September 6, 2021

Self-care is the balm against busyness you need

I don’t know about you, but I have always found this time of year exhilarating. Maybe it’s my roots in academia, or my even deeper roots as a student myself, but the reset that comes at the start of the school year feels promising, exciting … and, I won’t lie, a little overwhelming.

The corporate world often experiences its own type of reset as September sets in. Vacation season has wound down, and it’s time to gear up for the end-of-year revenue and planning push. We settle in, gear up, buckle down and … Go!

I don’t have to tell you this year is a little different.

While all these things are happening in some form, the past 20 months have deprived many of us of the energy we need to dive into the fall season of focus, then the holidays that will follow.

So how can we survive and even thrive through the busy times to come?

Self-care, of course.

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The many forms of self-care

Self-care can feel like a treat – and by all means, you should treat yourself. But what it really does is bolster your resilience. No one expects to be able to use a laptop indefinitely without plugging in and recharging, right? It is the same with your body and mind. If you are managing a lot and want to keep going, you simply must recharge. Self-care can help you do just that.

Self-care for your body

Let’s start with the most fundamental of self-care. Eating for energy and well-being is not about dieting (although it can be compatible with a safe, evidence-based nutrition plan for weight loss, if that is a goal of yours). It’s about getting a healthy mix of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats, and pacing your refueling throughout the day. When you do this, you will be far more ready for whatever life throws your way.

Taking care of your body also means moving your body. Over time, you will build stamina and strength, but even in the short term, a brisk walk or other bout of activity will trigger a release of endorphins that will keep you going after you return to your desk.

Other things your body needs for energy are plenty of water and adequate sleep, and the rituals that you build around these habits can serve as their own form of self-care.

Self-care for your mind

Mindfulness has enough benefits in the workplace that you could reasonably put it on your calendar and call it “work.” In fact, maybe you should. But it’s also a worthy self-care pursuit. Mindfulness has countless benefits – it may help ease rumination, reduce stress, improve focus and memory, and help modulate your emotional reactivity, according to the American Psychological Association. Mindfulness practice takes many forms, and starting is easy.

A particular form of mindfulness that I am drawn to is gratitude. This deceptively simple practice has the power to literally retrain your brain to resist negativity and better manage the demands of life. You can start as simply as listing a few things you’re grateful for before bed or at the start of the day.

Another interesting form of self-care I have found incredibly helpful is rest. We already mentioned sleep, but rest can be different. In fact, it can leave you climbing-a-mountain exhausted or yield a riot of colorful flowers in your garden. Rest is about cultivating a deeply satisfying, engaging pursuit outside the workplace and making it a priority. It could be cycling, sculpting, making music or drafting your first novel. All of those pursuits involve a type of work, but they also stretch your mind in new ways and take you outside your day-to-day problems in a way that may later help you solve them.

Bringing it all together

The mind and body are of course inextricably linked, and if one is not well, the other cannot function optimally. And in truth, many self-care practices involve care for both. What matters most for finding your self-care practice is how it makes you feel. If you need inspiration, try something from the list below that includes some of my personal favorites (you’ll find others for this season and other seasons in prior posts).

Or try something totally different. If you think of something you don’t see here, I’d love to hear about it. I’m happy to keep adding to my own list of things to try, too.

The Metta Solutions self-care menu

  • Enjoy a cup of hot (or iced) tea
  • Spend time with a pet – yours or someone else’s
  • Take a break from electronics
  • Read something purely for fun
  • Spend time outside (learn about the practice of forest bathing)
  • Buy cut flowers for your house (or be like me, and finally give yourself permission to cut the flowers you have)
  • Schedule at least one long weekend a quarter
  • While we’re thinking about time off, everyone should try a two-week vacation at least once

How do you practice self-care?

I hope you’ll share in the comments. More is definitely more when it comes to self-care.

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