Optimize Your LifeEpisode #37: What Makes You Anxious and What to Do About It
Hello all you higher achievers! Welcome back to the Optimize Your Life podcast with me, Dr. Sharon Grossman. And today we’re going to be talking about how to find the best self care for those of you who are super busy. Now the reason I say that is because the number one obstacle that people mention when it comes to self care if they have buy-in and they really want to engage in these activities is that they don’t have time. And if you have these kinds of minds are obstacles for sure you want to go back and listen to episode 36 where we really tackle what is behind some of these mines at obstacles.
But today what we’re going to do is actually hone in on specific self-care activities that are going to help you boost your energy and be the best version of yourself. And just to recap, I also want to mention that this is super important because it’s going to help you maintain and even boost energy that helps prevent burnout. And it is something that can help de-stress you and that ,in and of itself, allows you to be more in control of your emotions.
A lot of times people think that self-care is very self-indulgent and maybe even selfish and before we even dive into this, I want to just mention that self-care is nothing else but an act of love and you have to realize how important it is for the for you to be able to sustain your energy and be able to show up and do your work in the best possible way. And because it’s not a one-size-fits-all, I’m going to share with you the variety of different strategies and it’s up to you to decide which ones you want to take on. And the way that I am organizing the content for this is I wanted to align with specific activities that are focused on you and I’m going to break that down into two areas: external and internal and then we’re going to focus on self-care activities that have to do with your relationships with other people. All right? So with all that let’s jump right in.
I often see people focused in on self-care activities that are external in nature and these are important because well, let’s just say they are the easiest ones for us to do. They take the least amount of motivation and they help us look better and maybe even feel better internally without having to do a lot of work. So these little things like if you go for a facial or a massage. This is when you are taking extra care of your grooming, so doing your hair up nice, maybe getting your nails done, putting on makeup. These are things that we do, most of them daily some of them a little less frequently, and it just make us feel good because it’s a form of taking care of ourselves and how we look is important. It is the first thing that people see and so it makes us vulnerable when we don’t do these things to making a bad first impression and it also helps us feel like we have a sense of pride and how we show up. So these are definitely important.
But they don’t have to all be services that are done for us we can do these ourselves. It might be that when you are feeling really stressed you get in a nice bubble bath at home. And when you get out of that bubble bath maybe you use lotion and take care of your skin.
It could be that when you finish working you change your clothes and get out of the clothes that maybe you were using for your meetings or if you’re working from home for those Zoom meetings and then putting on something that’s a little bit more comfortable, something that’s really soft and makes you feel relaxed rather than stiff. So these are external kinds of activities that allow you to take care of yourself.
Now let’s focus in on more internal self-care activities and this is where the bulk of self-care really lies. These are the things that you’ve probably heard of a million times and maybe you’re even doing some of these or maybe you’ve had these on the back burner but you really want to get back to them so it’s a nice reminder of what you could be doing to really expand your repertoire.
And one of the things that I want you to consider before we dive into this is what do you currently have going on in terms of your self-care and as you’ve listened to me go through this list I want you to maybe identify one or two things that you can add because as we already said, it is so crucial to your energy maintenance, to avoiding burnout, to just making sure that you are showing up in your best version.
So here are some of those internal self-care activities.
It might be something like practicing yoga or meditation. And in order to do these kinds of activities, if you’re super busy, then you want to also consider when you do it. One of the things I always recommend is it especially if you have kids it’s a wake up a little earlier than the rest of the family. So if everybody’s waking up at 7 maybe wake up at 6:30 or even 6 and you have that alone quiet time for yourself before all the chaos begin. You start to create that time and that space where you sit down and do your daily morning practices.
it might be writing in a journal and this is something that can happen first thing in the morning or even after work or before bed. And this is an opportunity that just dump out things that are in your mind that you are trying to capture on paper and maybe you want to go back to and review at a later date.
It might be even more specifically a thought download which is where you really just dump onto paper all of the thoughts that you have, especially when you’re feeling kind of stressed out, and then you can examine them one by one to see which ones are useful and you want to keep and which ones maybe aren’t so useful because they’re making you feel even more stressed out how you can change those thoughts. So that’s something that I often teach my clients to do because it’s so empowering to be able to sift through your thoughts and find out which of them are actually true and which of them are just your subjective opinion in which case you can change them.
I love to listen to podcasts when I have extra time and I like to couple that activity with either driving or if I’m going to go for a walk for exercise and fresh air then that’s when I do that. And was so great for me about that is that it really takes me to another place and depending on what you’re listening to — like if you’re listening to this podcast for instance, it also allows you to grow because you’re learning new concepts and you are expanding your way of thinking about things. So it’s an opportunity to really maybe get some entertainment, work on self-improvement, any of those things can be part of your self care.
