09 Jun Prioritizing Self-Care: How to Give Yourself a Break
In my clinical practice, I found myself referencing “the airplane analogy” to many of my clients.
You know when you’re on an airplane about to take off and the attendants are giving the preflight presentation? They stress that in the event of an emergency, when the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, you must ALWAYS put yours on first – before helping your dependents.
We understand this, because we know we’ll only be able to help the people around us if we don’t pass out.
Prioritizing self-care works the same way.
It may seem counter-intuitive at first. As friends, parents, grandparents and partners, our natural instinct is to put others before ourselves. But we are only able to help the people we care about if we stay healthy. This is a fact.
Prioritizing self-care is not selfishness, just as rest is not laziness.
It’s about deepening your connection to your own mind, body and spirit, and knowing when (and how) to give yourself a break.
One of the most important things you can do for your health is to engage the “relaxation response,” thereby turning off the “stress response.”
Here are just a few techniques to help you engage the relaxation response and give your mind and body a break.
Aim to quiet your mind for at least 5 minutes every day. Practice your meditation in the same place, around the same time each day, in quiet area where you will not be disturbed. This is subconscious training. As soon as you enter your zone, your body and mind will know what is expected.
Breathing is one of the most direct ways to alter your state of mind and overall being. By simply deepening your breath you are able to take in more oxygen. More oxygen relieves anxiety and facilitates healing from a wide range of stress-related illnesses.
If you can’t take a physical vacation, a metaphysical one is the next best thing. Find a quite space for even a few moments. Close your eyes and imagine an ideal setting. Picture yourself smiling, becoming peaceful and relaxed. Imagine how you feel, what you taste. Hear the noises. Smell the air. Make the imagery as vivid as possible and stay here until you begin to feel calm and relaxed.
Laughing can help relieve pain and stress, evoke happiness and increase immunity – drug-free! There is plenty of research to show that it reduces stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine. Laughter also increases health promoting endorphins and immune defending T-killer cells.
Prioritizing self-care includes making time for activities you enjoy.
Move your body. Do yoga and exercise to release large amounts of mood-enhancing hormones and decrease the adrenaline triggered by stress. Learn to let go and give yourself a much needed break from the responsibilities that are weighing you down.
Prolonged stress creates imbalance in the body’s organs – especially the heart – blood vessels, adrenals and the immune system.
Recently, one of my patients experienced this reality. Forced into realizing she couldn’t take care of everything, she finally began prioritizing self-care when her health was in jeopardy. Her symptoms were a message from her body that she needed to pay attention and examine her own life. Since then, she has been doing a lot of work on understanding how to clearly define her boundaries and ask for help from friends, loved ones, and colleauges.
She has been an inspiration to me.
Not only because she’s becoming okay with resting instead of filling up her time focusing on others, but also because she’s recognized that self-care doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. It’s ok to let people help you – to rely on others.
It’s in this spirit of recognizing we are not alone, that I encourage you too, to become comfortable with and appreciate the importance of resting and recharging. Of respecting your own limitations, reaching out to your community and listening to those messages from your body that implore you to find the balance within.
If you’d like to know more about prioritizing self-care, these articles may help.
Strategies to Strengthen Immunity
You can also get in touch with me directly, to learn about one-to-one counseling and group programs.