There is a new mantra that is gaining momentum -- "self-care is the new health care." Recently, I discussed the fact that leaders who incorporate self-care into their schedules enjoy greater employee productivity and a healthier bottom line. Now I'd like to focus specifically on you, the individual. The practice of self-care and an emphasis on merging personal needs with professional demands is more imperative than ever before -- and for good reason. It takes a great deal of strength and perseverance to meet the requirements of your work and personal schedule, and simultaneously achieve career goals. Without vigilant observation and mindful planning, at some point, you are likely to "crash and burn." Regardless of your age, gender, relationship status or profession -- the struggle to make time for self-care can be problematic.
There is no question that a high level of stress can have a deleterious effect on your physical and emotional wellbeing, and your emotional state has a direct effect on the way you think and process information. Therefore, if the pressures and stress of everyday life are starting to feel insurmountable, it's crucial to learn emotional self-regulation skills.
To do this, you must focus on four "dimensions of wellness" to fully engage in a healthy mind/body state. The dimensions or core areas of focus are (1) physical, (2) mental, (3) emotional, and (4) spiritual. When one or more of these aspects are out of sync, it can wreak havoc in other areas of your life. Addressing your "whole self" needs increases your chances for enduring positive change.
The idea is to build a reserve of strength for each of the four aspects of whole health that can be called upon if and when you need it most. This can definitely be a challenge, but when you fail to focus on your entire wellbeing, the blow to your physical and mental health can be devastating.
Here are some suggestions to help build strength and capacity for each dimension:
1. Physical Capacity
- Sleep. (8-9 hours)
- Exercise. (30 minutes per day, five days a week is a good plan, however, even short bursts of exercise can lower stress and increase overall health.)
- Proper nutrition. (If you don't have the time to eat three healthy meals, try five or six smaller meals throughout the day. For example, a "meal" could be whole grain crackers and hummus; or a handful of almonds and an apple.)
- Adequate water intake.
2. Emotional Capacity
- Spend time with people you enjoy. Laugh often.
- Listen to music.
- Give yourself a break from the news.
- Practice visualization techniques and meditation.
3. Mental Capacity
4. Spiritual Capacity
(This area of focus is not necessarily defined by religion. It also refers to taking the time to reflect upon your path or purpose in life.)
- Engage in regular "acts of kindness" and try, whenever possible, to be of service to others.
- Meditation and/or prayer.
- Establish a personal mission statement and revisit if often -- with actionable steps.
- Engage in activities that uplift and inspire creativity.
- Try journaling and creating a brief daily gratitude list.
When you actively seek to build capacity in all areas, you'll be better armed to handle high stress conditions. Stressors are triggered and become amplified when the four dimensions of wellbeing are off-balance. Consciously nurture all four aspects of the human experience. Doing so will keep you healthy, and, when challenging times arise, you will be better able to manage them with more grace under pressure.