Ten Steps to Starting a Self-Care Practice – Part 2

Last week, I started a post called Ten Steps to Starting a Self Care Program – Part 1.  I didn’t intend to wait a whole week before posting the second part, but life happened.  I got busy and the next thing I knew it was a week later.  On a positive note, you should all be experts at the first three steps by now.

Here are the remaining steps:

4. Get used to asking for help

It is truly ok to communicate your needs to others.  A lot of us are traumatized because we once tried to communicate our needs in the past and we got stepped on.  This stuff happens a lot, but your right to communicate your needs still exists even if someone else didn’t/doesn’t recognize it.  Find someone who recognizes it and responds to it positively.  Being able to express your needs to another can be a powerfully healing act.

5. Stop giving your power away

Every time you make your healing dependent on the actions of another individual, not only are you giving them all of your power, but you’re putting your well-being into the hands of someone who can only help you in a limited way.  You must be the administrator of your own healing.  Another person can certainly help you along by offering you forgiveness, apologies or saving the day, but ultimately, you are the person in control of whether or not you release your suffering.

6. Stop accepting other people’s power

If someone is expecting you to be their hero and sweep down and fix all of their problems, know that you can only provide them limited service.  You can help them along by offering forgiveness, apologies or saving the day, but ultimately they are in control of whether or not they release their suffering.  They may be constantly making demands on you, and you may be fulfilling them, but then they squander everything you give them by not using it to help themselves.  That’s not a pattern you want to be in.

7. Allow yourself professional help

It’s truly ok to spend time and money on yourself.  It can actually be an incredibly empowering act to do so.  It helps you recognize that you are worth the investment.  You are valuable and therefore your health is valuable.  Also, it makes a lot more sense to invest in your self-care before it gets to the point where you can no longer go on without it.  There are many, many people out there whose job it is to help you focus on your own healing.  If you can’t do that, at least do research, read books, read blogs and follow people online who inspire you.

8. Do it

Carve out ten minutes a day or one hour a week or whatever you can manage.  Throw as much time towards it as you can.  Once you’ve done this, you might start seeing where and how you can re-organize your life to make your self-care easier.  You’d be surprised at how many solutions seem obvious and clear once you start taking some time for yourself.  It might be awkward and difficult, at first, but it will get easier with time.

9. Recognize that feeling guilty/awkward/agitated is ok and know that it will pass

If self-care is a rare occurrence for you, your new practices are going to feel weird, at first.  You’ll probably have a lot of conflicting emotions about it, and that’s fine.  Let yourself feel the way you feel.  All emotions tend to naturally dissipate as long as you allow yourself the freedom to feel them.  This is the time when you need to just be patient.  Like anything else, the more you practice, the more natural it seems.

meditating_mudra

10. Keep it up

If you continue, you will probably start seeing the value of caring for yourself more and more.  Because of this, you’ll probably want to devote more time to it.  Other priorities that you once thought were indispensable might suddenly not seem so important compared to your self-care.

Ok, so there you have it, ten steps to self-care.  I think that like with anything that is designed to help you it is better to start sooner rather than later.  If you aren’t taking good enough care of yourself, what is stopping you?  There is only one you, there will only ever be one you, and your time is limited.  Why not make the most of your Earthly time with yourself?  Let’s talk about this!  Put your comments or questions below.

Ten Steps to Starting a Self-Care Practice – Part 1

I work as a Reiki Practitioner and Yoga Teacher, but lately, it seems like my job description has been, “Person Who Tries to Convince People to Take Care of Themselves.”  I often find myself running into people who treat everyone else better than they treat themselves.

Not surprisingly, these are the people who are wilting—failing to thrive—they are suffering from stress related illnesses and in need of healing.  This is how they end up with me.  They deny themselves until they get to the point where they can’t go any further without professional help.

It’s not that I don’t like having clients, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy helping the people that I see.  I adore every person who has ever come to see me and because of that, it pains me to see how far gone they let themselves get before they act.

