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  • Self-Care Part 2 – Revamping our Lifestyles

    If you read the first segment on Self-Care you may have taken the steps to consider what exactly you need from life once you carve out more time for self-care. You will have also read how to prioritize yourself as an equally important ‘task’ in your schedule.

    What if what you need goes beyond just time for yourself? Do you need to revamp one or more areas of your life in a way that includes your loved ones in the process?

    Consider these examples of how components of our wellness interact. The following will illustrate ways to fulfill different needs. (The examples are simple examples, use your imagination to tailor my suggestions to fit your life!)

    Rest – Do you need rest? A lack of relaxation or sleep is unhealthy for our physical well-being and can put stress on our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness. Fatigue affects our mental alertness and cognitive processing which can affect our performance in many domains of life and consequently put a strain on professional and personal relationships. Fatigue also causes us to think slower and more limited which affects our ability to problem-solve effectively.

    Sometimes fatigue causes us to feel angry about the parts of our life that are not working well, and this can hurt relationships and risk putting us into a depression. This type of anger is usually vague and not the same as a cause and effect situation (i.e. a death) that makes us angry; therefore, this ‘vague’ type of anger and potential depression will cause more fatigue and the cycle will repeat itself.

    Excitement – Do you need more excitement? Some people prefer actual excitement while others prefer stimulation, and either way a lack of this emotional ingredient can cause us to become dormant in life. Being dormant, or overly content or bored can lead to feelings that mimic depression. What would bring you more excitement? Keep reading and you may find some answers. Otherwise, you may consider doing some soul searching to come up with the answers.

    Challenge – Do you need a challenge in life? Similar to needing excitement, sometimes we just need a challenge even if it is not a “fun” or “exciting” experience. We often see this when our lives become too routine at work, at home or in relationships. If it is at work, consider asking for a new task, a promotion or change of scenery. If it is at home, consider mixing up the routine a little or starting a new hobby. I suggest hobbies that provide fulfillment for multiple purposes. First, fulfillment from completing the challenge of learning the new hobby or improving on an old one. Second, you might consider something that is either aesthetically pleasing like gardening or that has utility so you can use it, such as building a shed or making jewelry.

    If the need for challenge and spice is within your relationships, consider adding some spice! In a parenting situation it might be starting a new hobby together or going someplace new that is educational, exciting or just different. It may also be a simple activity that can be done at home and at no cost. With little ones, you can write a story together at bedtime instead of reading one. With older kids who may not be enthused about starting a new hobby with you, you might consider buying a fun activity for the home like a ping pong table, or playing a new family game (that the teen does not think is stupid) and maybe even one that puts you in the “cool parent” category if you haven’t already earned that status!

    Finally, in romantic relationships spice can be both in and out of the bedroom. It might be a date night, a game night, doing an athletic activity together or creating a family photo album that ignites nostalgic feelings.

    One of my favorite ways to spice up a home is to buy or rescue a new pet! Dogs especially can be challenging but so very rewarding. Cats can be easy and cuddly as well. What about a pet you hadn’t thought of before such as a reptile or a bird?

    Exercise – If exercise is what you need, well this is a topic that could be expanded in different directions but on the topic of self-care I suggest infusing exercise into your life in a way that is sustainable, which means it should be enjoyable. If you “need” to lose weight but you are not motivated to do so then exercise may feel like a burden and therefore, does not constitute as the type of self-care I am talking about in this article. For the purpose of this article let’s stick to easy more enjoyable exercise ideas.

    Consider doing yoga or some form of soft stretching at home with a manual, a television show or an app. If you are able bodied, take a walk when you get the urge, without even planning it. Do you have a favorite sport you forgot about or that you think you are getting too old to do? Give it a shot if it is safe! Just go for it with humility and the ability to laugh at yourself if you try it and realize you have lost your edge. What about those activities we do not usually categorize as exercise, like roller skating or ice skating…that could be fun? Weights are not too expensive and are a good alternative if you have use of your arms but have limited lower body abilities.

    Nature – If nature is what you need, get outside and find your inspiration! One easy way to start is by simply noticing nature around you, even when you are driving on a road you take daily. Have you noticed the beauty of the trees, flowers, mountains, fields…the sky? In addition to appreciating the beauty of nature, it is also beneficial to be grateful for it. The simple act of gratitude for nature, people, opportunities…even technology, is healthy. Gratitude is a positive feeling and can help balance our negative perceptions to the world around us.

    Friendship – Do you feel the need to improve or embrace a friendship? Or move an acquaintance into the friendship zone? Maybe you desire meeting new people and rolling the dice on possibilities of a new friendship? On the other hand, do you have any friendships that are toxic and that may need adjusting…or eliminating?

    If you feel lonely in the friend department you may wonder how exactly you might make a new friend. Are you an extrovert? If so, you may find it easy to have conversations with strangers and the next time you talk to someone you find interesting you may want to offer your contact information. If that is too bold of a move, you may use the topic of conversation as a reason to make contact. For example, pretend you are buying something for your lawn and you and another shopper get talking about how your dogs are burning the grass. Well, now you know you both have dogs and you both have grass. You might tell the shopper you have information you can email them that might help with their lawn needs. This allows you to keep the connection without committing to a date and without feeling too awkward.

    If you prefer meeting people in a more traditional manner, ask yourself this: what are your interests? Are there groups or clubs in your area that bring people together who share your interests? What about volunteering, supporting a cause, parent groups or networking groups? Have you considered taking an adult education class that would benefit your life (as opposed to adding stress to your schedule)? These are all ways to do something you want while increasing your chances of meeting new people and potential friends.

    Laughter – Laughter is truly one of the best medicines, as the saying goes. Laughter, smiling and positive emotions increase our serotonin levels. Even witnessing an act of kindness can increase serotonin. If your life is lacking laughter you might take some time to think back to the last time you laughed, what caused it? Think back to the events in life that have consistently brought you laughter. Can any of them be recreated? While we cannot always recreate events, what about the people that tend to get a good giggle out of us or even bring us to tears of laughter. When is the last time you talked to that person?

    Comedy can be a quick serve of laughter, whether it be a comedian you watch or listen to – or a funny movie. While you may think you do not have time for this, reconsider. It might be worth staying up an extra 30 to 90 minutes to get your healthy dose!

    Vacation – Is this what you need? If so, it may take more time, thought and funding to make it a reality but it may also be worth it. Look at your finances, where can you cut spending to start a travel savings account? Look at your schedule, where can you find the time to make traveling a reality? Is there a way you can combine the travel with another cause? Maybe you need to compromise to make it happen; for example, instead of that romantic trip to an expensive resort on a coastal town you might consider looking into a group traveling excursion with your child’s school, through your work or through another group. What about a trip to the next town over just to see different scenery for 24 hours?

    One of my favorite tips I learned from a mentor is to create the life you want rather than wait for the opportunities to fall in place.  While the examples in this article may not lead you to profound changes, the sections listed above are major components of life, wellness and happiness.