I recently came to the conclusion that very rare are those who know how to take care of themselves.
Ask yourself now: how do you take care of yourself?
Let me guess: you watch a show, read, run, hang out with friends, go to the spa, salon, gym, go out for lunch, work out, cook healthy meals, play games, go shopping,… Am I right? You “do things” and take care of your body mostly. And there is nothing wrong with that! We need it 100%.
But, how do you take care of your mind?
Self-care is about taking care of your whole self. Mind and body. The mind part is what we usually fall short with and the reason why we don’t feel all so that great afterwards.
So how do you improve the quality of your thoughts and stay mentally healthy? How do you soothe your sadness, get your anger out of your system, develop compassion, heal your traumas, …?
Here is the deal: you can work out and swallow pills all day, keep your hair perfect and your look stunning, if there is chaos in your mind, trauma in your heart and fear in your guts, looking great won’t make you feel any better. It will just numb the pain for a little while. Just like checking Facebook, buying a new piece of clothe you don’t need, eating junk, drinking alcohol, etc. It distracts your mind from the real things and help you forget the pain for a bit but the pain always comes back stronger after. And so it does until you decide to face it and take care of it.
So, yes, working out is good for your mind. Some work outs are even known as “meditative” practices because they help you get “out of your mind” for a little while. But taking care of yourself doesn’t mean running away from your fears and numbing your emotions. It means the opposite. It means looking deeply, embracing who you are and where you’re at, accepting your mistakes, honoring your courage and holding space for yourself.
We all are suffering. We all have traumas. Traumas are found at the origin of all of our fears, struggles and diseases.
But most of us think what happened to us wasn’t terrible enough to be qualify as traumas. So we suck it up and try to run away from the pain. Showing up strong and telling ourself we are “fine” because it is the only coping mechanism we know and the easiest way to deal with the pain, in the short term.
That strategy doesn’t work on the long run tho. Our traumas are unique, valid and real.
When you break an ankle, do you take care of it or you ignore it? When your child is grieving a loss, do you hug him/her or do you ignore him/her?… What you resist only persists and grows into something bigger. Like a neglected broken ankle or child’s big emotion.
Now if your well-being is your priority, take a look at the list of tools and practices bellow. There are so many more but this is a good place to start. Not all will resonate with you. Everyone is different and at a different stage of their journey. But baby steps count. You are on the right path.
A/ Let’s build healthy emotional patterns
- Pause when a big emotion arises, feel it in your body and bring yourself back to calm with 3 mindful breaths (it takes less than a minute). Notice how you feel after. The emotion is gone and it only took 3 mindful breaths! Behind that practice is a real scientific explanation: when going through a big emotion, your nervous system is on fire = your brain doesn’t function properly anymore, you can’t think straight. 3 mindful breaths will bring your nervous system back to calm and your brain will function again. Try it!
- Practice mindfulness/”life tasting”: if you like wine tasting, you will love life tasting. Once a day, do one thing (or many) “mindfully”: in other words, focus all your senses on one thing. Example: as you wash the dishes, notice the temperature of the water, the sensation of the sponge, the smell of the soap, the sound of the water running, etc. You can do anything mindfully. It’s about experiencing life as if it was the first time: watching your kids play, tasting your coffee, looking at a ray of sunshine going through the window: wake up all your senses and open your eyes to life like you had never seen it before.
- Practice gratitude: whenever you start saying “I wish” or “If only I had”, switch to: “I have” and fill up your mind with all the things, people and places you have, love and won’t wait to lose to realize how much you love them. Notice how you feel now.
- When the plan goes “wrong” (and it often eventually does if you think about it), look at the new/unexpected adventure ahead with curiosity / the eyes of a child. Life is about learning and loving. There is nothing to attain. Life is about change, evolution, transformation. Everything changes. The problem isn’t that things change. The problem is that we hold on to our ideas of how things should be, people should act, places should look, etc. Reality is always much more original and unique than the idea we had of it.
- When your mind feels high jacked and you finally acknowledge it. Pause. Just pause for a minute. Take a step back and observe where your mind is at, without making any judgment (and make a side note of the huge progress you are already making by acknowledging your unhealthy emotional pattern right here). Now ask yourself: how long have you been caught in this thought pattern? Look around: is there a tiger in the room? Notice how you feel in your body. Close your eyes and breathe mindfully for a minute to bring yourself back to the present moment / use your breath as an anchor to the present (safe) moment. There you go! One step at a time. For now, just stay here. You have time. Yes you do, in the grand scheme of things.
- When you start to worry about the future, listen to the story you’re making up in your head and ask yourself those 3 questions (The Work of Byron Katie):
- Is it true? (Can you absolutely know that it’s true?)
- How do you react when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without this thought?
Worry is a misuse of our imagination. After you come back to calm, activate your imagination to change the story in your head and create a “best case scenario story” instead 😉
- When you start to make “what if…” sentences, change for “even if…” sentences. See what comes out.
