I had a woman call me one day to inquire about one of my classes. She said to me, “I take really good care of myself; I get my mani-pedi every week!” It took me a minute to catch on that she was talking about getting a manicure and pedicure every week.
With further questioning, from what I understood of our conversation, she needed to lose some weight, and was having some chronic health issues. But she didn’t seem to equate those deeper personal issues with self care.
I was flummoxed. This woman stood me up for a couple of appointments so I never got to talk with her further. But it bothered me that she had absolutely no connection with what is true self care.
And the sad fact is, most people have some variation of that. They end up ignoring the deeper issues and focusing on the superficial.
So here’s my top 7 most valuable tips on self care – and they may not be what you think!
1. Give yourself a break by having a little self compassion.
You probably have been working hard to take care of others, meet deadlines at work, achieve goals, make a decent living, pay the mortgage – all the things that you need to do to ‘get ahead.’ You should be rewarded for all that you’ve accomplished.
One way you can reward yourself is by diverting some of that attention to yourself now. Just be kind to yourself. When you hear that nagging voice that tells you what you should be doing, or how you could have done better or any of the other negative self-talk, allow it to pass. You probably wouldn’t judge others as harshly as you judge yourself, and you deserve every bit as much compassion as you give others.
Recognize that you’re human; you are not perfect, you are not Wonder Woman or Superman, and you will never get everything perfect. And just allow yourself to be OKAY with that.
2. Forget the notion that self care is ‘selfish’ or self indulgent.
This is a big one, especially for women. In our culture, we are trained and expected to give…and give…and give. This is wonderful in some ways, but when you do this, you give all of your energy away, leaving nothing for your own restoration and rejuvenation. You end up getting tired, overworked, stressed, and unhappy.
This may lead to more serious emotional disorders such as depression. The chronic overwhelm on the autonomic nervous system eventually leads to imbalance, which compromises the immune system and may lead to disease.
Consider the opposite: Taking care of yourself actually makes you stronger. When you feel nourished, cared for, satisfied, and emotionally balanced, you are more able to smoothly accomplish all the things you need to do, and support all the people you need to support.
It’s similar to what the flight attendants say: “place your oxygen mask on first before helping others.” If you don’t have oxygen, you’ll quickly become weak, disoriented, and unable to help save others. While your penchant to continually give to others without regard for your own needs won’t result in such rapid decline, the net effects are the same. Eventually you will be the one needing help instead of the one giving help.
3. Self Care means connecting with your inner voice.
I’m not talking about that negative, critical voice that replays in your brain like a broken record. It’s the one deep inside your solar plexus, the one that knows what is right for you; the one that gives you warning signals that are too often ignored.
This means that self care is more than working out at the gum or watching your FitBit. It involves mindful activities that nourish your emotional state as well as your spiritual state because this is how you learn to connect and listen to that voice of deep inner wisdom.
When you’re always working and striving, there is no time for the brain to relax, no time for your creative nature to unfold, and no time for your inner wisdom to come forth. Yet this is as critical as keeping the physical body in good shape, because without a connection to your inner self, you will never be able to make healthy habits stick.
4. Schedule time in your day or week for self care and stick to the schedule.
Remember that old saying from the ‘80s: “plan your work and work your plan.” It still holds true. In our culture you are expected to put work, spouse, kids, volunteerism, household chores and all the other things ahead of your own needs.
That’s a tough load for anyone. But remember, you need to put your oxygen mask on occasionally or you’ll deplete yourself. Understand that you won’t find that much-needed oxygen break at the beauty parlor. Instead, go someplace where you can have some inner quiet. In the silence is where you’ll find that beautiful, deep inner voice.
5. Learn to say NO.
Here’s another tough one, because there are so many people who need your help or want something from you. Yet when you understand how critical self care is, then saying NO will be a life skill you’ll want to develop.
It’s hard at first. The first time you do it, you might deride yourself and feel pretty uncomfortable. Try to let that go. Remember the reason why you’re saying no. Just like any other skill, the more you practice, the more comfortable you will be with it.
You may also find that people don’t easily accept your response, especially those who have been gaining the most from all you’ve been giving of yourself. When you set boundaries and stick to them, they may interpret this as a judgment or a criticism of themselves. Just remember, that is their own reaction; you don’t have to buy into it. Stick up for yourself because your self care is just as important as their request.
6. Let go of all the expectations you had when you were 30.
Leave behind all the tricks you used to get you through the world when you were younger. You’re wiser now. At 50 and beyond, you have the wonderful opportunity to break away from the social training and limiting beliefs of your youth.
It’s time for a totally new approach to YOU and self care. The things that motivated you at 30 probably won’t excite you as much as your own psychological and spiritual development as you age. This is a natural human development, and it’s okay to explore those needs.
7. Life is about change; nothing is static.
Now is the time to let go of the old ways of how you operate and embrace a new beginning of self care for a long healthy, and happy life. You may already be feeling aches and pains of aging; weight gain that you can’t get off; flagging spirit; wondering what’s missing or why you’re not happy.
No matter where you’re at, it’s never too late to start. Just begin with small adjustments here and there. Gradually incorporate more ‘me-time’ for self nourishment of your emotional and spiritual state.
Every little adjustment that you make will have a positive impact, and the more you do, the better you’ll feel about yourself as you age.
Aging does not have to be painful. You can feel great; you can feel vibrant, energetic, and happy. Just start taking care of yourself now, one little step at a time.
p.s. I had a hard time with this self care concept at first. It took several mentors to help me through the transition of discovering and letting go of the old emotional patterns that were keeping me stuck, then moving forward to a fresh way of understanding myself and my relationships.
If you’re feeling that way too, I’m here to help. Schedule your free consultation with me. Together let’s explore your path to aging with less pain and the energy of a much younger person.
p.s.s. If you like this post, please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Thank you.