“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

– Maya Angelou

You are working on many projects at once, have to prepare for a presentation next week, run errands, take care of your house, and therefore your calendar is packed with events. You sign up for yoga classes and schedule a relaxing painting class in your personal calendar, but cancel them because you keep pushing off your self-care routine to get more work done. On days like Valentine’s Day, you go out of your way to make those special people in your life feel loved and appreciated. But what about yourself? Why do we put off taking care of ourselves?

Recently, I attended a LadyDrinks event hosted by Joya Dass with guest speaker Candice Georgis, owner and operator of Candescent Healing Arts, and many other wonderful and accomplished ladies. Candace led a workshop on self-care with emphasis on self-love and how the small acts of taking care of yourself can create a huge impact on your daily routine and overall health. I decided to take a few tips from the workshop and incorporate a few lessons of my own into these key takeaways. Enjoy and spread the love of self-care!

Your Body Is Your Biggest Advocate

Sometimes a particular part of our body starts hurting, and we just brush it off as “sleeping the wrong way” or “bending down to pick up something the wrong way.” But often times that is our body signaling us to take a break, and work on relaxing your entire self more. Both stress and us pushing that stress off comes from taking on much more work than our body can handle, even if our mind can. Listen to your body and have a cheat day to just sleep or do something you have not done in a while which makes you feel like a kid again. Check off that yoga class or that painting class you’ve had on your calendar for a while now. Pick yourself up until your body feels like it has been rejuvenated to get into action again.

Treat Yourself How You Would Treat Others

We have all heard of the golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated. But there is an underlying golden rule within that which we sometimes miss, “treat yourself how you would treat others.” Often times, when people make mistakes, they say, “How could I have made that silly mistake? What is wrong with me? Can I not do anything right?” These are typical comments that many people say to themselves on a regular basis, but these same people would not say the same to their loved ones or their best friends. They have immense compassion towards others, but not the same amount of compassion for themselves. If you identify with this, even a little bit, a way to fix this would be to start paying attention to what you say to yourself, as stated by Dr. Webb in this blog. When you catch yourself making a negative comment, force it into a positive comment. It does not have to be unrealistically optimistic, but get into the habit of being your own support system rather than fueling the harsh internal voice.

Do Not Underestimate Meditation

Meditation is an over-used word which has come to be defined as an activity to be scheduled into the daily routine. While that can be true, the true essence of that term, defined by Live & Dare, is: “Meditation is a mental exercise that involves relaxation, focus, and awareness. Meditation is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body.” So with this essence in mind, look at the act of meditation in a new way– this is not some gym class you are obliged to go at a certain time or take out a specific time during the day to go to. This is just you concentrating on how you breathe, giving yourself the chance to hone in your focus in life, and becoming more mindful about your surroundings– things that you can incorporate into your life at any time for however long you want. Studies have shown that meditation will help you to become a kinder person, help you pay closer attention to tasks, and also make fewer mistakes throughout your day. I found this 20-minute guided meditation recorded by Steven Hickman, a licensed clinical psychologist and the founding director of the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness, and started to incorporate this into my everyday life, and I urge you to join me too.

Leadership Comes With Social Responsibility

Once you take a hold of your life and priorities, you will indirectly become a leader and inspiration for others. With that hidden role comes a new responsibility. As a parent you may have your children watching the way you take care of yourself; as an employee you may have your peers or team looking at the way you handle difficult situations; as a member of society you have the people you interact with observing your actions. All these are more the reason to look at self-care as a discipline rather than an indulgence. In her article, Tami Forman explains that “[self-care] requires tough-mindedness, a deep and personal understanding of your priorities, and a respect for both yourself and the people you choose to spend your life with.” By taking responsibility of your own life, you energize yourself, energize others, and give the motivation for others to energize themselves.

Finally, Just Breathe

All of these tips and key points can be overwhelming to someone who wants to start on the self-care journey one little step at a time. To them, I suggest the simplest exercise Candice taught us during her workshop: connect with yourself through your breath. Whenever you feel overwhelmed or just want to take a break for a bit, do this breathing exercise for 2 minutes:

  1. Breathing through your nose, observe your breath in your chest and belly.
  2. Deepen the breath- really feel your body through your breath.
  3. Inhale slowly to the count of 4 seconds. Hold for 1 second at the top.
  4. Exhale slowly for the count of 4 seconds. Hold for 1 second. Inhale for 4…hold for 1…exhale for 4…
  5. Keep repeating for 2 minutes or until you feel relaxed and ready to go back to your work.

This is just one way to concentrate on your breathing and quickly calm your mind and body down. It is also a very effective method to easily incorporate at any time during your day, lowering your stress through minimal effort.

Self-care enables you to establish a healthy relationship with yourself, so that you can be the best version of yourself around everyone else. You cannot and should not give to others what you don’t have yourself. Some people view self-care as being selfish, but you are actually dedicating necessary time to pay attention to your well-being in order to reinvigorate yourself for the world. So take that time to heal, and spread greater joy when you come back!