“Stress is damaging to your health, so take care of yourself,” is very sound advice, but what exactly does that mean and how exactly do you take care of yourself and lessen stress? Experiencing optimal physical, mental, and spiritual health includes the good fortune of having healthy and ...“Stress is damaging to your health, so take care of yourself,” is very sound advice, but what exactly does that mean and how exactly do you take care of yourself and lessen stress? Experiencing optimal physical, mental, and spiritual health includes the good fortune of having healthy and harmonious relationships with others. But how is this accomplished, and where do you start? It’s very simple…it all starts with YOU.
There are four major components to a healthy self-care program, all of equal importance, and when worked on in a steady and consistent manner, will create a healthier relationship with YOU. Most people don’t take care of themselves because they feel they don’t have the time. Others feel selfish when they begin to think of themselves…and yet others don’t think enough of themselves to even want to begin. So in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed and quitting altogether, the key to success is to start working on one item, in one area at a time. For instance, develop an exercise program you can REALLY do given your lifestyle and time constraints.
Let’s get started:
1. Beliefs. To change the belief that you don’t have enough time to take care of yourself and that you’re selfish if you do, start with one daily affirmation. “I deserve health and happiness in my life and that starts with me.” Add more affirmations to your list as they evolve, but simply start with one.
2. Physical. Begin some kind of exercise program. What do you like to do? How much time do you have to exercise? Even if it’s 15 minutes, do some stretches or short exercises. As time allows, add more to your routine. The important thing is to do SOMETHING. Exercise for just 15 minutes, instead of feeling like a failure by saying you’ll do an hour and then do nothing. The more we feel success, the better we feel about ourselves. The better we feel about ourselves, the happier and healthier we will be in our lives and in our relationships.
3. Mental/Emotional. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Replace the “shoulds” with “coulds.” Have realistic expectations for yourself. Make a list of things that make you feel good…from people in your life, to activities, being alone, journal writing, or creative endeavors. “I wish I could do that” or “I wish I had time for that, but I don’t,” are some of the excuses we make. Instead, carve out a realistic amount of time to do one thing on your list each week. If you have more time, add in another activity you find relaxing, enjoying, and restoring. We seem to forget to treat ourselves as well as we treat others. Practice five minutes of kindness to yourself and add to that as the days go on.
4. Spiritual. Begin to develop a spiritual practice. It can be prayer, meditation, reading, yoga, attending services, lectures, or a spiritual group. It is very important to expand your understanding of the universe as something bigger out there that you can call on in times of need. A daily practice helps us have more faith in ourselves and our lives. Meditation and prayer are calming practices that reduce stress and bring more peace to our daily lives. Find something that speaks to you that takes you out of the “material” world and rejuvenates your soul and spirit.
If we don’t start nurturing and taking care of ourselves, we will eventually burn ourselves out. By practicing a little each day, and keeping the program simple and realistic, you’ll start to reap the rewards of health and harmony in your relationships.
Sharon M. Rivkin, the author of The First Argument: Cutting to the Root of Intimate Conflict, is a conflict resolution expert and licensed marriage and family therapist. She has been in private practice for 28 years in Santa Rosa, California. She is also an experienced public speaker. Her work has been featured in several national magazines and websites including O: The Oprah Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Yahoo.com, and Dr.Laura.com as well on local television and countless radio shows. For more information, visit www.sharonrivkin.com.