Self-care Breaks

“You can’t make radical changes in the pattern of your life until you begin to see yourself exactly as you are now.”

Bhante Gunaratana

An often overlooked part of wellness is self-care. And an often overlooked aspect of self-care is learning to know and love yourself as you are NOW. Not the you you foresee coming to fruition after 6 more months of working out, or once you lose just 15 more pounds. NOW. The you that is reading these words.

The you that exists in this present moment.

As Gunaratana says above, you can’t expect to make changes to something you don’t see properly in the present. I would add that you need to be comfortable BEING who you are now, since change takes time and you’re going to be the present you for a bit yet.

Before getting too far down this rabbit hole, I would like to clear up a common misconception – self-care is NOT self-indulgence. It is absolutely NOT selfish of you to take care of yourself. How much good can you do in the larger world if you’re a hot mess? Think about the safety presentation the airlines give – in the case of sudden loss of cabin air pressure, put on your oxygen mask BEFORE assisting those around you with theirs. If you can’t breath, you won’t be much good to those around you, now will you?

It’s the same with self-care in a more general sense – if you’re drowning in your own problems and issues, how much help are you likely to be to your friends, family, coworkers, or clients? And how much of your wellness and well-being is based at least in part in these interactions? I would hazard a guess and say quite a bit. So what if a small, focused, occasional dose of self-care could help you catch your breath – you should do it before assisting those around you – right?

So what is it you can do throughout your day that will assist with seeing yourself how you are, now? Think of it as taking a self-care break. It’s like a smoke break, except it’s good for you. There are two main benefits to these mindful pauses – they remind you to stay present, and they help you see things from another person’s perspective.

In order to take care of yourself, you have to know what you need, right now. That requires you to take stock at various times through the day – are you hungry? Do you need to go to the bathroom? Is your back getting sore from sitting and staring at that report you’ve been working on for hours? All of these things cause you to momentarily stop what you’re doing and take stock of how you’re doing in that moment. And all of these things fall under the self-care heading – see, I told you it wasn’t self-indulgence. All I want to suggest is that you add a momentary mental check-in to that self assessment.

Since you’ve already stopped working for a moment, let that be your trigger to take a couple of deep breaths and continue the self-care by taking stock of how you’re doing mentally as well as physically. Did that meeting turn your good mood sour? Did an interaction with a coworker get you excited for the upcoming company party?

Good or not so good, these things all affect where you are and how you show up in each moment. Taking stock lets you assess the situation and move forward accordingly. Maybe it’s time for a 5 minute walk around the block to clear your head and stretch your back. Or maybe you need to have a word with your boss about that other coworker and their habit of stealing your lunch from the breakroom fridge.

All of this is aiding you in knowing not only how you’re doing in the moment, but also how you’re showing up for those around you. And that leads us to the next benefit – helping you see interactions and situations from the other person’s perspective.

By making a habit of these quick self-checks, you will begin to be able to do them in the moment. So the next time you find yourself embroiled in an argument with a team mate over the best graph to include in your next presentation you can take a quick check and see if maybe you’re missing something by enabling yourself to expand your view to include the other person’s perspective. Who knows, maybe the pie chart would look better than the bar graph.

All that from one new habit that can be performed multiple times throughout the day, with nobody around you being any the wiser. Stop, take a deep breath, and check in with your mood. If you find yourself getting anxious, see if shifting your perspective can clarify things. If not, now you have the opportunity to ask yourself what would help. And that in turn lets you show up in a better place, both mentally and physically ready for whatever the next moment brings.