4 Practical Tips for Better Self-Care
In the corporate world, I was someone who was driven. And I was rewarded for that drive. But the more I achieved, the more demands were placed on me and the more stress I experienced. While I had a clear identity—I was a business executive—I felt myself slipping away.
You see, my pure self is the part of me that isn’t attached to an identity as an achiever; it’s the part that isn’t changed by my circumstances. But according to the yoga teachings, the scariest of all releases is letting go of our attachments to our self-identity.
Today, as a trained Yoga Instructor (and former corporate executive), I have learned tools that are useful for anyone but especially for people in demanding, highly intense job environments where the circumstances might pull you further and further away from your authentic self. Companies that want their employees to bring more of themselves to work might want to consider that this really starts with people prioritizing self-care and staying connected to that pure self.
Mindfulness, mind/body connection, being in the present moment, work-life balance, meditation, yoga…all these practices are becoming more and more mainstream in business as employers try to uncover the key to stress reduction in the workplace. In fact, over the last several years companies have been launching big initiatives around stress management and mindfulness. Many companies offer fitness and yoga classes on site. Study after study confirms that a regular practice in awareness of our breathing and allowing the mind time to be still can have lifelong health benefits.
But do we need these big initiatives and people telling us to be more mindful to really live it in our everyday lives? They certainly help, but we also need support and encouragement to prioritize regular self-care; then that mindfulness will naturally follow.
What is self-care you might ask?
It is taking time to do things that fill your tank, that ignite your spirit and that uncover your creativity. Self-care is also nurturing your health by giving yourself down time, a break from the grind and a chance to feel bored.
Just like our kids, we have become accustomed to constant stimulation, constant entertainment and constant doing versus being. But our creativity becomes more and more distant when we clutter our mind with stuff.
How would better self-care practices translate to the business setting? Without question, if company leaders model and practice self-care, they will begin to see changes in their interactions with employees. The ability to see more clearly with a sharper mind—one that is less attached to outcomes and more attached to intention—can result in fewer workplace misunderstandings, better communication, higher productivity and overall job satisfaction.
Company leaders need regular routine and self-care just as much as their employees. As we enter the Fall and winter months, now’s a good to time to start encouraging people to try these easy, practical steps for self-care. As an added bonus, you and your employees might get sick less often. And you might just find a new connection with creative potential that you didn’t even know you had.
Here are four practical tips for self-care:
- Create a morning ritual and stick to it. Try this one: Rise at least 30 minutes before the sun. Have a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon. Take five minutes to think about the things you are grateful for. Then jump in the shower and get on with your day
- Throughout the day, begin to observe your breathing. Relax your abdomen as you inhale through your nose and slightly contract your navel in toward your spine during exhale. Make sure you aren’t breathing in reverse—you should not suck your belly in on inhale. The more you practice breath awareness, the more natural it will become, and you won’t have to think about it. Your breath can speak volumes about your mind. Labored or rough breathing can be a reflection of a mind that is overwhelmed, distracted or anxious. Breathing that is even, smooth and controlled reflects a mind that is sharp, clear and focused.
- Sip warm water throughout the day. Instead of ice cold water, especially in the colder months, reach for warm water. It calms the nerves and improves digestive health.
- Spend time in nature to clear your mind and connect with your true self.
Do the demands of your work ever cause you to feel like your true self is slipping away? What self-care practices might help?
Anne Gustin is a mom and wife, a 500 hour registered yoga teacher, an Ayurveda Yoga Specialist and has an M.B.A. from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.