Now when you are going through your day and you’re working those long hours, part of self-care even in the middle of your day, is to make sure you’ve got built-in breaks. It’s so easy for us to just power through because we’re not focusing on how much energy we have. We’re focusing externally on what time it is and how many more things are on our to do list. But that’s really not sustainable. Part of your self-care is to be able to say, “I am working from this hour until this hour and then I take a break for X number of minutes and then I go back to work for a specific session of time and then I have my lunch break and then I take another afternoon break and then I’m done by x hour. So really being specific about what that they looks like with built-in breaks is super important so that you’re not running on steam.
And what do you do when you’re going through your day and you do feel like you need a breather? Well that’s what you do then. You breathe and a great way to do that is something called Box Breathing or Square Breathing which is where you have equal lengths for your inhales and your exhales. And so you really break that down into four parts: Inhaling on a certain count, so let’s say 4 four counts: 1, 2, 3, 4 and then you hold it at the top for that same count of 4 and then you exhale for 1 2 3 4 and then you hold on empty for 4. Obviously you would do it for obviously he would do it slower than the way I was counting, but the idea there is the same. And you can change that number and increase its to 6 or 8 or even counts of 10 and it allows everything to just slow down. And it’s such a nice little change from whatever you are dealing with in your life, just really recalibrating and being able to come back stronger and it really just takes a minute or two to do.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of sleep. And you’ve probably all heard about how important sleep is but are you getting enough sleep? So many of my clients are focusing in on getting things done and some of them are night owls or they’ll just continue working late into the night because there’s so many more deadlines and projects that they haven’t completed that they’re basically burning the candle on both ends and that was absolutely a recipe for burnout. And so one of the things that I want you to consider is not only see how your structure in your day during the day in terms of when you start, when you finish work, and those built-in break that we talked about, but also when you go to sleep. And you should have a hard cut off time where you start to wind down and get ready for bed and turn everything off including your phone or anything that might disturb you.
Sleep is where we get to recharge our batteries and it’s the equivalent of you plugging your phone in so that you’ll have a full battery to work with the following day. And I want you to really take this seriously because it’s when we don’t get enough sleep that we’re not able to focus, that we run low on energy. We are less resilient. We are more prone to disease. There are so many reasons why you need to be getting adequate rest and you need to also figure in how much rest you need for you because it varies from person to person. But on average, we say about 8 hours and night is sufficient.
When it comes to intake of food and drink, you also want to consider what you are putting into your body and that is a form of self care. So for instance, if you drink alcohol you want to make sure that you’re not drinking a lot especially before bed because it starts to interfere with your sleep. If you drink coffee or any other forms of caffeine, you want to make sure that you’re not taking anything with caffeine after maybe three o’clock because it can also interfere with your sleep. And finally when you think about food in particular, you want to make sure that you’re not taking a lot of sugar in with your diet because that really creates this up-and-down roller coaster in terms of your blood sugar and your ability need to stay stabilized. You end up having these highs and lows and that only requires you to keep taking more sugar in and creates a bit of an addiction. So you want to make sure that you have this clean diet that is comprised of healthy foods, that you’re not taking anything in excess especially things that are good for you, and that when you do a lot give yourself allowances that you do so moderately.
Now we all know the benefits of exercise and so I want to ask you to consider if you have an exercise routine and how that’s working out for you. So for some people, they might have scheduled things that they do on specific days and if that works for you that’s fantastic. For other people it is more of something on their to-do list that they hope to one day get to. And if that’s you I want to really encourage you to think about what kind of exercise gives you a sense of enjoyment, that when you do it you actually enjoy doing it and when you’re done doing it you feel really good. And those are the kinds of activities to perhaps start with in order to gain the benefits that exercise can give you. The reason I say that is because we sometimes think of exercise as something that is hard and we’re not as motivated to get up and do. We think about how hard it is to go to the gym or to go lift weights, but exercising doesn’t have to be so one-dimensional. We can do something fun like a dance class perhaps or even if you’re taking a yoga class– yes that’s really good for your mental health but it’s also amazing for your body because it allows you to build strength and flexibility and it is really mentally challenging as well, so you’re building up your focus, right?
So consider what kind of exercise is the best kind of exercise for you and you might have a few different kinds and you can have different activities on different days or depending on what you need at a particular moment, then you can have a go-to activity. So for instance if you want to increase flexibility maybe you focus on yoga. If you want to distress may be going for a run is a good option. And if you want to focus in on building strength, maybe you go lift weights or so ultimately you want to focus in on what is your health goal.
Now I know that you might be very busy with work and family stuff but you also want to think about where you make time just for your leisure activities. Maybe you have hobbies. Maybe you want just some alone time to read a book. Whatever it is, you want to factor that into your schedule because it is something that really allows you to feel like there’s more to life than just the essentials. This doesn’t have to be daily, although it can be, but you want to make sure that you have put this into your schedule so that you make sure that you get it done.
