Tag Archives: self-care

9 Elements of Success: Self-Care — Graduate Level

Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and getting enough sleep are the foundation of a iStock_000002038361Smallsolid self-care plan. Without them, your physical body won’t operate optimally which in turn affects your mental and emotional health. With that foundation in place you can expand your self-care in ways that feed you on many levels and motivate you to be an advocate for yourself and your well-being.

Following are some of my favorite ways to broaden and deepen your self-care plan:

  • Have realistic expectations of what it possible. You only have 24 hours in a day and you only have a portion of that time in which you have access to good brain power. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in that time. Otherwise, you set yourself up to constantly fall short of your expectations.
  • Make time to refuel. Pausing to take a break, relaxing and having fun are essential to refill your gas tank. Disengaging from work and deliberately stopping to rest your body and brain will make it possible for you to maintain good health, good relationships, access creativity, and work more efficiently and effectively. Running on empty for the sake of feeling in control of your “to do” list over time will make it impossible to be your best self. It will make all aspects of your life more difficult.
  • Control what you can. You can control your behavior, thoughts and attitudes, but you cannot control others. Trying to change the behavior of others is an exercise in futility that causes stress, angst and conflict in yourself and your relationships.
  • Look for the good, the positive in yourself, every person and every situation. With a commitment to a positive focus, you empower yourself to be part of solutions, not problems. Real change is only possible in the presence of positive emotional attractors.
  • Stop negative self-talk, the critical voice in your head. Negative thoughts pollute your thinking and make emotion management difficult. Replace them with curiosity about your behavior and appreciation of your strengths. Curiosity leads to self-awareness and the possibility of making different choices. Criticism keeps you small, ashamed and disempowered. Curiosity about your behavior and acknowledgement of your strengths lay the foundation for positive change.
  • Spend time with supportive, like-minded positive people. Their energy affects your energy.
  • Seek support from other people and groups when you feel overwhelmed, lost or off track from your positive focus and your goals.
  • Avoid spending much time in the presence of people who are toxic and negatively focused. Their energy affects your energy.
  • Maintain healthy boundaries. When a person has healthy boundaries they make careful choices about the commitments they make, taking into consideration their time, interests and availability. They know they cannot be all things to all people. They know how to say no to tasks that aren’t theirs to do and tasks they don’t want to do. People with healthy boundaries let other people solve their own problems. They offer support, but don’t take the problems of others as their own to fix.
  • Make decisions that take your needs into consideration. Be sure to include yourself in the equation. Consider what is best for you given your current reality, commitments, interests, and values. This is especially difficult for women who have been culturally programmed to put the needs of others before their own needs. Is it any wonder that many women are so tired, angry and resentful? Those are the consequences of not insuring that your own needs are met on a regular basis.
  • Maintain an organized home and/or office. The condition of your living and working spaces affects your energy, your ability to think clearly, your attitude and your productivity. Clutter creates negative energy and distractions that block good decision-making, getting things done, and maintaining a positive focus and good attitude. It engenders feelings of overwhelm, fatigue and hopelessness.
  • Develop a positive practice, an activity that feeds you with positive feelings and inspiration that helps you stay grounded and centered in the positive. This could include  yoga, meditation, journaling, spend in nature, daily spiritual reading, Tai Chi, walking your dogs, getting massages.

I could go on and on. There are so many possibilities for self-care. I’d love to hear about some of your favorite ways to take care of yourself. There is no absolute right way to do self-care. I liken it to a construction project, one that is on-going. Have fun assembling the pieces of your self-care plan! It’s a prerequisite to good health, good relationships and a good life!

9 Elements of Success: Self-Care — Laying the Foundation

Self-care. I’ve been writing and speaking about self-care for over two decades. I’ve been striving 

A good night's sleep is an essential building block of good self-care.

A good night’s sleep is an essential building block of good self-care.

to achieve it for just as long. I hold it as an ideal, but staying true to it has been difficult. It was a long, slow process for me to establish some good habits –eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, getting regular exercise, drinking plenty of water, and controlling my exposure to toxic people and negativity. 

If my clients are any indication, many people struggle to make self-care a priority. Almost without exception my organizing and coaching clients either are unaware of the value and true necessity of self-care, or have not made it a priority in their lives. Why is this? For one thing, productivity is revered far more than self-care in our culture. Often self-care takes a back seat to striving for success and managing life’s many activities and demands until there is a crisis. Heart attacks, diabetes, cancer, divorce . . . the possible outcomes of a lack of self-care, shine a light on the need for it.

