Monday, 16 February 2015

11 Super Simple Steps to Self Care

by E. Amato

Self-care is essential and it’s not as hard as you think! Try these easy life hacks to get more energy, more value from your time, and more happiness.

As someone who has been forced to self-care, and someone who knows a lot of people who have had to do the same, I can tell you all of these work. If you do them. So do them. Try one at a time and work your way through adding them all in, or just dive in and change your life.

If you don't, it’s likely you’ll be forced to. If you’re already doing the things on this list, consider that you are taking pretty good care of yourself. Good for you!

1. Sleep more! At least 8 hours a night. Every night. Think I’m kidding? I’m so not. Studies have shown that more sleep is necessary for higher productivity and functionality. Yet, still folks are trying to get by with less sleep. Why? You’ll get more out of your days if you rest through nights. If you have trouble sleeping at first, just make a promise to stay in bed for 8 hours. Commit to more rest for yourself. Dreaming - which is getting to REM sleep - has many benefits. If you’re not remembering your dreams, or feel that you don’t dream, likely you’re not sleeping enough. This one thing will change how you look and how you look at the world.

2. Eat at least three meals a day – Sitting down. We don’t eat enough. We don’t eat often enough. We need at least three meals a day. Best to eat them seated. Don’t work, read email or other stress-related activities while eating. Eat enough calories. If you feel you’re gaining weight, it’s likely not because you’re eating too much – on the contrary – you could be eating too little – causing your body to store food as if it were lean times. If that’s the case, you’re not processing the nutrients and calories you are eating in an optimal manner and you are not getting the benefit of their food. You can look up how many calories you need for your age, gender, and weight. Don’t eat less. I find a lot of small meals best for me.

3. Chew your food. Mindfulness teachers suggest chewing each bite at least 20 times. If you try that for a while, you’ll probably realize that you’ve not been chewing. Not chewing leads to digestive problems like acid reflux, and not fully absorbing your nutrients. Chew your food to get the value it contains and release its life force. It’s your fuel – if you’re not making the most of it, it can’t help you function. Slow down.

4. Take a nap. A good nap is worth a lot. A late afternoon nap can give you a few more clear-headed hours each day to work or do tasks. A tea nap is good – drink a tea (with caffeine), nap, the caffeine kick will wake you. There’s tons of research on naps and how effective they are.

5. Get at least 10 minutes of sunlight every day. This is not hard. Even if it’s raining, or cloudy, the sun is still lighting the day. Get out in it. Our bodies need this to produce vitamin D. Don’t wear sunglasses – absorbing sunlight through theeyes is effective and also has benefits you won’t get just through the skin. The sun is still our best source for absorbable vitamin D – and it gets up every morning to shine on you.

6. Meditate. I’m both a huge believer in meditation and a hater of it. I find it boring, I’m sure I could be doing something else. But I do it. Because I know it is a problem-solver, a stress-reliever, and a tool for healing. It’s like hitting the reset button on your day. Start slow – 5 minutes. When you stop fidgeting, go to 10. Most people suggest 20 minutes as a good target. If you feel a panic attack coming on, or anxiety, sit down and breathe. There are many forms of meditation and many guided meditations available. Many places have centers that offer free training. Mostly, you need to sit comfortably and breathe. Even doing that for five minutes will change your day. Most of us don’t breathe properly much of the time. This gives you the opportunity to deepen and relax the breath, letting it oxygenate the body and improve function.

7. Have a self-care date! Sure, why not? In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron suggests Artist’s Dates for nascent creatives. These are powerful tools to open up the imagination, fuel the fires of creation, and gain new perspectives. Even if you’re not an artist, these dates can improve your daily life. So, I’m calling them self-care dates here. Schedule one per week. Just you. Alone. At least an hour. It can be as simple as taking a bath, watching your favorite show in peace and quiet with a glass of wine or tea, a walk around a new neighborhood, a hike with a scenic view, a trip to a local museum or farmer’s market, a morning movie, a craft project, a yoga class, playing your favorite instrument, reading a good book! Just you. At least an hour. Schedule it and don’t break the commitment to yourself.

