In a fast paced world and with a desire to always improve and be better than the next, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up and maintain the satisfaction of success.
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As a self-proclaimed “perfectionist,” I know this feeling all too well. The desire to produce and succeed often results in losing sight of the purpose of our hard work. We become resentful, exhausted, and burned-out.
Our society and culture has taught us that it is productivity that creates success; “The key to success is hard work and determination.” And while this may be true at times, isn’t there more to life?
Although most have a strong desire to succeed, don’t we equally have a strong desire to just ‘be?’ Be quiet, be still, and be free. How many times have you fantasized about a day with nothing to do, where you could just lay on the couch and relax or engage in a leisure activity of your choice? No tasks, no chores, no deadlines. Just sweet, sweet, quiet.
If you fantasize about this often, then you likely need a self-care routine to balance your productivity. Dedication and hard work are very important, but so are rest and relaxation. In fact, it is times of quiet and stillness that allow us to harness creativity, recharge and refuel, and ultimately produce effectively.
Here are 9 self-care practices to assist you in letting go of your desire to ‘Do’ and increase your ability to ‘Be.’
1. Learn To Say No
Let’s face it, there is never enough time in the day to complete all the tasks and activities our hearts desires.
Therefore, in order to maximize on what’s really important, you have to learn to say “No” to all the extraneous stuff, particularly the tasks or activities that keep you from behaving in line with your values. Ask yourself what NEEDS to get done and then ask yourself what you may be willing to let go of in order to manage self-care.
2. Unplug From Technology
Yep, that’s right. Turn it off. I know it’s difficult, but just try it out. Remember you can always turn your tech back on, so no need to worry for too long. You deserve it. Turn off your smart phone, tablet, computer, and even your TV. It’s time to get quiet.
3. Find Stillness
Schedule some time to get quiet and become still. Start by connecting with your breath. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Notice your belly rise as you breathe in and notice your belly fall as you breathe out. Take a full deep inhale through your nose.
Pause, then begin to slowly breathe out your nose. Pause, completely emptying out all the air from your belly. Repeat this 5 more times and you will be on your way to finding stillness.
4. Connect To Your 5 Senses
Connect to your sense of sight. Look around the space you are currently in and begin to internally label the things that you can see around you. Connect to your sense of touch. Without moving, begin to internally label the things that you can feel.
Notice the weight of your body as you sit or stand, notice the feeling of clothes on your body, and notice the coolness of air on your skin. Connect to your sense of sound. Become aware of the distant sounds that are outside of the room you are currently in, just noticing.
Then direct your attention to the closer sounds just inside the room you are in, internally label all the things you can hear. Maybe bring your sense of sound even closer and see if you can hear the sounds inside your body, your heart beat, your breath, etc.
Move on to connect to your sense of scent. Notice all of the things that you can smell in the space around you, internally labeling these. Lastly, connect to your sense of taste. Become aware of the things that you can taste, as well as notice any absence of taste that may be happening.
In your free time, try to get moving. Go for a walk, take a yoga class, ride your bike, go to the gym, dance, or whatever get’s you going. Literally. Movement and exercise improves your healthy in so many ways. We all know about the physical benefits of exercise, including managing weight, cholesterol, heart health, and improving sleep.
But did you know that exercise and movement also can also improve your emotional and psychological wellbeing? Research has shown that exercise also regulates mood, improves symptoms of depression, increases feelings of happiness, improves cognition and memory, and may even increases self-esteem and feelings of self-worth and confidence.
6. Participate In Nature
There is something so healing and restorative about connecting to nature. This is about taking a break from worldly stressors in order to keep things simple and return to basics. Breathe the air, smell the trees, see the colors, and get dirty. Return to your roots and connect with the earth.
You could even ‘kill two birds with one stone,’ figuratively speaking of course, and get out into nature and move at the same time by taking a hike, flying a kite at the beach, gardening in your back yard, or taking yoga at the park.
7. Develop A Gratitude Practice
Try to get into the habit of identifying gratefulness. Dedicate a specific time in your day to use this practice, such as first thing in the morning when you wake up or right before lying down to bed. Identify three things to be grateful for. These can be as big or as small as you like.
When you feel particularly challenged in identifying things to be grateful for, just keep it simple. Maybe you are simply grateful for your morning coffee, a kind word from a stranger, or even a fleeting feeling of contentment. Even in times of difficulty, we all have something to be grateful for.
8. Be Kind To Yourself
Can we be mean to ourselves, or what? We have got to be better at this! Our private thoughts about ourselves can be just awful. We wouldn’t dream to make such negative statements to any other person, so why do we do this to ourselves?
If you find yourself with unkind and unhelpful thoughts, engage in a technique called ‘Thought Stopping’ by noticing the negative statement, pausing, and then stating out loud to yourself, “Stop it,” “Knock it off,” or “Shut up,” stopping that negative thought dead in it’s tracks. Then choose a thought that is more kind, or if not kind, at least useful.
Ask yourself, “Is __________________ (Thought; E.g. “I’m worthless”) useful for a vital and meaningful life?” If the answer is no, choose another thought that is more useful.
9. Give Back
Last, but not least, don’t forget to give back. Get active in a cause that is near and dear to your heart. Volunteer, advocate, or just lend an ear to a loved one. Often times we get so busy with our own personal dilemmas and stresses that we lose sight of the bigger picture, leading us to feel small and disconnected.
So, get involved in something that it outside of you and your benefit. Use your skills and areas of expertise to offer a helping hand to someone.
The rewards are not just your own satisfaction of offering assistance, but you may be the impetus in changing someone’s life, which has the potential to reach to countless other individuals. The sky is the limit!