On every flight, every flight attendant is quick to remind us to ‘secure your own mask first, and then assist others.’
Because it’s kind of hard to help someone else if you’re rendered unconscious from cabin decompression, right? The best intentions don’t always yield the best results.
And as we’ve all surmised by now, that simple, repetitive airline instruction serves as a much larger metaphor for life.
Because much like the adage that says ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup,’ you’re not much use to anyone if you so sacrificially give of yourself that there’s nothing left for yourself.
Let’s take a moment for all the parents out there that just did a spit-take with their 38th cup of coffee to allow them time to compose themselves after laughing at the absurdity of such a suggestion.
And we totally understand that reaction. We were once of that mindset, too. We’ve all seen and read about this latest buzz-worthy phrase found virtually everywhere these days. From inspirational memes – yeah, we’ve got those, too – to the cover of every wellness magazine, to every lifestyle blogger, self-care is the new mental health ‘black.’
But contrary to popular belief, the idea of self-care is not to recommend that you embark upon a 30-day silent retreat to some remote waterfront spa in the Maldives all by your lonesome. Though it can definitely be that, too. (You listening, significant others everywhere?)
Self-care is the idea of pouring back into yourself a little each day so you can be the best version of yourself for yourself and others, allowing you to stand steady, manage challenges, and remain adaptable.
Further, self-care improves your …
- Physical health
- Emotional health
- Resistance to disease
For generations, we have worn self-sacrifice as a badge of honor. But – buzzword warning – millennials are leading the charge to change that. In fact, according to research, millennials make more personal improvement commitments than any generation before them. It’s reported that ‘ … they spend twice as much as boomers on self-care essentials, such as workout regimens, diet plans, life coaching, therapy and apps to improve their personal well-being. They’ve even created self-care Twitter bots.’
Simply put: They have become acutely aware of how relatively easy it is to make small self-care adjustments that yield huge, positive results.
So before you write this self-care article off as another impossibly unattainable GOOP-inspired lifestyle recommendation, allow me to give you 10 reasonable, actionable, everyday things you can do to pour back into yourself.
*The aforementioned trip to the Maldives is optional though highly recommended for obvious reasons.
Three times a day, stop what you’re doing and take three deep breaths to free the tension, stress, and worry that has compounded throughout the day. You can try this mindfulness exercise while taking a bath, listening to music, and even while praying.
Laughing triggers the release of endorphins – feel-good brain chemicals – which, incidentally, also reduce pain. In fact, research has found that watching about 15 minutes of comedy in a group setting increased participants’ pain threshold by 10 percent. So find some videos, podcasts or websites that are sure to fire off some endorphins, all in the name of self-care science.
- Go Outside
Take a walk, a hike, a run – just treat yourself. And while we realize it sounds silly to suggest that it’s a ‘treat’ to breathe fresh air, the Environmental Protection Agency has reported that the average American spends 93 percent of their life indoors – or one-half of one day per week outdoors. So, as we said, treat yourself.
If you don’t like the way your office looks, change it. You can take care of yourself by improving the environment around you. It’s hard to be productive and mindful in clutter. A clear, beautiful desk can yield a clear, beautiful mind.
Reflection doesn’t have to be all rainbows and yoga. Check-in with your feelings – cry, get mad, release. That stuff inside does not go away the longer you stuff it down. In those moments of reflection, consider these two quotes.
‘In the silence, we are knocked down by the overwhelming noise of our inner lives. – Skye Jethani
‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.’ – Pascal
Sit quietly. Sit alone. And just be with yourself.
- Be Active
Physical activity does not have to take a lot of time – it could be 20 minutes of elevating your heart rate – and BONUS! It doesn’t have to be overly strenuous.
- Eat Mindfully
Working from home, it’s especially important to shift your mindset about food as so many of us think that depriving yourself was the way to lose weight or be healthy. LIES! While it’s unrealistic to think you can prepare yourself a six-course meal every day, instead take time on the weekends or evenings to plan healthy meals and snacks. Trust us: Your mind and body will thank you.
- Interrupt Anxiety With Gratitude
When you feel anxiety welling up from deep within, focus on your breathing and do something to shift your focus to gratitude. It’s what we like to call ‘interrupting anxiety.’ Gratitude gets us out of our own heads and allows us to see the forest for the trees when we find ourselves adrift in the anxiety weeds.
- Connect With Others
Human beings are social pack animals. It’s science. In fact, most psychiatric disorders share one common denominator: a disruption of normal social connections. So go grab that coffee with a friend or FaceTime someone.
- Congratulate Yourself
You are all high achievers – that’s why you’re here reading an article on improving your self-care. So today and every day, take a moment to congratulate yourself on a successful week. And even if it wasn’t a great week, you can definitely find at least one thing you did well – so pat yourself on the back for it. It is so important for you to recognize your accomplishments. And BONUS! The more you do that, the more you’re training your mind to recognize others’ accomplishments.
So instead of giving the world what’s left of you, give the world the best of you by putting that oxygen mask on yourself first.
“In a society that says ‘put yourself last,’ self-love and self-acceptance are almost revolutionary. Self-care is not a habit; it is a lifestyle.’ – Dr. Brené Brown
If you’re ready for your next step in self-care – asking for help – check out these articles on how you can level up your self-care.