Also, people who struggle with clutter and issues with productivity are usually working so hard to keep their heads above water that self-care never makes it on their radar. An overwhelming, harried, overly busy life is the breeding ground not only for clutter, but also for behaviors that actually cause health issues that could be prevented by self-care: over-eating, working late, and having no time or energy for exercise.

If you want positive change and a life of choice instead of crisis, reactivity and chaos, self-care must be part of your action plan. It really is not optional. It’s a necessity. Self-care is the foundation from which all change is possible. It is essential to generate the best brain power, best attitude, best energy and best results.

What is self-care? When Certified Organizer Coaches® were asked about their self-care in 2013,  most viewed self-care as regular exercise, eating well, and getting good sleep. Their priorities were right on the money! Those three practices are key essentials of good self-care and are what most people think of as self-care. They lay the groundwork to create the physical balance that makes possible good thinking and good emotion regulation. When they are in place, they create the physical, mental and emotional conditions needed to be able to thrive in all areas of your life. 

Starting with the big three, regular exercise, eating well, and getting good sleep, is a great place to start if daily self-care is not yet on your radar. Clients who practice those forms of self-care get immediate results not only in feeling better physically, but in effectively handling challenges, improved mental clarity, and accomplishing their goals. Conversely, when their self-care slips, and it will from time to time even for the most committed, everything is more difficult. Getting stuck is also much easier.

 

If you make the big three a priority in your life, you will find that you are better able to handle the rough waves of your life as they roll in. You will be less easily knocked down and carried away by the waves. When you do get knocked down and find yourself off track, you can more easily get back on your feet, supported by your self-care practices. With good self-care in place your confidence will grow making it more probable that you will be able to take on the risks of change necessary to achieve your goals and live a life in which you thrive instead of merely survive.

Make self-care a priority. The quality of every aspect of your life depends on it.

9 Elements of Success

Green treeSuccess isn’t a yes/no, right/wrong achievement. It can’t be attained by hard work alone. Many people operating from the “just work harder” school of thought have tried and failed. So, what really is necessary to achieve success in any endeavor you undertake?

My own life journey and my coach training have helped me get conscious about nine distinct elements of success. I share them as the beginning of an on-going conversation I plan to have with you in future blog posts.

  1. Self-knowledge: know your passions, your strengths, your needs and values, the areas where you struggle, what you avoid.
  2. Keep the big goal top of mind: identify what matters most and keep it conscious as you navigate through your days.
  3. Positive focus: look for the good in every experience, even challenging ones. What you focus on you attract more of.
  4. Self-care: good sleep, regular exercise, good hydration, good nutrition create the conditions for the best brain power, the best attitudes.
  5. Good boundaries: learn to say no, avoid taking on too much, giving too much to others to your own detriment.
  6. Continuous learning: look for the lessons. Learn from every situation, especially challenging ones.
  7. Support: get help in areas where you struggle, areas you hate, areas you avoid.
  8. Letting go: do your part and let go. You are responsible for the effort, not the outcome.
  9. Balance: avoid extremes — all work, no play; all play, no work. Avoid black and white thinking and engaging. Go for gray. Find a balance. 

Working with these elements is part of the program I offer coaching clients. They can become the building blocks for consciously living an empowered life of your choosing. Instead of just floating down the river of life at the whim and mercy of events and those around you, consider these elements to be strong trees on the bank of the river. They can help shape your perspectives and guide your thoughts and feelings to personal and professional success.

In upcoming blog posts I will be writing about each of these elements in more detail. Stay tuned!

Self-Care and A New Definition of Competent

This post will make the most sense to those of you who never seem to be able to slow down newspaper-300x248and stop doing tasks to have a life of your own. That has become the norm for many of us these days. Instead of technology facilitating better time management and helping to increase leisure time, the exact opposite seems to have happened. We now can be accessed at any time of the day, and have more on our plates than ever before. There are so many possibilities out there. Our expectations of ourselves and our performance has never been higher and more unrealistic.

This year I made a New Year’s commitment to have a different kind of year from the overly busy, stressful years of the past. I wanted more rest, play, and lighthearted times. I have a long history of over-functioning and pushing myself beyond my physical limits. Not only was I running on empty, I was running on fumes trying to run my business, finish organizer coach certification, coordinate care for my mother who has Alzheimer’s and is in assisted living, oversee my disabled brother’s care in Connecticut, maintain a good marriage, and manage our household. I knew if I didn’t make some real changes I would eventually pay a hefty price with my health. 

