In previous posts I have talked about creating good habits, modifying your life as you go, and getting a good self-care plan going. Well now I have one to share. The past six weeks have been difficult but not impossible. I was handling everything okay until one thing sent me over the top. Only then did I realized I needed to take a good, serious look at my self-care routine. Remember no one is bulletproof. Realizing you have to slow your roll actually leads to growth (thanks Al!). If you find this happens more frequently for you than for others, don’t sweat it. You are learning what you need to do to be a Spiritual Being living in the waking world. Constantly modifying your life or your routine is good for you and good for everyone around you.
The items in this blog post are the things I need to do when I feel super stressed and ready to pop. For me these items are key areas to be given attention. I hope this works for you as well.
First a note on establishing new habits because that’s the basis of making change in your life stick. Hint: It’s a built-in part of being human. The urge to do things habitually is very strong in humans. In fact I would venture to say it is hard wired in us. Use this urge to your advantage. New things can be incorporated in your life without much thought. With all my animals to care for, my long commute, my full time job, almost anything extra can seem impossible. I make things habitual so they seamlessly fit into my life. Have a routine down. Change it when it does not work. Modify your world to suit you.
- What’s Your Energetic WEATHER REPORT Today? First thing in the morning take note what you feel like energetically. Storms on the horizon? Grumpy with a chance of rain? Giddy with clear skies? Moderate your energy when needed. Even being upbeat and happy to the point where you can’t focus is not good. Plan your day accordingly. Don’t fight the day, find the flow.
- Rely on Your Friends and ask for help when you need it. Throughout this post are tidbits of wisdom I have received from friends. No one lives life alone. We are all in this together. Ask for help when you need it. I tend to forget this until someone bangs me on the head with a 2×4.
- Schedule Daily Relaxation Time as if it were a matter of life or death. R&R is mandatory. It is not extra or to be considered splurging. Relaxation is of paramount importance especially with a grueling schedule. If you have reached rock bottom, or close to it, you must make time for it now. It’s the quickest way to destress. You need your sanity for functioning normally. Do your de-stressing by yourself, not with a bunch of friends. No alcohol either, that will only drain you. As much as I love a glass of wine or a good dark beer, I have found alcohol to be a total energy drain. It’s not something that makes me feel better. If you are at a low point and you need TLC, alcohol has no place. If you are feeling fine, go for it but take it easy.
Find a relaxing activity: I Read a lot of books and take a lot of hot baths. The baths relax me and reading gets me that entertainment and escapism I need and look forward to. Schedule it into your week, seriously. For me Monday evening is always bath and reading night. My brother watches Antiques Road Show (very low stress and very entertaining), while lounging in his jammies every Monday night. It’s a great way to treat yourself after the first working day of the week. Maybe you like doing puzzles or walking or Tai Chi or Yoga. Whatever floats your boat and your mood!
Don’t forget about the restorative powers of water. Recently I was urged by a friend to take a shower or bath when I was exhausted and dead to the world. I started out totally exhausted, but when I was done, I felt so energized. I was amazed.
- Find Time to Meditate. Meditate on top of doing other relaxing activities as outlined above. Meditation helps you get to know the real you at your core, and helps you throughout your day in ways you may not be aware of. I use an application on my computer and phone called Headspace for meditating. A friend turned me on to it. The interface is great, easy, and intuitive. You can choose the length of time to meditate, and the subject. It is free for a while and then the yearly cost is $79. Well worth it for peace of mind. You can do it before work, or with the phone app, at lunch or during a break. Find something relaxing that you enjoy. I meditate for only 10 minutes a day. Better than not doing it at all!
- Get Enough Sleep. The one most important thing to good health is getting enough sleep. If you must have meds, try an anti-anxiety which works for the first few hours to relax you, not a ‘sleeping pill’. Those will only knock you out and you won’t feel well rested at all. In fact, the next day you will feel worse. Naturally consult your doctor. I’m not one and I don’t play one on TV. (That’s an old Marcus Welby joke.) Find drinks like warm milk (or warm coconut milk) just before bed. There is a great paleo drink for insomnia on the internet that went viral.
- Keep Electronics Usage to a Minimum Plan two or three evenings per week without these. Turn them off totally and as Bugs Bunny would say “Really and for true!”
Get the TV out of your bedroom and watch a lot less than you do now. Much of it is mindless activity that does not refresh you. Trust me on this one. I thought I had to have my TV in the bedroom. The day I moved it to my living room I slept so well! I was able to relax instead of binge watching useless, crappy TV. That’s just mindless and not even entertaining. All it did was suck the life juices out of me.
Stop watching shows or movies that make you uncomfortable or give you bad vibes, even if they are high quality shows. Example: I was watching two different masterpiece theater shows on PBS on Sunday. The running thread through both of them were that women were second class citizens and/or being abused in some way. This show generated a lot of negative, uneasy energy in me. Even if it is ‘historical, has good costumes and actors, and lots of horses, the energy created by the storyline still comes out of the screen, and your body will resonate with that negativity. If it makes you uneasy, you don’t need it. Listen to your body, it knows what you need.
Watch TV shows you pick on Netflix, don’t just mindlessly surf.
Phone (if you have to keep it on for emergencies, spouse/kids, at least turn off noisy notifications for chat & email and keep the phone on buzz.) I tell my friends not to call after 8pm. They know I go to sleep early.
Internet/Computer/Social media Wasting time in front of the computer or your smartphone sucks your good energy out and drains you. Unless you are vigilant about what you are doing online, and few of us are. Keep as free of electronic devices—as tempting and handy as they are—as much as you can once you are home. Home is for nesting and relaxing. If you like to read quality blogs, do so. I can’t because I’ve been in front of a computer all day and I can’t possibly do any more at night.
