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  • Your (Doable) Guide to Better Self-Care in 2016

    self love

    When it comes to self-care most of us think there’s (considerable) room for improvement. When asked why we don’t take better care ourselves, we cite lack of time and money as the main reasons, but those are really just excuses, because better self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time and it certainly doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

    Better self-care also isn’t about reaching some ultimate self-care goal; it’s about doing a better job of caring for yourself than you are now. For most of us, that bar won’t be too hard to get over. It’s really just a matter of finding the right-sized steps to take toward your ultimate goal.

    To help you out, I have a few suggestions that you can either take as is or use as a jumping off point for finding smaller steps toward your own goals.

    Small Sustainable Changes

    They say that small changes over time are the only ones that are sustainable, and I have found that to be true in my life every time I try to make some changes. The key is to start slowly and work your way toward your goal.

    “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ~ Audre Lorde

    A few general suggestions:

    • Want to make several small changes? Implement one a month instead of all at the same time. It takes 3 weeks to form a habit (and a lot less time to break it) so give each change time to become a habit before implementing another one.
    • Want to add a new activity to your life several days a week? Try doing the activity once a week for a month, then adding another day the next month, until you’ve reached your goal. If you’re having difficulty with the new frequency, just keep that level of activity until it becomes easier before adding another day.
    • Want to do an activity for a longer period of time when you do it? Begin by adding a small increment of time to your activity, then add that same amount the next month, and the next until you’ve met your goal. If you have difficulty with one level, just stay there until you’re ready to move on.

    “For those of you who struggle with guilt regarding self-care, answer this question: What greater gift can you give to those you love than your own wholeness?”  ~Shannon Tanner

    A few specific examples:

    • To reduce your dietary intake of sugar, fat, or any other dietary baddie… First, notice that I said reduce, not eliminate. Start by either cutting down on the number of sweets or fatty foods you eat OR cut out one type of the offending food like high fructose corn syrup or trans fat.
    • To exercise more… Start by finding an activity that you find pleasurable, because if you hate doing it, chances are good you won’t keep it up for long. Next, add that activity into your calendar once a week. After a month, add another day. Keep this up until you reach your desired activity level.  If you’re having difficulty with the new frequency, just keep that level of activity until it becomes easier before adding another day.
    • To get regular massage, acupuncture, shiatsu, reflexology or any other complementary healthcare that makes you feel better but insurance doesn’t pay for… Start by focusing on regularity. No need to start big, any frequency is better than rarely or never; twice a year is a doable frequency for most people to start with. Once you schedule your first appointment you’re well on your way. Before you leave that appointment, schedule another one for 6 months out. (You can also schedule them both when you call to make the first one, whatever works better for you.) The next year, you can bump it up to 3 or 4 times a year, the year after that make it 6. Continue until you’re at your desired frequency.
    • To have better boundaries, because poor boundaries are sure to sabotage any other self-care plans… pick one boundary (saying no, perhaps?) and guard it like your life depends on it, because it does.

    “Exactly what are you wanting to teach your children? -How to love and care for themselves, or how to neglect and abandon themselves? Self-sacrifice is NOT setting a good example.” ~Mia Yamanouchi

    A few suggestions to nourish your spirit (because you are more than just your body):

    • Play more – There’s nothing like some good old fashioned play to beat back stress, make your spirit soar, and put you in the mood to really take care of your physical self. Any kind of play will do but it’s best when you approach it with abandon like a kid, and only play as long as  you’re having fun; even as little as 10 minutes can be beneficial. A few possibilities: Go swimming and just splash around (instead of doing laps), engage in silly contests, swing as high as you can on the swings, kick or throw a ball around just for the sake of kicking or throwing it, or play with your dog, cat, or kids. Start by setting a play date just once a month and gradually increasing it.
    • Do more things that bring you joy – The more joy you consciously bring to your life, the more you’ll find without even trying. Joy is a surefire short cut to reducing stress and increasing a desire and willingness to take better care of yourself. Example: If live music brings you joy – find a list of free concerts around town and attend as many as you can, follow your favorite musicians or concert venues on social media and buy tickets for the shows in your area that you consider a must see. If you currently see 0 live shows per year now, seeing one live show this year will be an increase. One is doable, right?
    • Laugh more – Laughter really is the best medicine, and it can fit into whatever time you have available. If you have 2 hours, watch a funny movie, if you only have 2 minutes, watch a funny YouTube video. If you prefer books to movies, read a funny book, comic, or online cartoon strip. If you want a night out, go see a stand up comic. If you love stand up but don’t have the cash for tickets, find a stand up performance on TV or online. Heck, if all else fails, let a kid tell you a joke; their laughter will be contagious and you’ll find yourself laughing despite yourself.

    Now it’s your turn. How are you going to increase your self-care this year? Let me know in the comments below.

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