Something that I tell a lot of my coaching clients to do as we’re working together to build micro-habits is to make their bed every single morning when they wake up. The reason I consider that an internal self care practice is because you are creating is because you are organizing your environment.
So think about what you feel like when you walk into your hotel room and your bed is made verses when you walk into your hotel room and the cleaning person has not made your bed, which has been more the case during covid recently.
I know that when I walk into my bedroom and the bed is made, I feel a very different way. I actually feel more at peace than when there is chaos in my environment. So in general I think organizing your environment in your space is super important and a really simple way to get that started as to just get in the habit of making your bed.
There are so many different self-care practices that I could share with you and I don’t want to spend too much time on going through all of them because you’ve heard them all before. But just really quick, a couple of otherwise I want to mention are making sure that you stay hydrated throughout the day, making sure that you aren’t taking in too much negative medi, and that you have some boundaries around that, and ultimately one of the most important ones if not the most important one is your relationship with yourself and how you treat yourself. What I mean by that is that you have more self-compassion. That is perhaps the most important self-care strategy because you are in your own head all day long and maybe you push yourself too hard and if you do, that is not a way of taking care of yourself. So you have to know what your boundaries are in terms of what you’re able to do without overexerting yourself. It’s not about putting more things on your plate, especially as we were talking about these self-care practices. It’s about really taking care of yourself.
None of these self-care activities are meant to stress you out. I want you to think about all the things that you do — whether it’s the things that we’ve already mentioned or the things that you’ve been doing that are part of your daily essentials.
Let’s take the example of cooking dinner. We can easily fall into the Trap of saying, “Oh I’m too tired. I don’t feel like making anything.” But you can reframe that whole business by just saying to yourself, “This is how I get to nourish my body.” And when you reframe what you’re already doing at something positive that is associated with self-care, perhaps you don’t even need a lot of additional self-care activities because that in and of itself is self-care. Making sure that you’re eating healthy and preparing those meals is a great way of nourishing yourself.
So think about what else you already do that you can just frame as self-care because it is and maybe you haven’t been giving it credit and maybe you’ve been dreading it and when you reframe it, you’ll be able to look forward to doing it more.
So far we’ve talked about a variety of self-care activities that are external and internal that can really help to shape your relationship with yourself. I want to end on a note that really focuses in on self-care activities associated with other people. And there’s really just one thing to say here, which is very important and it’s not to be undermined. And that is having boundaries with other people.
I just talked about having boundaries with yourself and understanding like how much you can actually do without overexerting yourself and I think it’s also really important to have that understanding because people are going to come to you with a lot of requests. They’re going to want your time and your energy for all different things.
Some of these requests are things that you have to do as part of your job and that are understandable. But people are going to be coming to you from all different walks of life asking you for your attention, for your time, for your energy because they want to make a sale, because they want you to listen to what they have to say, because they need help with things, because they’re too lazy to do things on their own. For so many different reasons people will come to you requesting a piece of you and it’s your job to preserve all of your pieces and to decide where you give your resources, where do you allow somebody to take a bit of your time? So when we were focusing earlier on on media and not exposing yourself to too much negative media, you also don’t want to spend too much time on maybe social networks that require you to listen to what everybody else is talking about, especially if it distracts you from focusing on your work or are exposing you to a lot of advertisements.
It could be that you are really diligent about saying no to people who ask you to show them how to do things because they’re too lazy to figure it out on their own.
It might be about telling your kids when and how much time you’re going to spend with them because you have other things that you need to focus on, especially on days where you’re working from home and maybe it’s a holiday and they have off from school or maybe it’s the weekend and it’s time to clean the house or you have something else like food shopping that you need to do.
So being really clear on what you need for you is a starting point that allows you to be or intentional about how you spend your resources and more in tune with your boundaries so you can communicate effectively to others about what you can and cannot provide for them.
So as we mentioned in the beginning, if you are in the process of figuring out your whole self-care business and you have some mindset obstacles, you really want to start with those. Once you clear those out of the way, then you want to focus in on, “What can I do to maximize my resources — be it my time, my energy, my focus and attention?” And that’s going to allow you to have a better relationship with yourself, to be in the best mindspace and in the best health and then to be able to have good relationships with other people because you’ll be able to effectively communicate about what you are able and willing to do for them and where your boundaries are.
Now if you want more resources to really help you with your mindset so that you’re not trying to figure it all out on your own, I welcome you to download your own copy of the Mindset Mastery Toolkit, just go to bit.ly/mindsetmasterykit
It’s a great way to get started on your journey to really mastering your mind and being able to overcome any sort of obstacles that will ultimately when not taken care of, lead you to feeling stuck and to having a lot of unnecessary stress in your life.
And of course, you can come back week after week and listen to this podcast because I’m always here to share with you how you can optimize your life. Until next week, take care.