The Steady Stool of Self-Care

Today, I am going to talk about self care. This has been inspired by the nasty cold I had for over two weeks. Yes, that’s right, two weeks. It got started s a result of burning the candle so to speak getting ready for a big theater performance. Working full time and attending week-long rehearsals with a long commute cut into my sleep time and that seemed to do the trick. I felt the tickle in my throat the night before opening and the next morning, performance day, I couldn’t speak! I had 10 hours to get my voice working.

I went on a self-care crusade. I bought throat lozenges, steamed my face with essential oils, rubbed them onto my chest and neck, drank lots of honey lemon water, did a neti pot, and rested. I am happy to report that I made it through the performance. I did this all over again the next night too, and for the next 5 days adding in some Vic’s vapor rub to the mix. It then took another full week with a dry hacking cough due to post nasal drip and more water, this time Affrin (recommended by the doc), Robitussin, saline nasal spray, and more cough drops.

eat move sleepWhen I do my coaching sessions on stress management at work, we include an assessment question on self care that I love. It sees self-care as three things: exercise, nutrition, and sleep (I highly recommend Tom Rath’s book EAT, MOVE, SLEEP that I also have on my resource page). I want to take it one step further. I see self care much like I see the triumvirate of physical fitness – like a three-pronged stool. In fitness, it’s cardio, strength, and flexibility. Although it may sound trite, for me, the steady stool of self care is BODY, MIND and SOUL. The greatest gift you can give yourself when you are feeling down and out is attention, focused and loving attention. Here’s how I break it down:

BODY: Sleep Soundly, Move More, Eat Well

Sleep Soundly: I can’t stress enough the importance of getting adequate sleep. It is the bedrock foundation of health in my eyes. Once sleep is deprived, there is a swift cascade effect that affects both physical activity (no energy to move) and nutrition (poor food choices and a slower metabolism), not to mention overall health (lower immune system). Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Try to eliminate blue light emanating from phones and tablets an hour before you go to bed. Try a sleep journal to track your sleep habits

Move More: Many people tend to view exercise as getting on the treadmill and not the other myriad of physical activity that they do. So count those steps and increase them, count playing with your kids, that moderate intensity walk, even a gentle yoga class counts. Don’t forget play – how about a trip to the trampoline park!

Eat Well: It’s true what they say about sticking to the parameters of the grocery store where the freshest produce and food is kept. Think whole foods over processed foods when you are shopping. The less packaging, the less ingredients the better. This will give you a whole new way to look at snacking.

MIND: The Upward Spiral of Positive Thinking

For those of you like myself, I am a very positive person (however, those Pollyanna kinda people drive me a little bonkers – think of too many “woo hoo’s” in a fitness class). But being too cynical can also be bad for your health. It’s important to strike a balance, with an emphasis on taming the monkey mind, as the Buddhists call it. Our internal dialogue can be very negative so it’s important to pay attention to how mean we are being to ourselves. There is an alternative – we can mindfully become aware of this and even argue against the negative self talk. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. In one column, write down the negative thought. In the other column, write down its inverse. Throw out some counter punches, offer yourself some better possibilities. Just like any physical habit that can change, we have the power to change the mental ones.

SOUL: Yes, Love, Particularly Ourselves

As I mentioned above, we can be oh so mean to ourselves. This can have a big impact not just what we think about ourselves, but also how we feel about ourselves. In her book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, among her many gems, Kristin Neff suggests that one fast-track to self care is simply hugging yourself. Go ahead, try it now. Take a nice deep breath and a smile may even appear on your face. So love yourself, for god’s sake! Now take that love and spread it – and release the feel-good hormones while you’re at it.

Thank you everyone for taking the time to read my blog. It’s been a great year. Happy Holidays and a Healthy New Year!





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