Self-Care Tips to Remember When You’re Working Toward Your Dreams

Self-care didn’t always come naturally to me. In fact, I’d say that for the biggest part of my life I didn’t...

Self-Care Tips To Remember When Working Toward Your Dreams

Self-care didn’t always come naturally to me. In fact, I’d say that for the biggest part of my life I didn’t care much for my body. Or myself. I was too preoccupied with endless to-do lists, multi-tasking to make sure everything got done, and that everyone around me was happy first. Taking care of myself was something I’d do in the future, after all the other stuff I had going on. Of course I never got to that point. How could I make myself a priority when I kept on adding other things to my list first?

When I think back on that time now, I realize I lived my life as if I had no body at all. Everything happened from the top of my head up to my neck. Anything below that was a necessity, not a gift. At least, that’s how I used to look at it.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t exercise, or wasn’t aware of what I was putting into my body. Only I didn’t do it for the right reasons. I slept because I had to, I ate – most days much later than I should have and at my desk – not because I wanted to nourish my body but because I was so hungry I couldn’t ignore my poor body anymore. When I went to the gym it was because I felt I needed to look a certain way to fit in, not because I wanted a strong, healthy body. The thing is, our bodies are amazing machines that can cope with a lot of things, but in order to live a joyful, fulfilling, healthy life we need to do more than just keep ourselves physically alive.

My own decade-long habit of ignoring my body’s needs resulted in heaps of stress, aches and pains, headaches. I wasn’t the nicest person to be around either, especially early in the afternoon when I hadn’t eaten yet and was in full-blown hangry agony. Because of the prolonged hours I spent at my desk behind my laptop I always had cold hands and feet, and a sore neck and shoulders.

But the biggest issue was that I wasn’t nearly as productive as I could have been. Doing almost nothing to work toward my goals. During my work day I was easily distracted, stressed out, unhappy. At night I was exhausted. By not allowing myself to take a break or care for myself I was miserable.

So, what is self-care?

The World Health Organization restricts the meaning of self-care to the practices that keep you safe from disease, boost and restore your health, but in a more general sense, self-care could be defined as taking time to focus on yourself and your physical and psychological needs. It’s about reconnecting with your body to listen to its messages, quieting your mind and dealing with your emotions and feelings.

Is self-care another name for pampering?

Only if your idea of pampering is to give your body (and mind) what it needs to thrive and continue to serve you well in your mission to achieve your dreams.

In recent years, self-care started becoming more popular thanks to the work of self-care activists like poet Audre Lorde.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
– Audre Lorde

The idea is quite simple: if I don’t take care of myself, I won’t be able to keep fighting for the causes I believe in. If I don’t take care of my own needs, I’m not going to be able to help others get what they need either.

You’re a human being, not a robot

Something the South African writer Malebo Sephodi set out to remind people during a TEDx talk was that we need to allow ourselves to feel things. We’re human. We’re not robots designed to work or process information non-stop, and we need to take the time to reflect on who we are, who society expects us to be, and who we feel we should be – what we know is our true calling.

Self-care is an act of love and a tool for strengthening your body and mind. The bigger your dreams or goals, the bigger the risk of becoming overwhelmed, disengaged, or even sick while working hard to achieve them. Because you know that the reward will be so great, you risk pushing yourself too hard.

To help you work toward your big dreams in a meaningful way I’ve put together a list of self-care tips that I invite you to try, and (if you like them) integrate into your daily life. These tips have helped me to finally make friends with my body, and learn to treat myself well.

  •  Learn to release the tension in your body

You can do this through yoga, getting a massage (or giving yourself one), going to the gym, or even doing breathing exercises. For example, you can install the BreatheWell app on your phone (iOS, Android) and go through a breathing cycle any time you feel tense. You can start with a 4-second inhale, a 16-second hold, and an 8-second exhale.

  • Sit on a bench in the park

Or step outside, or to your balcony for a few minutes. Just watch the people and the cars passing by, what’s unfolding around you without thinking about all the things you have to do. This will give your mind and body a relaxing break.

  • Take a meditation break

Some people meditate for 2 hours a day, or more. It’s OK if you don’t have that long, 15 minutes or even less will be just as good. If you don’t know how to meditate, open a guided meditation on YouTube and listen to the indications or just focus on your breathing. [If you’re a member of the Big Dreamers Club, simply go through the meditation module Maja Savic created for us.] Meditation can help you live in the present and expand your consciousness, thus freeing you from the shackles of your own thoughts and emotions.

  • Clean your desk or your room

Decluttering will make you feel more productive and will also help calm your mind. It’s really worth it to invest 15-20 minutes on cleaning up your workspace or personal space every day.

  • Play a simple, mindless game

The awesome thing about games is that they capture your attention, so you can use them to give yourself a break, especially during stressful times. You can play a game on your phone or in your browser. A quick Google search will give you lots of options to choose from. So will asking children or teenagers!

  • Make yourself a nourishing meal

It should be something you really want to eat and that’s also good for you. Usually, your body craves what it needs. So listen to it, and don’t postpone eating when you’re hungry, or eat less than your body needs. Remember that food is your body’s (and mind’s) fuel, and that you need it to be happy – and work on your dreams!

  • Binge on some Netflix

Or watch a series or fun TV show. It doesn’t matter what you pick, as long as it’s not work in disguise. Don’t go to YouTube to learn more about subjects that matter to you at work, instead make sure to pick something that will amuse you, and will help you get your mind off things.

  • Take a nap

Sometimes our bodies and minds need rest. Babies and young children do it often, and it’s easy to see the difference in mood before and after. The same is true for us. Whether it’s 10 minutes or half an hour, laying down to rest and closing your eyes for a little while can truly do wonders. Especially if you live a busy life with little time for yourself.

  • Reach out to a friend

You’re not in this alone. Even though when you’re working your way through your to-do list you might feel you are. That’s why taking a break, and reaching out to a friend can do so much good. It doesn’t need to be a long conversation, or even a phone call. You can message a friend on Facebook, or exchange a few text messages through your phone. The point is to connect, and remember that a whole world is out there.

  • Close the curtains and dance to your favorite song

Moving your body is one of the best ways to release tension, get some blood flowing through your body, and to remember you’re alive. If you feel up to it, try singing while you’re at it. Expressing yourself through your body can be a great way to get yourself out of the confines of your comfort zone, which in turn will not only boost your health but your creativity too!

  • Put your thoughts on paper

Having dealt with anxiety for a big part of my life, I know all too well what it feels like to have too many things swirling in my mind. One trick that I’ve found to be helpful to release some of the mental stress that comes from having too many things in my head, is to write them down on a piece of paper. When I do it – and I’ve made it a habit to do this regularly – I can literally feel space freeing up inside my mind. The result? I’m calmer, less stressed, and I can focus better on what really matters.

If you like any of the tips, I invite you to put them into action. And in the comments below, let me know about it. But whatever you do, remember that you’re not a robot but a soul traveling through this world in a vessel made of flesh and bones. Take care of yourself!

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