- Whenever you feel stressed. Use the “square breathing” technique to bring yourself back to calm (repeat 3 times):
- Inhale for 4, 3, 2, 1
- Hold your breathe 4, 3, 2, 1
- Exhale 4, 3, 2, 1
- Hold your breath 4, 3, 2, 1
B/ Ready for a “life-tasting” adventure/self-care day?
- Meditate 5 minutes (get started with me: free meditation workshop starting Jan 11 2022): Why? Meditation is the secret to working smarter (vs harder). It is also something anyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health. Amongst many more benefits and according to science, meditation can help
- reduce stress
- control anxiety (& social anxiety) and depression
- promote emotional health and well-being
- enhance self-awareness
- lengthen attention span (by inducing a state of flow)
- reduce age-related memory loss
- generate kindness, empathy and compassion for yourself and others
- help fight addictions
- improve sleep
- control pain
- decrease blood pressure
- preserve the aging brain
Just a few days of meditation will improve your concentration and attention. 8 weeks of meditation will change the gray matter concentration of your brain in areas involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-awareness, and new perspective-taking (growth mindset).
- Practice Yoga, once a week is a must: Why? Yoga is also known as a “moving meditation” practice. Yoga offers all the benefits of meditations + a physical activity that improves focus, strengths, flexibility, helps with discomfort, digestion, blood flow, body positivity, will power, confidence, self-love, self-esteem, body awareness, self-acceptance, surrendering, … And the list goes on.
- Practice slowing down/life tasting: eat mindfully, walk mindfully, listen mindfully, watch mindfully, … It will bring you back to the present moment, where life happens and it will help you feel grounded and content at all times.
- Identify your traumas and fears – journal with a hand on your heart for 10 min today. Don’t be afraid. There is nothing you can really hide from yourself. This painful feeling has to come out, you’ve tried to burry it but it is still there so let’s try something else, will you? As you do the work, keep in mind: the only truth is your own sincere self observation… Journaling is about honesty beyond reality.
- Write an empathy letter: the letter will be addressed to you and (pretended to be) written someone who broke your heart. Writing this letter will set you free but you have to be ready. You are doing it for YOU. Start the letter with “Dear (your name)”, and write it as if you were the other person, putting yourself completely into the other person’s shoes. Imagine you are him/her, explaining why he/she did/said/acted the way they did, not to apologize but to tell their own story with an open heart, hoping you’ll understand. Everyone has a different point of you… What’s theirs?
- Study your IKIGAI– check out our dates for the coming IKIGA workshops (in-person or Zoom) here.
- Go scream at the top of your lungs from the top of a mountain! Screaming therapy, we call it.
- Start a gratitude tree in your street or backyard. Why? Ahhh the gratitude practice. Let’s be clear. Being grateful in a difficult moment isn’t about finding a reason to stop complaining. A gratitude practice is about focusing on what you have instead of what you wish for. Because in one case (focusing on what you have), you will find consistent happiness: the happiest people have it all – they cherish what they have when they have it. It doesn’t mean they don’t have dreams and goals! It means that they embrace every stage of their life while pursuing their dreams. In the other case (focusing on what you wish for), you’ll never feel fulfilled, because one can never have it all and you will spend your whole entire life wishing for more. And more. And more. One thing after the other. It is a mindset created by a habit that will only lead you to consistent dissatisfaction. Gratitude is called a “Practice” for a reason: it takes time to shift a mindset. By creating a tree in your street, you’ll send a message and an invitation out too.
- Switch the Home Screen of your phone to black & white: how & why here. This will help you create time for yourself, disconnected to the outter world to connect to your inner world (maybe I should have started with that tip?).
- Remove FB, Insta and Tik-Tok accounts from your phone. Just do it. So next time you feel bored you’ll use your imagination to create something new or face your fears instead of running away from them.
- Try something new – sign up for a writing class, dance, art, yoga, surf, tennis, row, theatre,… or ask a friend to tag along at one of their activities: open new perspectives, get out of your comfort zone!
- Volunteer a few hours/week – find a cause you want to stand by and give your time to. Or make your own offer and post it on a local journal, board, website. Giving is the remedy to most of our troubles.
- Hike in nature, without phone, for the sake of connecting with nature, clearing your mind, breathing fresh air, filling your lungs with freedom, being alive.
- Reconnect with your wildest dream and make a 5 year plan. Then break it down into smaller, achievable goals and plan for the first few baby steps. Take the first one today. It can be a search on Google, a conversation with a friend, the purchase of a book, a minute, a silence, a tear, a list, a hug, a phone call. Why not? You can create the life you want, so aim for no less than your wildest dreams. And… Take your time. Great things take time. Plant a seed now, watch your tree in 5 years.
- Make a list of things you don’t want / want to do anymore. Make a plan to stop or get rid of them: you have to clear the path first to make room for what really matters.
- Fall in love with everything. But with yourself first. Feel your heart growing.
Life is a journey. Go For It.