The term self care can be thrown around a lot like a buzz word and you may already be thinking, what more is there to know that I haven’t already heard? What I want to share with you is why self care is important, signs that you may need to make self care more of a priority and tips for doing just that. I’ll also share my case study of how I neglected self care for many years and where that got me.

The definition of self care is: the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

How many of us do this? When we are under stress thinking about our self care is not what typically comes up first. More likely it is the source of the stress that grabs our focus and attention. I think realistically the self care part does not even come up until we are in a health crisis or a place of exhaustion and we are forced to consider it. Otherwise we keep on going doing what our primitive brain tells us is most important. 

We must pay more attention to our well-being. We cannot be the best version of ourselves without doing so. You are no good to anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself completely first. We tend to put our own needs at the end of the list. Which is rooted in good intentions. But just like when you are on a plane and you are told to place your oxygen mask on first then assist children and others it is because you must take care of yourself first in order for you to even be able to help others. This really is the same thing in our lives. By taking care of ourselves we are in effect taking care of others in our life in the best ways possible. 

When I cleaned up my own self care practice, I recognized that it made the energy in the household better. I recognize that as the Mom I would often set the tone. Do any of you feel that? There was this saying I heard somewhere in my life…If Momma ain’t happy, no one is happy. It’s a funny thought, but I really saw how that was true in my own family. 

If I was stressed out, I might see my kids act out. If I was on edge I noticed my husband was on edge. Yes, we are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions but I realize how much power I have with the energy that I put out in my family, my community and in the world. If I want more peace in my day, my life, the world. I start with my putting out more peace into my family, my community and the world. 

We say things to ourselves that we would never say to anyone else we love. Don’t you love yourself too? God has taught us we are all 100% worthy. We are worthy of our own love, patience and forgiveness. 

Notice when you are so much kinder and compassionate to others than you are to yourself.. 

We must learn compassion for ourselves. It truly is a skill we can practice and get better at. 

Many of us don’t even know what is possible in taking better care of ourselves because we are stuck in thought loops and patterns. This is where coaching can help show you a new path and challenge your prior belief systems and thought loops. 

So what might be some signs of sacrificing our self care?

The body has a really fascinating way of letting you know when you are out of alignment. I don’t think we look at it in this way enough. When your body is showing symptoms and signs it is trying to tell you something. It’s only way to get your attention is to send these signals. 

You may get sick often

You feel anxious, irritable, or on edge

You never feel great, even when you’re not “sick”

You are always tired. Especially in the afternoon

You suffer from migraines or headaches

You can’t even remember the last time you went to the doctor

You eat poorly

You are dependent on caffeine or alcohol, drugs

You feel like you are in a brain fog

You feel stressed out and overwhelmed

You don’t take vacations or plan time for relaxation & enjoyment

You can’t name what activities bring you joy

You struggle to stay present with people

You struggle to smile or enjoy laughter

You just want to be alone and distance yourself from people

Your mindset is negative

You focus on everything wrong in your life and the world rather than what is good and what you want to see more of

So Why are we doing this to ourselves? There could be many reasons, here are a few to ponder. 

Childhood trauma or adverse childhood experiences.

Learned behavior by example. Belief systems we are shown and taught by repetition. 

The world advertises we should do more, be more. SUPERHERO SYNDROME.

We compare our lives to others and tell a story.

We  continue to add pressure to ourselves due to perfectionism 

We aren’t in tune with what we really want and why.

We associate our worthiness and value with what we accomplish.

We aren’t taught self compassion. We just don’t know how!

Tips for Improving your Self Care

Create a self care routine. Start small.

Work on cleaning up your past.

Allow yourself to slow down.

Put a priority on you.

Clean up your mind.

Know what you want and why.

Separate story from fact.

Make a plan for everything in your life: work, family, fun, self care.

Stop saying things to yourself you would never say to others you love.

Take a proactive approach for practicing self compassion.

Do not believe the myth that self care is selfish!! It is absolutely not!

Here are some good starter questions to ask yourself

In what ways are you not caring for yourself and it is spilling over into how you are able to show up for others?

What warning signs is your body sending you and you have been ignoring it?

What are the self care actions you really want to incorporate more into your life but you think you can’t?

What do you think the positive effects would be on your life if you started doing those things?

Why are you not doing it? What are the thoughts and stories you keep repeating?

So let me share with you my case study. I used to be a person that filled my to-do list up with what everyone else needed and essentially I would see what time was left over at the end for myself. What I never was able to pause and see is that there was never going to be any time for me. I did this for over 25 years before I faced the reality of what those decisions created for me. So from my early 20’s until late 40’s this was my routine. 

