I am celebrating my birthday this week, one of my favorite days of the year to give myself some much-needed self-love and care. I know I ought to be giving myself “birthday love and care” every single day of the year, but out of the 365 days per year, most days there seems to be something else that takes precedence over taking care of myself.
The truth is that optimal performance; peak productivity, happiness, and health are not possible without scrupulous self-care. Our species has achieved some amazing accomplishments throughout our history: We have uncovered the human genome; walked on the moon; and created masterpieces of art, like the Sistine Chapel. But we continue to fall short at practicing self-care, which is a major obstacle to realizing self-mastery.
Why is taking care of ourselves so hard for us to put into practice?
Here is a small collection of guidelines about self-care—possibly the most critical component to realizing all noble human pursuits:
- If and when the cabin pressure drops, you have to put on your mask first before you can help anyone else that may need your assistance!
Isn’t it time we got over the conditioned way of thinking that we are selfish if we take care of ourselves before we take care of the ones we love? If we have people we love in our lives, we need to remember that we cannot be there for anyone in our lives if we become ill.
- Re-think your “number goals,” and change them to ones that truly matter.
We often sacrifice self-care for the goal most of us make number one on our numbered lists of goals: money! But which of these number-related goals might be more important than money: Thirty minutes a day of physical activity? Five servings of fruit and veggies everyday? Twenty-five grams of fiber per day (if you are a woman) or thirty-five grams (if you are a man)? What unique, beautiful, body number goals should you be considering? Do you need to have a blood pressure goal, or an HbA1C goal if you are a diabetic? Re-think your number goals.
- When it comes to your physical health, strive for balance versus perfection.
If you don’t get your thirty minutes of exercise today, can you add an extra ten minutes per day over the next three days? Events happen that take us off-balance. Becoming good at reinstating our balance when it’s lost is one of the most important and impactful things we can do to take good care of ourselves. After all, we cannot eliminate the myriad of life situations that will often challenge us and in significant ways. However, becoming better at how we land back on our feet after each setback and regain our balance is key to arriving at desired outcomes.
- Nurture your mind everyday.
Self-care goes above and beyond the American Medical Association’s recommendations regarding our physical health. Challenging yourself to find one way to nurture your mind everyday will increase the grey matter in the parts of your brain associated with inner strengths like resilience.
It only takes a few minutes to listen to a TED Talk or a short, guided meditation, or to read a few pages of a powerful book. But the benefits of re-sculpting your brain toward a happier you last forever!
- Self-talk matters.
How do you talk to yourself? Often, we are our self’s worst critic. We camouflage self-criticism under the label “high standards.” A helpful antidote is to picture yourself as your BFF (your best friend forever). How would you talk to them? If your self-talk does not pass the “BFF test,” it’s time to revamp the elements of your internal dialogue. Reframing is a fabulous way to calm our nervous system and bring us back home. For example, if we try something and fail, we can look at it from this perspective: “We are a fabulous person simply having an experience of failure.” Although it may seem like semantics, the act of reframing a negative to a positive is enough to allow us to support our nervous system to work with us towards our health and not exhaust it by employing it for our defense from imaginary threats.
- Give yourself the gift of connection and human touch everyday.
Regardless of how many ups and downs each day may bring, make the time to hold your loved ones up close and personal. When we hold or touch a person we love, the hormone oxytocin floods our blood stream. Oxytocin is a potent modulator of critical nervous system functions involved with anxiety, depression, and pain perception. If you feel that life becomes a little too much at times, don’t forget oxytocin—the most natural and potent anti-depressant, which is free and has no side effects. All you have to do is reach out and touch the ones you love!
- Take an active stance against negative thoughts, words, and people.
We don’t often consider the negative consequences of the vibrational frequency of any type of negativity. But if you think of a time in your life when you nurtured a plant, you know how toxic it would have been if you had chosen to water your plant with an acidic fluid, like bleach or vinegar. We, too, are delicate flowers easily taken off our optimal levels by any threat that sounds our alarm! There is nothing more alarming than negative thoughts, words, and people.
Each and every one of us has a very special purpose, regardless of our background, history, or humble beginnings.
We often believe that the economy, unique life situations, or circumstances outside of our control are responsible for us not living the life we want and deserve.
The truth is that we have everything we need to arrive at all our desired outcomes.
All we have to do now is focus on effectively closing the gap between the optimal results we expect and the quality of care we provide ourselves.
As it turns out, the love we put into anything important at work or at home will determine our results.
But the one thing we need to always remember is that we cannot love anyone anymore than we love ourselves.
The time to start loving yourself more is now!