Last week I was visiting with my brother, a management consultant. He just took on a new client, he has a toddler with special needs and a blended family, he travels for work and he’s working in an uber fast-paced industry. We talked about his struggle to find balance and I suggested he play with a concept I call incremental self-care.
When I was in my 30’s and working in a stressful communications job with long hours, I would attempt to make it to the local hike/bike trail for a walk, to the yoga studio for a class or to my meditation cushion for a 20 minute sit– but often I’d “abort mission.” My thinking was that since I couldn’t find the time to successfully pull off one of these wellness activities (as I had envisioned doing them), I might as well not do anything at all.
Can you relate?
This shifted when in 1999 I began researching, studying, practicing and writing about the art and science of self-care —which I define as attuning and responding to your needs and desires moment to moment—and realized how wrong I was. Self-care isn’t about self-improvement, becoming YOU 2.0 or following the advice of a health guru– it’s about meeting yourself where you are right now and making choices that support a kinder way of being with yourself (come to one of my retreats to dive deeper!).
New to the concept of self-care? When I introduce this practice to newbies, they often sigh and say this sounds like one more thing to add to their to-do list (although for some of our clients—scheduling in “dates with yourself” can be a powerful way to keep your well-being a priority). But when I share it’s really more about cultivating a new way of being and taking baby steps towards developing a new relationship to yourself—they become curious.
If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed and tired of over-giving or over-extending, pause, close your eyes, put your hand over your chest and ask, “What do I need?” Then consider weaving a few of my favorite five-minute self-care pearls into your busy day.
Eight power-packed self-care “dollops” to try this week:
Just breathe. Breathe in for three, hold for three, exhale for three (through your nose with your mouth closes; repeat 8 times and go at your own pace). Conscious breathing is the most powerful way to come into the present and it calms our fight or flight response lightning fast!
Sit and do nothing. Our minds crave stillness (not to mention our hearts, bodies and souls). Rest in stillness with your eyes closed for five minutes. Stay with your breath and watch your thoughts float by like twigs down a busy stream. Your only job is to just be.
Walk. Walking is great for stress relief, idea generation, problem solving and integrating our left/right brain. Even just five minutes of brisk walking has been shown to have positive impact. Get out of your home or office and go take a walk—the longer the better!
Write. Many are finding tremendous benefits from guided journaling. It helps us connect our inner and outer world and release our worries. Try my three question quickie journaling exercise: Grab a pen/paper and answer: How do I feel? What do I need? What do I want? Repeat as often as needed–I do this every morning.
Lie down and put your legs up the wall. Packed schedule and can’t find time for a yoga or exercise class? Close your office door and try legs up the wall—a yoga posture that is great for instantly calming your nervous system and offering a whole other host of benefits. I LOVE this pose (no need for a pillow or special equipment–take off your shoes first though).
Massage out the stress. Often we’re surprised by how soothing it can feel to kindly rub our upper and mid-arms (circle your wrists and fingers, too) to release tension and help bring us back to the here and now. Also, I just love Yoga Tune Up Balls (www.TuneUpFitness.com) behind my lower back and under my thighs when sitting or traveling for long periods of time.
Try earthing. Find the nearest green space, take off your shoes and socks and get your feet on the grassy ground. Walk around or if you have time lie down on a blanket on your stomach. A lot of research is emerging about the benefits of communing with nature in this way. For me, putting my feet in the dirt always helps me gain perspective!
Drink water. Most of us are dehydrated all the time and we underestimate all the side effects of not drinking enough good, clean, filtered water: irritability, headaches, fuzzy thinking, lethargy. Shoot for 64 oz. a day and try sipping throughout the day rather than chugging water after a workout (you can always tell when you’re getting enough water because your skin will look amazing!).
Feel inspired to try incremental self-care? Stay curious, invite in self-compassion and keep your sense of humor. Taking regular breaks throughout the day; slowing down to a more humane pace to be a radical form of self-care for many of us.
WANT SUPPORT FOR FINDING YOUR CENTER? HERE ARE THREE OPPORTUNITIES:
Live in the NC region? TWO RARE IN PERSON EVENTS!
- Monday, Sept. 12 ~ 6:30-8:30 p.m. Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: A Meditation Workshop (in-person, Brevard, NC just south of Asheville). Explore how/why meditation could be your sanity saver. Experience how to find your center and release stress. This illuminating, experiential workshop is open to men/women of all ages. Learn more.
- Friday, Oct. 28th 9 ~ 4:30 Awakening Your Wild Soul One-Day Retreat- just announced. Awaken and find clarity/focus around “What’s next?” with like-minded women. Learn more. Want to receive updates on special NC regional events? Email info at reneetrudeau dot com and ask to be added to our regional mailing list.
- Oct. 14-16 ~ Awakening Your Wild Soul: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, the largest retreat center in North America and my fav (this one sells out FAST; I’ll also be here Jan. 27-29)! Learn more.
- Sept. 13-18 ~ Join us for SummitPalooza, an extraordinary online event with illuminary teachers Renee Trudeau, Dr. Dan Siegel, Marianne Williamson, Dr. Rick Hanson, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg and others. Spend six days with 38 wisdom-holders and transformational teachers and learn about meditation, compassion, self-care, healing trauma, building resilience and more. Register now for FREE.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by mindfulness coach/author/speaker and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find balance through the art/science of self-care, Renee has been facilitating high-impact interactive workshops for Fortune 500 companies, national nonprofits/conferences and organizations worldwide for 25 years. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Fast Company, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, AARP, Spirituality & Health and more. She and her team have certified more than 400 facilitators in 10 countries around the globe to lead self-renewal groups based on her pioneering self-care curriculum. She’s the author of two books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life. She and her husband live in Western North Carolina and Austin, Texas; her latest venture is Wild Souls Nature Adventures. More on Renee here.