I would get up, snooze my alarm for as long as I could get away with, finally wake up, check my email and social media. Then get mad at myself for spending that much time. Hurry up and shower, get ready, run out the door without a plan for breakfast or lunch. Speed to work, work all day long typically from 7:30am until I got done. Which got done was a never ending target for me. I had this idea that in order to be at peace I had to have every possible thing accomplished. All email attended to and everything clean for the next day. Come on, we all know how hard that is. So I would work until 5:00 – 7:00PM at the office sometimes later. When I would get home, I would constantly be glued to my phone and would ultimately feel the need to get out my computer and work which I often did until midnight. Now during the years my kids were younger you can see the flaw in this plan. As their needs came up I just viewed it as less time I had to get it all done and I was not present with them. I was always thinking about what I needed to do next. I stressed and overwhelmed myself constantly thinking this was the only way. 

So where was the time for my self care? There wasn’t any. There were times when my husband and I would break away for a bike ride with our cycling team but I just found a way to make that stressful and overwhelming too. I would always want to do some form of enjoyable exercise, like a walk outside. I would always want to read. I NEVER HAD TIME. Oh how many times I complained I just don’t have time. It is all a lie. We make time for what is important to us. 

Years of this routine led me to a very poor mental outlook. I was so negative. I got so negative I began to tell myself I can’t even stand myself. My future outlook deteriorated and I began to feel hopeless about a future life that I loved living. I tried to stuff that down and tuck it away. I was quite amazing at pushing harder and harder and then wearing that like a superhero badge. But even with that will power I was not showing up well for myself or my family. As some of you know my story by July 2020 I was fed up and I was starting to really work on my mindset and habits. I began to work with a functional medicine doctor in September and learned that I was in adrenal fatigue, my gut was out of wack, I had a fair amount of inflammation….many of my systems had taken a hit and were functioning in high stress mode all the time. If I continued on this path I have no doubt it would lead me to illness and disease. 

I began to put an importance on self care and over time was able to get clear about what was important to me. I made some lifestyle changes but I am not even saying you have to make changes as big as I did like such as changing my career. Just learning that my excuse of never enough time was bull crap was life changing. I have never said it since. 

So what do my days look like now? 

Well, I have a planning system that I learned through my coaching certification that allows me to be extremely productive called Monday Hour One. I use my prefrontal intelligent brain to plan in advance what I want to accomplish each week and I follow it. I have used this system for over a year and it has been life changing. I accomplish so much in less time. I don’t feel guilty having fun and I put a priority on my self care. It’s actually the opposite of how we are generally trained. I start with self care, personal tasks of importance then my business appointments, tasks etc. You want to talk about empowering and motivating! I don’t care if you are at work 8-10 hours a day, you still get to decide what you do with the other hours. You get to take charge and decide. Don’t let your primitive brain tell you that you are tired and a better idea is to grab a glass of wine and that bag of Oreos!

So I wake up each day between 6-6:30, I usually don’t need an alarm as my body just wakes up naturally. I don’t check my phone first. I use the Headspace App to complete a 10-12 minute guided meditation. I journal and dump all the thoughts in my brain for 5-10 minutes. I go through a spiritual prayer practice I have. I learned this practice from the speaker/author Matthew Kelly and it has allowed me to go deeper in my prayer life. I may choose to add in a manifestation practice from Wayne Dyer when I am really wanting to go after something in my life. 

I will exercise 30-60 minutes each day which may consist of any of the following, outdoor walk, outdoor bike ride, indoor ride on my bike trainer. 

I will spend 15-20 minutes doing an at home yoga practice, I follow Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube. I will be sure to stretch. 

I feed my brain positivity whether that is audio books or podcasts that keep me focusing on a positive mindset. This is all before 9am!!

I follow my plan on my calendar as far as my specific work day and what I will focus on and accomplish. 

I am able to be present and available to my family when we are all gathered together.

These self care practices I have implemented are huge in my momentum! And it has allowed me to make positive changes in my life and improve my health. The numbers don’t lie. 

I want to always remind you! I am not 100% perfect. That is not the goal. I can tell when I skip my self care practices. I can feel the difference. So over  time I recognized how valuable it was for me to keep up a self care routine. To hold myself accountable and know that these steps I take keep me healthier physically and mentally which allows me to be the best I can for all those around me. Even strangers I don’t know. I have recognized that when I take care of myself I have more patience out in the world. I don’t get upset over the small stuff and I can let people be who they are. All because I have more inner peace.

Now, I have come to understand that I have to be very intentional with my self care practice. I have to remind myself how important it is. Notice when I am feeling the effects of not giving enough time to my self care and learn how to not give in to my primitive brain (my inner critic) when it says that I should be doing something more productive with my time. Or when it wants me to cut my self care practice routine short for something else that feels more important. I remind myself that my mental & physical health is the foundation of everything I am able to do in my life. Without that strong foundation it eventually breaks down and shows up in the way of illness…mental or physical. 

I hope you will think about 1 or 2 things that you can start doing to put yourself first. Knowing it will come back to everyone you spend your time with. It is not a waste of time. 

So what are you going to do today, this week, this month that is all for you? Answer that question and then hold yourself accountable like you would do for everyone else.

Self care means giving yourself permission to pause.

Cecilia Tran