I know that self-care feels like extra work.  It’s another pull on your time and energy.  I get it.  It’s also a skill that you develop, like anything else.  The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Here are first few steps on how you can start a new self-care routine:

1. Make it a priority

Your first priority should always be you.  It may seem like other things should be a higher priority, but think of it this way—you can’t offer anyone your best self until you become your best self.  As long as you are denying you, you are denying the world your best self.  And yes, I do recommend completely turning your life upside-down if necessary.  There is only one you; make the most of what you have.

2. Plan for it

In this world of constant distractions, interruptions and requests, if you don’t consciously make a plan, it will never happen.  There was a time when humans were naturally faced with the question of self-care because of lack of easily accessible distractions.  We were forced to sit with ourselves while taking trains, standing in long lines, walking to destinations or merely sitting alone in our rooms without the convenient distraction of tablets, laptops, phones and TVs.  Because of the possibility of constant connectivity, it has become the general expectation that you always be available to your friends, family and boss.  Given this climate, self-care time needs to be planned.

3. Find the things that work

Journaling Man

When we hear the term “self-care” we conjure up images of old Calgon commercials and reading cheezy romance novels on the beach.  In actuality, it means different things to different people.  It could mean a hot bath.  It could mean a Yoga class.  It could mean starting a journal.  It could mean going for a run or taking a nap.  It could mean a Reiki session.  It could mean saying to your husband/wife/partner/kids, “Feed yourselves tonight, I’m going for a walk.”  It could mean all of those things or none of those things.

Ask yourself what feeds your soul.  Even if you don’t believe in souls, you probably have some idea of what this means—you feel like you’re being fed on some internal, basic level.  If you don’t know, try this: Sit down in a quiet spot somewhere, take a few deep breaths and relax.  When you reach a state of calm openness, then pose the question to yourself.  The fear of judgment will probably arise, but give yourself permission to have free reign on that question.  After all, no one needs to know the answers but you.  Ask yourself this question often because what fed you yesterday may not feed you today.

This a two part series and part 2 can be found by clicking here.

A whole new self-care regimen takes time and contemplation to start.  The first three steps, require a bit of effort and patience.  I know that patience is hard to come by.  But, the things that help us the most are the things that require an Investment of time.  You will reap the rewards in the future.

Do you have any self-care rituals now?  Is there anything that feeds you on a basic level that you find surprising?  Tell us below!

The Yin and Yang of Goal Setting

Since this is the time of year when the conversation turns to goal setting, I thought I would talk about it here.  We keep hearing that we should set goals, and we all nod in agreement, “Yes, yes, goals are good.”  Human beings are natural goal setters.  Whether the goal is to take over the world, win a game of [whatever people play these days] or have another piece of chocolate cake, we all already have plenty of goals.

The magic of goal setting is all in the how of it.  In 2013, I learned what I call the Yin and Yang of goal setting.  This is about learning to balance between the soft and the hard; decisiveness and flexibility.

The Magic of Goal Setting

In Myers-Brigg Typology (MBTI), the last letter of anyone’s type is either a P or a J.  It’s an indication of your relationship to your goal-setting.  I like to think that J’s go to their goals, whereas P’s let their goals come to them.

The P stands for “perceiver” and the J stands for “judger.”  Here is the description of the difference between a P and a J on the MBTI website.

 Here’s a slightly entertaining video about how P’s and J’s approach goals differently.

In short, J’s like to plan ahead and P’s acknowledge that nothing can ever really be planned ahead because the world is an ever evolving place where nothing can be predicted.

 Full Disclosure: My boyfriend is a strong J and I am a strong-ish P.

