If you want to run like a Porsche, you can’t fuel yourself like a Pinto. This is what I tell my patients when I introduce the importance of self-care. It means: if you want to be happy, healthy, and sustainably high achieving—you need to “fuel” yourself well. You can’t put in low-quality or no fuel (lack of sleep, little to no exercise, living on coffee or fast food, and no time for relaxation) and expect to function optimally. Self-care is your fuel. Self-care is what will give you the energy for excellent thoughts and behaviors. Self-care is what will help you create a successful life you actually enjoy. You are worth it to make the time for self-care.
This is the acronym I use with patients to help them remember the fundamentals of self-care:
Sleep (aim for 7-9 hours/every night)
Exercise (at least 30 minutes most days)
Look forward (plan pleasant activities at least 1x/week)
Fuel for body & mind (healthy nutrition and hydration, relaxation, nature, meditation)
I’ll cover each of the SELF-care essentials in the future—for now, here are 2 actionable tips targeting Fuel that you can use today and every day to improve your self-care:
1. Get outside for at least 3 minutes.—Focus your attention on the sights, sounds, and smells of your surroundings. (Ideally, keep all technology silenced for these 3 minutes.) Notice the beauty of nature: trees, birds, or the sky and weather on that particular day. Pausing during your day and enjoying a peaceful moment, even briefly, can help your brain relax and re-energize.
2. Practice 4-4-6 breathing.—Breathe in for 4 (slowly count 1-2-3-4 in your mind as you breathe in deeply through your nose), feel your stomach expand as your lungs fill with air, hold for a mental count of 4, and then breathe out slowly through your mouth for a mental count of 6. Repeat. Just a few minutes of deep breathing can provide a quick sense of peace and calm.
AWARENESS: How often are you making time for self-care? Are there certain SELF-care fundamentals that feel more challenging to practice? What could you do to make it easier to prioritize regularly practicing self-care within your days or weeks? Is there anything you’ve wanted to work on to help improve your self-care? What is one doable action you could take today to honor your self-care and fuel yourself for greater happiness, health, and achievement?
ACTION: That “one doable action you could take” you just identified—DO that for yourself today. Also, try out the two actionable tips above. You might find you really enjoy some time outside and some slower, relaxation-inducing breathing. (You deserve to be happy and healthy. And being happy will actually set you up for success in your life. More on that in future posts.) After you do your self-care, give yourself credit. You made the time to do the work of fueling yourself well—and helping yourself be your best—that’s excellence.
“We will be more successful in all our endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living.”—Thich Nhat Hanh