In stressful times, we increasingly tend to focus our attention outward. Particularly when we are challenged more than usual, why not look inward and do something good for ourselves? Self-care is a promising strategy – especially in challenging times.
Self-care is not a magic cure, to be sure. But it does give us regular breaks from the so-called essential things that keep us on our toes every day. It provides us relaxing moments, a kind of mini-break from the predominantly stressful daily routine. And it doesn’t take much effort: it’s the small, regular things that add up to a significant impact. We can take care of ourselves on a physical, emotional, cognitive, or social level. Here are some suggestions as a selection.
Taking care of yourself – some suggestions.
Give a smile to yourself. With all the severe issues that constantly capture us, it is merely good to relax the mind once in a while and allow yourself a few moments of lightness. The easiest thing to do is to smile into the day – even if there is no reason to do so. A smile on your face sends ‘it-feels-good’ signals to the brain via the nervous system. So, smiling without any particular reason is a very effective idea. The proof of the pudding is in the eating! You might also enjoy watching a movie with a happy ending or a comic strip and let yourself be carried away into beautiful spheres.
Exercise as a morning ritual. Be it a simple stretching and stretching, be it yoga exercises, a few deep breaths, or extensive jogging: consciously coming into your body, feeling your body, out to the tips of your toes and fingers, all the way into your cells, is one of the best prerequisites for a successful start to the day.
Making contacts and giving to others: ‘To him who gives will be given’ is both an ancient and universal wisdom. To discuss it socially and abstractly may lead to political paths and dead ends. But to live it simply and practically in everyday life leads, in my experience, to encouraging and heart-refreshing moments – mutually. You don’t have to ‘have’ in order to give. Just being fully aware of the other person is almost a gift these days! A smile, a friendly glance, an appreciative remark or a thank you note, an empathetic ‘how are you?’ with genuine listening – the possibilities are endless.
Morning Pages: write yourself chipper. Originally, the idea of ‘morning pages’ came from author and creative coach Julia Cameron, who featured them in her book ‘The Artist’s Way’. It’s about just writing away right after getting up and letting everything out (brain dump) to then start the new day with a fresh mind. All fears and worries also belong on paper. By writing them down, they are deposited, and the thoughts no longer have to keep us busy during the entire day. Instead, your mind is then ready for creative design or problem-solving.
“Nourish your body. Culinary food is lovely, but it can certainly lead to unwanted side effects. Make sure you give your body what it needs, whether it’s to do thinking work or withstand the winter cold. There are thousands of nutritional theories, but the best guide is still your inner body voice. It knows what is good for us and what we should do better without. Attention: this voice is not to be confused with the messages of the palate!
“Recognize your limits and accept help. There is a fine line between the claim to tackle and solve problems on one’s responsibility and the ability to get help at the right time. Many people find it difficult to accept help. It is not for nothing that T. Kahler’s five inner drivers from the well-known concept of transactional analysis are: “Be strong! Please others! Try hard! Be perfect! Hurry up!” These widespread behavior patterns have it in them and can push us to the limit or even beyond. However, if you are aware of your inner commanders, it is easier to recognize where the boundaries of coping by yourself are and where the point is to call in targeted support.
Do I prefer to live in the real or virtual world? Virtual media and possibilities make it enormously easy for us to jump back and forth between realities every second. However, we know from brain research that our brains don’t make a clear distinction between real or virtual experiences in the process. Negative messages can therefore affect us enormously even if we have not experienced them. Therefore, we should consciously choose how much time we spend in the ‘here and now’ environment that we can perceive with our senses. And how much time we spend in worlds created for us by media creators. Preferably, the artificial worlds are overloaded with negative messages and images that reinforce or even aggravate our worries and fears. For the sake of health, I therefore find the following two questions to oneself enormously important: “How much time and attention do I give to my here-and-now reality? How much time do I spend in virtual realities?”
Pause and say ‘thank you’. For some reason, evolution seems to have programmed us to perceive disturbing things more than pleasant ones. Positive thinking is something we have to strive for; negative thoughts come naturally and in quantities. In my opinion, however, it doesn’t make much sense to see a problematic situation in a convulsively positive light. ‘Crisis’ is a relative term, however. What is always possible is to ask yourself: what am I grateful for today? There is always something for which we can say ‘thank you’! By doing so, we intentionally focus our attention on what works, what makes us happy, what moves us forward, what makes us feel good. This focus has a beneficial effect on how we feel: in the evening on the quality of our sleep, in the morning on the quality of the day ahead.
Self-care is an essential part of self-competence. The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of others. So take good care of yourself!