- Practice GOOD Nutrition Don’t eat from stress, this can be a lifelong project, depending on who you are. I eat lots of pasta when I am stressing. I eat Chocolate for a diversion at work. For me food has been a lifelong struggle to get right. Slowly but surely, I’m finally changing my habits from bad to good. I tried being vegetarian and vegan years ago. Didn’t work. Don’t go cold turkey. Try one new thing every week. Don’t beat yourself up. I’m not a vegetarian but many of my meals are.
Keep it simple and Start Small. On Sunday I roast a whole chicken in the oven and fill the oven with sweet potatoes, acorn and butternut squash. This feeds me for a long time and is easier than pie! 🙂 Slowly incorporate good habits. Use a crockpot once a week for quick meals that are easy, hearty, and filling. I started making morning shakes with a bullet blender. It was $40, not $140 like some are. So it was not a big investment of money and it takes up almost no space.
If you are urban, find a few good, healthy restaurants with simple atmosphere and go a few times a week if you are too stressed to cook. Keep it simple to keep the bill down, but enjoy and take advantage of someone else cooking for you and doing those dishes! I love Indian or Thai restaurants. Since I live far from town, it’s a treat for me.
- Be a Staunch Guardian of Your Free Time If someone invites themselves over, have your canned response ready: “I can’t today, Church of Patty!” That’s my phrase for telling people I want to be alone. Most of my friends are familiar with what Church of Patty means. It means I need or want to be left alone and I will not go anywhere in my car. Or I say, “I would love to but I really don’t have time today. Maybe you can have me over to your home some day soon?” Which puts them in the hot seat and takes you off the hook.
- Learn to Say ‘No’ Confidently and Politely Don’t be tricked into doing something you don’t want to do. This goes with the previous topic of being protective of your free time. Don’t get duped into doing favors for people if you don’t want to. Learn to respond to people who (sometimes unknowingly) manipulate you into doing something for them. Some people do not mean to trick you, but they operate that way. It may not be malicious on their part. The following is a classic exchange:
The Wrong Way
Friend: “What are you doing Saturday?”
You: “Oh nothing much. The usual.”
Friend: “Great! You can come help with my rummage sale! Be at my place at 7am with tape and markers and don’t forget to bring some coffee and your lunch. I need you to stay till 9pm and help me put all the stuff that didn’t sell in the garage. I have a bad back and I really, really need you. This will be an all day thing and it will be so fun! I am so excited!”
You: [That Deputy Dog look of, oh no what have I gotten myself into!]
The Right Way
Friend: “What are you doing Saturday?”
You: “Oh I have a full schedule, why do you ask?” (said as politely as possible.)
Friend: “I have a rummage sale and I really need your help. I am really counting on you.”
You: “Let me see, I can possibly stop by between noon and two. I am not certain so I’ll have to check. Let me get back to you on that. The rest of my weekend is spoken for.”
Friend: “Great! Let me know! I really appreciate any help.”
You: That great feeling of satisfaction that you weren’t roped into doing something unexpected, even if it was for a good friend or a good cause. You have the free time you need, and if you want, you can help out a bit—but on your terms. Your life is yours to run. You feel great!
- Learn to Answer Quickly with Confidence in a way that tells the other party your time is valuable. There are many creative and friendly ways to say no. I learned these in a class on handling conflict years ago. Learn where the verbal traps are and have an answer ready. Practice. And I mean in front of the mirror or with a good friend. You will enjoy getting better at polite, to the point replies.
- Avoid Busy Bodies Like the Plague. Don’t listen to people who make everything into a drama, or look to stir the pot. Even if their cause sounds good. Think about whether or not they are interfering in another person’s life. Stop listening to them, or change the subject. Often these people are not mean, but they love to get things going. Either cut them out of your life as much as possible, or learn to shut them down when the gossip mill gets going. If you are good at it you can be polite but firm and say “Hey this sounds like gossip and I don’t participate in that. Too much negativity for me! Say, I’ve been dying for your recipe for Chai tea. I’d love it!” Be up front if you have to and change the subject instantly. Boom, you are out of it.
- Communicate Clearly. Or as Mom would say, make your wishes known! Don’t mumble. Do speak clearly, and get to the point. Don’t assume. Don’t complain. It’s the worst thing you can do to lower your vibe and your energy. And it only makes you feel worse when you are done. Having clear communication is important to not feeling or being stressed out. Know your mind. Let others know where they stand with you.
- Look for the GOOD in Every Situation Look for ‘flipping it’ in every situation. I forget to do this too! My class offers many tools to help live life in the moment.
- Urgency is Overrated. Yes. It is. Really. A friend said this to me and when she did, my whole life flashed before my eyes, like that time warp in the movie Ratatouille when the evil food critic takes a bite of the dish and is instantly transported to his childhood. I realized almost every single aspect of my life I was treating with great urgency. Especially if it had to do with everyone except me! I was living a life of urgency supporting others. I was the last person/thing on my list of priorities. The first rule of giving care to others is, the caregiver (you) needs care first and foremost.
*** Aids for a better life ***
Use a wall calendar specially for anything that does not happen every day. This is great for kids sports schedules. I have a calendar for horse and dog care in the kitchen. When is the farrier coming? When did the dogs get their last heartworm meds? Senior animals and people need special care. It helps to have a calendar in front of you in the kitchen. I could not function without mine.
Use an electronic calendar to schedule your private time, just like it is any other engagement. That way you get your time to relax and unwind. Time to relax is absolutely imperative. Trust me, this is really a great idea.
Have dry erase markers near mirrors, especially in the bathroom for quick, late night notes. You’ll sleep better this way.
Feel free to share any self-care routines you have, that work for you.