Let me tell you a story about us to demonstrate the differences between a P and a J:

We like to hike a lot.  When we first got together, my boyfriend would refuse to set foot on a trail without having studied multiple trail maps for several minutes, thoroughly discussed all of the possibilities, have our entire route planned, plus alternates if the first route didn’t work out.  This was true even in small parks that contained one trail.  I was impatient with that process.  I stared off into the woods while he did this and said things like, “Yep, sounds good….” And “uh huh, good idea.”  When he got to the third contingency plan regarding what to do in case of bear attack in our local city park, I would say, “Ok, can we start hiking now?”

On the other hand, I would walk a half mile up a trail in a giant state park that was full of crisscrossing trails and warning signs about life-threatening dangers before I’d turn to my boyfriend and say, “By the way, did we bring a map?”  At which point, he’d look at me incredulously, and start pulling out four different kinds, inevitably re-traumatizing me causing me to shriek, “No, no, no more planning!  Keep them away!”

Ok, this scenario is a slight exaggeration.

The true difference between P’s and J’s isn’t that J’s plan and P’s don’t.  The difference is that J’s prefer to make decisions (Yang) so they can put on their blinders and head unimpeded towards a goal, whereas P’s prefer to hold off decisions (Yin) and keep an eye out for new information—to wait for the decision to reveal itself.

Of course, most of the time, most of us do whatever is appropriate to the given situation, but our preferences often win out when there is some wiggle room.

How this manifests in your life depends on the other letters in your MBTI and all of the millions of little things that make you uniquely you.

Because my boyfriend and I have opposite personality types, we like to think that we can learn from one another’s perspective.

Before I learned anything, this is how goal-setting manifested in my life:

I was a wonderful short-term planner.  I could tell you exactly what I was going to do within the next five minutes, sometimes within the next few hours.  On exceptional days, I knew what I was going to be doing for the entire day.   I was an amazing doer.  I was doing, doing, doing, but without any particular long-term goals in mind I always felt unaccomplished.

As for my boyfriend, he was, and still is, one of those people for whom if you ask, “What’s your five year plan?” can tell you, and not in a wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-this-happened-fantasy way.  It will be in a realistic these-are-the-plans-for-my-current-options kind of way.  Before he learned anything from me, this meant that he spent a lot of time planning, and then re-planning when he saw that an old plan wasn’t going to work out.  For some reason, things that need to be noticed before they could be addressed (such as cleaning the house, a picturesque view or a bad mood) had the tendency to get overlooked completely.

So far, this is what I have learned about goal setting:

Having long-term goals doesn’t mean imagining the ideal end-point for all of my activities and turning them into goals.  As painful as it was for me, I needed to start prioritizing in order to bring anything to fruition.  I had to accept that I wasn’t going to become the world’s best underwater yoga instructor, join the NYC ballet, write the next great American novel, invent a new vaccine for cancer and finish my MA all this year.  I made a handful of annual goals, created a realistic schedule for achieving them and made every other activity optional.  I did this around mid-summer 2013 and you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now if I hadn’t.

This is how I added some Yang to my Yin approach.

So far, this is what my boyfriend learned about goal setting:

A well-constructed long-term goal includes several short-term goals that aren’t necessarily directly related to the goal, such as doing several smaller, seemingly insignificant tasks (like cleaning or occasionally checking out the environment).  He found that it can be valuable to take off the blinders to get a much more inclusive and comprehensive view of any given situation.  Sometimes, rather than planning out of necessity, there were times he made plans to cope with anxiety.  He has found that in low-risk situations, there is value in setting aside planning altogether and embracing spontaneity.  For bigger, more risky commitments, he has learned to hold off major decisions until he has done plenty of research.  This has allowed him to be more comfortable with the times when it’s better to not make a decision.

This is how he added Yin to his Yang approach.

It is somewhere in there, when we figure out how to balance the Yin and Yang of goal setting, where we find that sweet spot of feeling accomplished without making ourselves crazy.

How do you approach your goals?  When you think about goal-setting, what comes up for you?  How and where do you find that balance between being an over-planner or an under-planner?  Let us know in the comments below!