When I began making changes, like avoiding my computer weekday mornings until after I had walked my dogs, had quiet time with a cup of coffee and reading books that feed my heart, soul and brain for 15 to 30 minutes, I felt wonderful. And, I also felt uncomfortable. Fortunately I’m working with Diane Thomson, a great coach, so I had the support I needed to work through my discomfort. Together we discovered that what was driving my compulsive doing was my value of competence and my need to do all I could to feel competent in every area of my life.

Following is what I wrote Diane as I was trying to make sense of my discomfort with slowing down.

“After our session I did some thinking about my blahs today. It occurred to me that perhaps part of the blah feeling is because I’m not running on adrenalin constantly. I’m now not getting high from urgency every day. What I’m feeling might really feel OK to a “normal” person who is not a compulsive doer. This feeling of going slower and more deliberately, instead of at warp speed to get as much done as possible, trying to jam way too much into the time available, feels unfamiliar. I think I may be equating unfamiliar with wrong, problematic, and bad.”

As a result of that awareness, I thought that it would be a good idea to re-write MY definition of competent. My old unconscious definition was something like “be reliable and do high quality work for as much time as possible during a day or until you drop dead or get sick.” Yes, I had been living by that unconscious recipe for disaster for many decades.

I was able to identify that the notion of self-care was completely missing from my original definition of competent. But, with new awareness, facilitated by coaching, I realized that I’m not being competent when I am being super productive at the expense of my health, rest, relaxation, and quality relationships. So, here is my new definition of competent. Competent is doing high quality work in amounts of time that also allow me to stop, breathe, rest, enjoy life, have fun and build/maintain quality relationships.

With my new definition of competent I’m moving into each day deliberately making space for me and my needs. I am getting more rest, having more fun, enjoying a deeper connection with my husband, and still being productive. In fact, when I work I am able to focus and get a more done in less time. Who knew that taking care of myself could improve my efficiency!

Yes, I still feel twinges of discomfort because I’m not driving myself as I once would have. I notice it and remind myself that change is hard, but that my choice is right. I believe getting off the fast track and onto the right track, a track that is respectful of me and my needs, is the only way to be able to make the biggest difference in this lifetime and drink in all the blessings and gifts this life has to offer.  

Coaching Accountability Leads to New Learning: A Chilling Story

One of the great benefits of coaching is the opportunity of accountability. In each session the iStock_000010338713Smallclient and coach strategize actions that the client commits to taking between sessions to help her make progress on achieving her goals. When the client returns for the next session the coach checks in with her about her action item. Whether or not she completed the task, there is always an opportunity for learning. It’s fascinating to see how the learning emerges for clients. Following is a particularly rich example of the type of learning that can happen when clients take action.

Sally (name changed to maintain confidentiality) had committed to “chilling” for 15 minutes every day. She knows how to work hard, but self-care and relaxing are difficult for her. She had been unable to make time for chilling at home, but was determined to do it on a trip to St. Thomas with her daughter and husband.

The first day Sally went to the pool with her family and lay on a lounge chair. She soon realized she had forgotten to bring a book or magazine. She had nothing to do. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? Not so for Sally! She felt extremely uncomfortable, like she was going to jump out of her skin. She looked around and noticed others doing nothing. They seemed just fine with relaxing. The contrast between the comfort of others around her and her discomfort made her aware that she really didn’t know how to relax and do nothing. She could see and feel how inexperienced and uncomfortable she is with doing nothing, with just relaxing.

Shortly thereafter she asked a staff member what people do on St. Thomas. The young woman responded, “Relax! Relax! Relax! Relax! Relax!” Given Sally’s memory of her difficulty relaxing at the pool, she took the young woman’s response as an indicator that she what had made her so uncomfortable at the pool, relaxing, was exactly what she was meant to do on this trip.

A day or two later Sally and her husband had some time to kill before a scheduled event. It was an excellent opportunity to practice chilling. They went to the lobby and hung out for four hours! When I asked Sally how she had managed that she told me that she had taken that staff member’s message to heart. Somehow it opened her up to have a different experience when there was nothing to do. Instead of twitching, she enjoyed watching people, nestling down in a comfy sofa, allowing her mind to wander and chatting with her husband. Her drive for doing was replaced by allowing rest, relaxation and just being with her loved ones in a lovely place. 

