Optimize Your Life

Episode #7: Nourish Yourself Through Self-Care

Show Notes:

Do you feel blah when you get home from work? Maybe you carry the stress of the day with you into your personal life? Today, I’m going to share with you 3 ways to improve your mood and recalibrate from work when you get home, especially if you struggle with the winter time blues. 

I want to first clear up some misconceptions about self-care which you might have. 

Sometimes people believe that focusing on themselves is selfish. This is probably you if you are a people pleaser, someone who always puts others first. And I know we’re talking about self-care today, but let’s zoom out even more and talk about self-love. 

Do you think that loving yourself takes away from your capacity to love others? If you believe this, you have a scarcity mindset about how much love you can have. Your love is infinite. You can love 100 people and then meet an amazing new person tomorrow and you’ll still find enough love for them. 

So if there is enough love for everyone else, why wouldn’t there be enough for you? Chances are it isn’t that you don’t believe there isn’t enough, but rather that you don’t deserve it. That’s a topic for another podcast…

But for now, let’s come back to the idea of scarcity. The opposite of that is abundance. 

One of the things that I come across too often is not that people don’t appreciate the value of self-care, it’s that they don’t prioritize it. They make excuses for why it isn’t happening and why it isn’t possible for them. And again, I find that it often comes down to your belief about your importance. Because if you cared about yourself as much as you care about others and if you believed you were as important as others that you prioritize, you would be taking better care of yourself. 

Not only that, but when you take care of you, there is more love and energy for you to give to others. You are growing the pie, not shrinking it.  

In my book, The 7E Solution to Burnout, I list a number of ways you can take care of yourself to prevent burnout from happening. By recognizing this mindshift, you can make a massive difference in the quality of your life. In essence, you can thrive without the guilt.

Let’s assume you’re on board with this idea that self-care isn’t selfish and you really understand the benefits to you and others of taking care of yourself. Why, then, is self-care so difficult?

After thinking about this and digging into some of my clients’ real examples, I’ve come up with three answers to this question: 

#1: Self-care requires effort. If you’re already stressed out to the max, burned out, exhausted, this will be a pie in the sky idea. The issue is that you might then be beating yourself up for not exercising or eating healthy foods, etc. which leads to feelings of shame or guilt. Then you create negative associations with self-care and make it even less likely that you’ll want to do things differently. You become stuck in a loop. 

#2: Self-care comes in many different shapes and sizes. And if you’re not framing it correctly to yourself, you might end up feeling badly. For example, let’s say you decided to snack on popcorn as you watch your favorite show on Netflix, you might associate this behavior with indulgence. You might then tell yourself, “I don’t deserve this” especially if there is something you believe you “should” be doing that you haven’t done. Recognize that sometimes watching Netflix is a form of self-care. So to clarify, self-care isn’t just about doing. It’s also about being. Too often we think we need to do more so we can accomplish more and then we will earn our way to self-care. But it doesn’t work that way. You have to weave self-care into your doing so that you can keep on doing whatever you need to do.

#3: If you’ve been avoiding yourself for too long and then engage in some self-care activity, you might get smacked in the face with the reality of the situation. So if you haven’t exercised in forever and now go on a hike one weekend, you might feel really sore. In a similar way to how a negative emotional association can keep you from wanting to engage further in self-care, this physical association of pain or strain can keep you from wanting to come back to create a practice. Same goes for meditation. You sit down and try it and find that it’s nearly impossible for you to focus your mind. So it makes sense you’ll want to opt out with the excuse that it’s too hard. 

Remember the movie, Do the right thing? That’s what you need to keep in mind here. You’re not engaging in self-care because it’s easy. You’re engaging in it because it’s the right thing to do. It’s what will allow you to unplug, to recharge, and to have the stamina, both mentally and physically, to do whatever it is you need to do in your work and in your family life. That’s it. 

So if you discover that you’re out of shape, it’s not a reason to stop. It’s the only reason to keep going so that you can get into shape. If you find that meditation is challenging, take that challenge on. Because wouldn’t it be nice to be able to control your mind rather than it control you? 

In today’s culture, the focus is on doing more. But your job, when it comes to self-care, is to do less. Doing less is a form of self-care. So think about different ways that you can do less, ways that allow you to slow down. It can be taking a bath – because outside of listening to music or reading a book, there isn’t much you can do when you’re submerged in a tub full of water. It can be going for a walk and listening to your favorite podcast (hopefully mine!). And it can be just lying on the couch and watching Netflix. Why not? Who said you can’t take time for yourself? 

Now let me bring you back to the beginning of this episode because I promised you 3 ways to improve your mood and recalibrate from work when you get home, especially if you struggle with the winter time blues.

Here’s the trifecta as I see it:

First, regardless of whether you work from home or work from an office, when the work day is done,  change out of your work clothes. That physical transformation is symbolic of your boundaries and is meant to literally help you take work off of you. Also, your house clothes are likely more comfortable, so you can shift into relaxation just by this simple habit. 

If your mood is negatively affected by the lack of sun exposure, and this will depend from person to person, but it’s something we generally see with people who live in climates that get less sun year-round or for people who crave sunlight but can’t access it during the winter months – then you should get a lamp for light exposure. These lamps are readily available online and they aren’t expensive.

And a great way to integrate all your self-care is to meditate under that lamp.  If you’re the kind of person who’s been wanting to meditate but are finding that it’s just too hard to do it in the morning because as it is you’re hitting snooze a lot, do it when you come home from work. Once it gets easier, your sleep may improve and then you’ll have more energy in the morning. At that point, you may shift to a morning meditation. But since you need to sit somewhere anyway, sitting under the lamp is like killing two birds with one stone. It’s about optimization, baby!

Alright. Now it’s your turn to think about what you can do to slow down or do less in your life. Identify 3 ways to do this in your life and then start to implement them. Then don’t forget to leave a comment under the episode. I read all your comments and would love to hear what works for you. 

Can’t wait. Go get em, tiger!

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