By: Ginny Maillet RN, NP

Take a moment to reflect on your life right now… How are things going for you?  Are you in a great place, job going smoothly, family life is great, love life couldn’t be better?

Or are you struggling to keep your head above water, feeling stressed and pressed upon every side? Finding it difficult to say NO to all those that make requests of you?

The key to self-care, knowing yourself and your physical and mental capabilities and limitations and LISTENING to what your body, mind, and spirit are saying to you!

Your body begins to speak to you, first in a whisper, and then finally in a shout which is usually an illness that finally gets your attention.  And remember, you can’t take care of anyone else if you are the sick one!  (Like on an airplane: you’re supposed to put your own oxygen mask on first!)

Life today is challenging and unavoidably stressful but good self-care will help you manage your life in a much healthier way. Remember, you may not be able to control the waves in your life but you sure can learn to surf!

Your # 1 Priority- Taking Care of Yourself

Here are some self-care tips:

Just Say NO: The most effective self-care practice involves repetition of one word – “No.” For many of us, it takes nerves of steel to utter this simple one syllable word.   It takes a while to learn to use “no” – so start small and see what happens. Experiment with: “I’m sorry, that won’t be possible.” “That really doesn’t work for me.” “I’m sorry, but I can’t take on any new responsibilities right now.”

Start Your Day with Inspiration and Intention:  Set aside time 5-10 minutes (usually when you first wake up) for prayer, reflection, meditation and to set the intention for your day. Make this a habit; it takes 30 days to form a solid habit. This practice will set the tone for your day and help you move through the challenges of the day with greater ease, peace, and calm. An intention can be a very simple one-“I will maintain a sense of calm and joy throughout my day”

Engage in Daily Movement- Something FUN that You Enjoy: One of the best antidotes for stress is exercise, getting rid of stress hormones, pumping in those feel good endorphins, improving the functioning of mind, body, and spirit. Bring movement into your life that you enjoy and that nurtures YOU!  30-45 minutes daily is ideal but 20 minutes will be very beneficial.  Biking, Zumba, Tai Chi, Pilates classes, or simply walking the dog, do anything that makes your heart and body sing!

Eat Whole and Nutritious Foods:  Self-care equates to good nutritious food. But, this takes some planning so you don’t resort to processed or fast foods out of desperation and hunger pangs.  Raw foods, plant based meals are a source of super nutrition just what a stressed, challenged body needs.  And don’t forget the water, limit sugar laced sodas and high energy drinks…they aren’t nutritionally sound.

Adequate and Restful Sleep: Research studies have demonstrated over and over that we need an average of 6 ½-8 hours of sleep each night.  Sleep loss impairs not only our cognitive function (shorter attention span, impaired memory and longer reactions times) but our immune function as well.  Develop good sleep habits, go to bed at a regularly scheduled time each night, and don’t watch TV. or news right before bed, this can overstimulate you and make your bedroom a restful sanctuary that invites a restful slumber.

Start small, maybe just with the NO word. Then add the other self-care strategies to your daily life. Before you know it, you will begin to feel better, stronger. You will feel a shift in mood, your body will feel less stressed, your soul replenished a sense of calm within your spirit. You are feelin the self-love!!!

Self-Love Exercise– Adapted from Energy Magazine – Sept/Oct 2012

  • Think of something or someone whom you love unconditionally- a pet, a child or your special, magical place. If it is a person or pet, think about the great love you feel and how you adore this special person or pet.
  • If it is a magical special place, think of how you feel when you are physically there, the sights, smells, what emotions this place brings to your heart and mind.
  • Feel the warmth, love, and gratitude that you feel when you think of this person, pet, or place.
  • Now let this feeling of love grow and expand as if you were holding this object of your love. Feel this sense of love in the heart area in your chest. Allow this feeling of love and gratitude to feel up you whole chest area. Breathe deeply as though breathing through your heart area.
  • Now let this feeling of love and gratitude fill you entire body, expanding beyond your heart space and chest but throughout your body, down through your fingers and toes.
  • Now allow yourself to feel these feelings of love and gratitude for yourself. You are just as wonderful and deserving of love as those to whom you direct your love.
  • Allow yourself to feel these feeling of love and gratitude every day, at least once a day. This is a powerful tool that can make a positive impact not only on your mind, body, and spirit, but impacts your immune system as well.