something that I need forgiveness for, a challenge I may need help with and people for whom I will pray.
It takes me all of 20-30 minutes to do my morning routine and it has been the best investment for myself! The time doing this sets me on the path of a more positive outlook as I start my day, no matter what my day may bring!
I also end my day in a similar fashion. I sit down with what I wrote that morning and look at whether I was successful with my intentions for the day and then write down the blessings I received and the blessings I was able to give. It is amazing the change in one’s mindset as well as the benefits physically, emotionally, and spiritually that bookending the day with gratitude and thankfulness can accomplish!
I have also learned that I have not always been good at forgiving, showing kindness, grace, and mercy to myself, as I am at doing it for others. The latter is much easier to do than the former. This past year I have learned to forgive, be kind as well as show grace and mercy to myself and it has brought much healing and peace.
With these small habits, I have seen a significant benefit in reducing my anxiety, better navigating stressful situations, feeling healthier, improved sleep, less fatigue, being more content and appreciating the simpler things of life. I am enjoying being present and available to those whose paths cross with mine…not just family, friends, and patients, but strangers as well.