8. Take breaks. Every hour. We sit too much. It is not good for our bodies. Research has shown that taking breaks has positive effects. I work on a 50 minute hour – ten minutes each hour, I make sure to get up. In truth, I’m better when I do a break every 30 minutes, but it’s pretty hard to stick to that. Sitting for long periods causes me stiffness and pain. When I find myself getting stuck in the activity I’m doing without truly moving forward or finding a solution, the answer is always to stop, get up, move around and do something else. Something simple – a chore. A breath of air outside. Get some water or tea or coffee. A snack. But stop sitting and staring at the computer screen. Move your limbs, circulate your blood and refresh your mind.

9. Take it half-speed. On film sets we often do a half-speed rehearsal if a shot or a scene is complicated and has many cues. It’s more than a walk-through, everyone’s doing what they are going to do, saying what they are going to say, full out, but just half as fast. This allows all the parts of the whole to get it right. The camera department can get its marks, the electric department can see the actors move through the light, any bumps in a dolly move or blocking cues get smoothed. Sometimes I pretend life is a half-speed rehearsal. I tend to go too fast as a rule, so slowing down is often what’s called for. I get a chance to let myself off the hook a little, react more slowly, hopefully more proactively, not stress myself out, not move so quickly, I gloss over details or hurt myself. When you find yourself feeling uncoordinated, or bumping into things or not being able to get your brain and mouth in sync, or even misrepresenting your own thoughts, try going half-speed. It can make a big difference.

10. Take a day off - a WHOLE DAY! I know, I know - sounds insane! We are all 24/7 available for that work email or that quick change, last-minute edit - whatever it is. But I was told in no uncertain terms, to force myself to a whole day in 7 of non-work. Not work work, not project work, not creative work. It's tough. I mostly don't do it. But when I do, I come back to tasks refreshed and with new perspectives. Try it. A companion to this could be unplugging for a whole day - you know getting off that internet thingy...

11. Listen to Your Body. Of all the things on this list, this is the only one that’s not easily quantifiable or put into proactive. If you’re in need of self-care, chances are you’ve been ignoring your body in some form or another, for a while. Or maybe you’d had to take special care of some aspect of your phsyical self, and thus neglected others, which fell out of alignment and are causing problems. If there was ever a time you were athletic in any way, then you may already have the pattern imprinted onto your brain of listening carefully to the body. In that case, you may just need to tune back in. If not, it’s a great thing to cultivate. Meditation can help, especiallythe technique known as body-scanning. Watching the breath at various moments in the day – when you’re moving, when you’re feeling stressed, when you’re feeling great – can help you check into your body when it’s under varying states of pressure.

Stress, pain, fatigue, illness, they all tap your senses and your energy. They change your level of ability in activities, your level of awareness, your ability to just be present. Monitoring the body, becoming attuned to its cycles can help you rest before you become too tired, fall asleep exactly when you are tired, instead of delaying and ending up with insomnia. It can help you eat when you’re hungry, instead of when your blood sugar has plummeted and your mood gotten edgy with it.

It will also tell you what works for you and what doesn’t. Does sleeping more really help you? Is three meals a day enough? Do you need more physical activity or less? Is the “self-care date” helping you to remember how to laugh and making you feel like you want to be more social? Is taking breaks making you more efficient and focused? Is going half-speed giving you insight into positive modifications you can make.

Listening to the body should begin to come naturally if you practice the other nine steps; if you make it an intention, then it will become stronger. It can make all the difference between well-being and not being so well.

Zestyverse Editor/Publisher E. Amato has woven a creative life that moves fluidly between words, stages, film, and practical activism. She was a member of the 2011 Los Angeles Slam Team and has competed at Poetry Slam Nationals and WOWps. In 2010, Zesty Pubs released her first collection, Swimming Through Amber, her Kindle book 5 in 2012, and her second poetry collection, Will Travel, in 2013. In 2007 and 2008 Down Home traveled to the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, garnering 5-star reviews consecutive years – a rare honour. She recently produced Homeless in H


Anonymous said...

I'd also add regular exercise to this. Though that could be a part of the self-care day

E. Amato said...

Hey - Thanks for posting! Actually, this is a list for people who OVERdo it! So it's unnecessary to mention exercise - this is about slowing down... :)