I am a natural perfectionist and clean freak. In college, I would start picking up the mess of drinking cups before the party was at its height – a trait that drove my roommates crazy. As a business owner, mom, and wife, I can’t stand to leave the house without the dishes washed, my to-do list in hand, the kid’s pajamas set out, and the bathroom counter wiped to a shine. I can spend half an hour when choosing a potato to make fries. While it might not seem like a bad thing to accomplish these tasks before I jump in the car, they often derail me from eating breakfast or enjoying my cup of tea before it gets cold. In other words, it is VERY easy for me to forget about myself.
What is the main reason we neglect to take care of ourselves? Personally, my excuse is having “no time.” For others, it is challenging to sort through priorities or find the support to step away. What if we shifted our perspectives, though, and changed our daily patterns and routines to include time for ourselves? One of the encouragements from Dr. Frank Lipman and Danielle Claro’s recent book, “The New Health Rules,” is to do something you love “on purpose, like taking a supplement.”
Think about it. If we have time to brush our teeth, take the dog out, check our Facebook account five (or fifty!) times a day, then we have time to spend on ourselves, right? We all need reminders to pay attention to our needs and desires. When we don’t “feed” our bodies, minds, and spirits with restorative energy and time, it is hard to be effective in other areas of our lives.
If you are a list maker or orchestrator of events like I am, then perhaps it would be helpful to create a blank spot on your calendar, color-code it, and mark it with an “S” for self-care. Putting self-care time into our lives on purpose is worth it…even if it is sandwiched between preparing lunches and ironing. Here are a few more tips that I have found useful in balancing “me” time.
For me cooking – especially baking, is a sort of meditation. But it is essential to choose something that you want at this moment. Don’t ask your husband or children what they prefer to eat for dinner. Do it for yourself.
I promise you won’t get looked at funny. Keeping eyes on the road, inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Allow your stomach to expand like a balloon, noticing the breath in the chest making the sides of the ribs expand and the top corners of the chest lift. Hold your breath, exhale slowly through your nose, squeezing out all the stale air. Continue this exercise by counting your breath to maintain a rhythm, inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a moment, then exhale for a count of five to seven. Repeat this sequence five times.
Mid-Morning Eye Rest
Step or roll your chair away from your desk. Actively rub the palms of your hands together creating warmth and heat (20 to 30 seconds). Then place the palms of your hands on closed eyelids and breathe deeply for one to two minutes. Allow the eyelids to feel heavy and relaxed. The slight pressure of the hands will slow down the twitching of your eyeballs. Repeat as needed throughout the day.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Start in a lying-down position. Take a few minutes to inhale and exhale in slow, deep breaths. When you’re relaxed and ready to start, draw your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels. Then slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10. Relax your right foot. Focus your attention on the tension flowing away and the way your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose. Move slowly to the other foot and eventually up your legs and through the rest of the body, contracting and relaxing the muscle groups as you go.
Go to Bed on Time
Regardless of how little sleep you think you need, the body and mind require rest and repair. I don’t need to go into all of the research around sleep, stress, weight loss, etc. because the bottom line is that we all need more sleep. If you don’t have a bedtime routine, start one. Use the progressive muscle relaxation above as a way to start. Set aside electronic devices and pick up a book or soak your feet. Do something for YOU 30 minutes to an hour before bed. Consider treating your sleep time as a lifelong prescription you are required to take for health and longevity.