Spring: The Season for Self-Care
By Mary Oquendo
Spring (aka Mud Season) can be a busy time for us. And wouldn’t it be nice if we weren’t so exhausted and could enjoy the warmer weather and flowering gardens? Does it seem like that’s out of reach? Are we doomed to never stop and smell the roses?
The good news is that we don’t have to make a decision between making awesome money and enjoying the sweet smell of Spring. We can have both! It starts with instituting a self–care routine.
What is self–care?
Self–care is any action or behavior that helps us to avoid causing health problems while improving our overall wellbeing. And there are two aspects to self–care: Physical and Mental. It isn’t just that we take pains to care for our physical needs, our mental state must be considered as well.
Some suggestions for a self–care routine include:
1. Set a schedule with specific times where work is not on the radar. Shut off the business phone and don’t read emails, texts or your Facebook business page—even if someone is having a meltdown. It can wait until the next business day. We do not need to be at the beck and call of clients.
Have you ever tried to resolve an issue with any other business after hours? No! Because you knew the office was closed and it would HAVE to wait until the next day. Those businesses have set clear boundaries. We can do the same. People can become stressed when their normally clean smelling pet has just been skunked. There is no need for you to clean their pet at 11pm.
2. Engage in two minutes of sustained, full body physical movement every hour throughout your day. That’s a walk around a shop or up and down the block if you’re mobile. The human body was designed for motion. When we become overwhelmed, our bodies produce stress hormones. The animals in our care can smell those stress hormones on us and, as a result, may become reactive. Movement helps to dissipate such hormones. Those two minutes every hour will do wonders for your overall health.1
3. Get enough sleep. We all have different sleep patterns. It isn’t about the amount of time, but rather the correct amount for you. If you have trouble falling asleep and it isn’t medical in nature, you may try:
a) Institute the two–hour rule: no electronics, food, alcohol or exercise two hours before bed.
b) Did you know that our gut produces most of our serotonin, aka sleep hormone? Poor quality diet or foods high in inflammatory content such as sugars and dairy can hinder production of serotonin. Reduce your intake of such foods.
c) Implement self–care suggestions 1 and 2 of this article.
4. Take your time waking up. This is not to be confused with hitting the snooze button for the next hour. A sleep cycle is anywhere between 60 and 120 minutes. When you hit the snooze button, you interrupt that cycle. It will make you more tired throughout the day. Instead, don’t rush out of bed. A 10–minute cuddle will do more for your emotional wellbeing than the snooze button.
5. Eat breakfast and stop working through lunch. Breakfast kick starts your metabolism. Breakfast gets you moving. Stopping and eating lunch raises your blood sugar, allowing you to continue working efficiently for the rest of the day.
6. Listen to a podcast—something fun or educational. Avoid the ones that will raise your blood pressure. Save those for after work.
7. Recognize your emotional state. If you need to step back, then do so. Put the pet away and take some time to regroup.
8. Pay it forward. Do something nice for someone else. An article in the July 2006 Psychology Today concluded that random acts of kindness are a mood booster. You feel better about yourself and in control of your life when you regularly engage in kindness.
9. Haven’t used those massage gift cards you got during the holidays? Your body and mind will thank you.
10. A September 2013 article in Psychology Today concluded that meditation improves health, happiness, social life, self–control, brain function, productivity and wisdom.2 Don’t know how to meditate? Here are some ideas:
a) Deep breathing. Sit or lie down comfortably. Slowly count to four while inhaling through your nose. Feel your stomach rise. Hold your breath for a second. Slowly count to four while you exhale. Repeat several times.
b) Visualization. Close your eyes, relax and imagine a peaceful place. Engage all your senses. Feel yourself there.
c) Tai Chi, yoga, or qi gong. They all utilize meditation in practice.
d) Use a guided meditation track. Some are free on YouTube and your app store, others for a nominal charge on Amazon.
By taking care of ourselves now, we can enjoy time with our families instead of wondering where the time went. But the key is consistency. In order for self–care to be effective, it must be practiced on a regular basis.