It is not new news that self-care is important; we hear it all the time from many different sources—health professionals, exercise gurus, coaches, to name a few. As a coach, I talk about it with my clients, I write about it often, and I do my best to practice what I preach.
This time I want to address why self-care is important from a different angle—how it can create an environment that allows you to release old habits that no longer serve you and reduce the stress that living life can bring.
Here’s what I believe about self-care. When you don’t take time to replenish yourself, you cannot be at your best for all the people and activities you care about. Think about all the roles you play in a day: partner, mother, career woman, caregiver, friend, colleague. It is a lot to handle.
I love the analogy of the teacup. Think of yourself as a beautiful teacup, rimmed in gold, exquisitely painted in your favorite color. And you sit on an equally beautiful, matching saucer. When you take care of yourself, you are filling your cup. As you continue to do things that feed your heart and soul, your cup fills to overflowing.
Your saucer catches the overflow. Now, when someone needs something from you, or you need to meet a project deadline, the stress comes up, and you can meet it with all that you hold in your saucer, rather than your cup. Your cup is always full, and you give from the overflow. Meaning you are never depleted.
All well and good, you say—but how does this relate to getting rid of old habits and managing stress? Remember what I said about “creating the environment?” This is the environment that allows it to happen.
Selfcare is Important Because It Breeds Awareness
Think about your favorite self-care activities. They might include hiking, taking a walk with your dog, having coffee with a friend, going for a massage, taking a bath. What else do you do for yourself?
When you engage in those activities that feed your soul, calm your spirit, and allow you to breathe, you give yourself time to think intentionally about what in your life is not working as well as you would like.
In this calmer time, you may consider these questions:
- Am I working too much?
- Do I say yes to everyone, no matter what they ask of me?
- Are there compulsive activities that I use to distract me from my life, like allowing social media to suck me in or playing games on my smart device?
- Do I do things coming from a fearful place, such as feeling as if no one will like you if I don’t do what s/he asks of me?
- Are there deep-rooted beliefs that hold me back? For instance, do I feel unworthy because someone years ago told me I’d never amount to anything?
You might consider these old or bad habits, which you can choose to change, so they serve you better and allow you to have more time for your self-care.
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Release and Replace Old Habits
Old habits are hard to break because they are ingrained in who you are and how you operate. Instead of breaking old habits, I like to suggest that you release them.
When you release them, you consciously state that you don’t want them back. Here’s the trick with that: once you release the old habit, you need to replace it with what serves you better.
It might work like this:
- Old Habit: You check email first thing in the morning and every hour during the day because you are afraid you might miss something important. This results in spending unproductive time and procrastinating on the day’s priorities.New Habit: Schedule three times during the day to read and reply to emails, limiting the time you spend each time to 30 minutes. The result of this approach is you can focus on the most important priorities first, and gain satisfaction from your accomplishments. By the way, this will also reduce stress and is a form of self-care, too.
- Old Habit: You eat junk food when you are stressed because your parents taught you to believe food is a good way to calm yourself. What you’ve noticed is you are not feeling healthy and you still have the same stress.New Habit: Instead of eating food when you’re stressed, you decide to take a walk around the block. You could replace food with many other things, such as playing with your fur-babies, taking a bath, or making yourself a healthy smoothie instead of eating junk food.
The purpose is to create a different environment for yourself, so you can release and replace those old habits, reduce stress in the process, and take better care of yourself.
Selfcare is Important Because It Reduces Stress
When you learn to manage stress, your life will get easier. And, if self-care can reduce stress, it would seem self-care is important to incorporate into your daily life.
Yes, I did say “daily” life. Stress can pile up if you don’t manage it regularly, which means you would benefit from doing daily activities that mitigate the stressors as they arise.
For example, you are a working mom. The first thing that happens on this day is your toddler throws a tantrum because she doesn’t want to get ready for daycare. At a minimum, this raises your blood pressure, and you know you’re going to be late for the meeting that starts at 9 am. Next, your boss throws a fit when you walk in late, and the project you’re assigned to complete is not as far along as she expected. Here comes the headache. Then, you get a call from your spouse who springs company on you for dinner at 7 pm, when you anticipated working late to complete that project. And the day goes on with one stressful situation compounding the last.
On a day like this, self-care activities sprinkled before, during, and after the stressful circumstances will keep the stress at a minimum. Plus, your ability to rebound will be greater.
Start by breathing deeply. Inhaling an energizing essential oil can uplift your spirit. Or, take a brisk walk to shake off the feelings of frustration, rejection or unworthiness. As you take these breaks, plan your next move so you can move forward from a calmer place. Then, call your spouse and gently suggest that another night would be better for you to entertain his colleagues.
Take control where you can so you manage your response to those things that are out of your control.
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In What Other Ways Is Selfcare Important to Handle Stress and Break Old Habits?
- Because you are continually filling your cup, your energy level remains high.
- You feel physically stronger and able to control your response to stressors.
- Emotionally you are not raw and on edge, but calm and creative.
- If you are a caregiver—which means you offer care to your children, spouse, parents, or someone else—you will have more to offer. Your teacup will be full, and you can give from your overflow.
- Selfcare activities allow you to take a well-deserved break from the madness.
And there are many other ways. Stop for a moment and think about the ways self-care can help in your daily life.
Create A New Vision
To break old habits and relieve stress requires you to think about your approach to life situations differently. If you have a habit of getting defensive when someone questions your actions, you have a choice. One, you could continue to get defensive and deal with the stress that comes with that. Or, you could look at it from a new perspective and get curious about what’s going on for that person and choose not to take it personally.
Do you remember when I talked about “release and replace” when getting rid of old habits? The “replace” part takes re-imagining what you could do instead. And, this takes vision.
With a crystal-clear vision of what you want your life to look like—instead of how it is today—you get to create an environment in which you are practicing your new habits, planning how to manage stressors as they come up, and incorporating self-care into your daily life.
Then, when you put your vision into play, and life happens, you will be able to see clearly the outcome you want and bounce back from the initial shock of an event more easily. Your vision becomes your roadmap for navigating the upside-downs of life.
Selfcare is Important, And You Don’t Have To Do It Alone
Most things in life are more fun and fulfilling when we share them. Here are a few tips on how you could do that easily:
- Plan self-care activities with a friend who likes to do the same things as you.
- Create an accountability-partner relationship with someone you trust, so you have someone to talk with when you need a new perspective, mentoring, or advice.
- If it feels too hard to figure out how you can change things on your own, reach out to a professional coach to help you.
To quote a wise and inspiring woman, Helen Keller, remember: “Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”
Take The First Step
Rome wasn’t built in a day. And, relapses happen. So, don’t set your expectations too high, move methodically, one small step at a time, and exercise self-compassion when things do not go smoothly at points along the way.
Close your eyes and capture the vision of you firmly grounded in your values, old habits released and replaced, major stress a thing of the past, and you are stepping powerfully into each day with your cup filled. Now, write that vision down on paper in technicolor-detail. Make it real.
Then plan your first step toward living out your vision.
If you are living with off-the-charts stress, and old habits are holding you back, you may not like yourself much or even recognize who you are anymore. Making choices to move beyond the stress and release old habits can be hard and getting some guidance may be just what you need. Let’s have a chat about how to get you to the other side, so you can live a life you love, that will love you back. Request your chat with María.