Sally’s commitment to chill led her to new awareness of how difficult it is for her to unplug and relax and to having a new, positive experience that motivated her to seek more such experiences. In our next coaching session Sally was more determined than ever to bring chilling into her time at home.

What new behavior would give you the opportunity to learn about yourself and open up the possibility for real change? Would having accountability offered in coaching make it more likely that you would take action and have a new experience? If you’re curious about this possibility, email me for a free 30 minute conversation about the opportunities of coaching for you.

A New Definition of Competent

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What’s possible when you change your definition of competent?

I made a New Year’s commitment to have a different kind of year this year. I wanted more rest, play, and lighthearted times. I have a long history of over-functioning and pushing myself beyond my physical limits. Not only was I running on empty. I was running on fumes trying to run my business, finish Organizer Coach certification, coordinate care for my mother who has Alzheimer’s and is in assisted living, oversee my disabled brother’s care in Connecticut, maintain a good marriage, and manage our household. I knew if I didn’t make some real changes I would eventually pay a hefty price with my health. 

When I began making changes, like avoiding my computer until after I had walked my dogs and had quiet time with a cup of coffee and reading from books that feed my heart, soul and brain, I felt wonderful. And, I also felt uncomfortable. Fortunately I’m working with Diane Thomson, a great coach, so I had the support I needed to work through my discomfort. Following is what I wrote her as I was trying to make sense of my experience of slowing down.

“After our session I did some thinking about my blahs today. It occurred to me that perhaps part of the blah feeling is because I’m not running on adrenalin constantly. I’m not getting high from urgency every day. What I’m feeling might really feel OK to a ‘normal’ person who is not a compulsive doer. This feeling of going slower and more deliberately, instead of at warp speed to get as much done as possible, trying to jam way too much into the time available, feels unfamiliar. I think I may be equating unfamiliar with wrong, problematic, and bad.

I also thought that it would be a good idea to re-write MY definition of competent. My old unconscious definition was something like ‘be reliable and do high quality work for as much time as possible during a day or until you drop dead or get sick.’ Yes, I had been living by that unconscious recipe for disaster for many decades. 

The notion of self-care was completely missing from my original definition of competent. But, with current awareness, facilitated by coaching, I realize I’m not being competent when I get tons done at the expense of my health, rest, relaxation, and quality relationships. Competent can be doing high quality work in amounts of time that still allow me to stop, breathe, rest, enjoy life, have fun and build/maintain quality relationships.”

With my new definition of competent I’m moving into each day deliberately making space for me and my needs. I am getting more rest, having more fun, stopping before I’m exhausted, enjoying a deeper connection with my husband, and still being productive. In fact, these days when I work I am able to focus more quickly and easily, and I get a lot done in less time. Who knew that taking care of myself could improve my efficiency!

Yes, I still feel twinges of discomfort because I’m not driving myself as I once would have. I notice those feelings and remind myself that change is hard, but that my choice is right. I believe getting off the fast track and onto the right track, a track that is respectful of me and my needs, is the only way to be able to make the biggest difference in this lifetime and drink in all the blessings and gifts this life has to offer.  

What is your definition of competent?

Yard Clutter Clearing Leads to a Valuable Lesson on Self-Care

What started as a determination to pull up all of the poison ivy that had invaded my flower beds ended up being a 2.5 hour marathon of pruning and weeding. Once I’d conquered that annoying invader of my gardens, a task I’d been avoiding for months, I felt ready for anything! I had no idea that that three leafed plant was blocking my motivation to do some serious work in my garden. Once it was gone, I had my garden back, and I could see so many possibilities for making needed improvements.

What most surprised me was a new awareness that my beloved butterfly bush needed a significant pruning. As I looked at it with its luscious bright purple tubular flowers, I noted that the weight of the branches was bending the bush almost in half. It looked like a burdened soul carrying a very heavy weight. Since feng shui has taught me that the energy of things around me affect my energy, like the off-putting energy of the poison ivy, I overcame my reluctance to cut off branches laden with flowers. I was all over that bush!

This past year I have been carrying some very heavy burdens, like caring for my mother who has Alzheimer’s. That bush reminded me of how I felt many times when I was juggling too many very weighty balls and feeling so weary. I definitely did not want anything in my yard or home to hold the energy of being burdened. As I chopped off more and more branches the bush began straightening up. When I was done, it was standing tall.

The lesson of the butterfly bush is that if I release some of what I’m carrying by saying no more often, lowering my sometimes unrealistic expectations, and asking for more help instead of trying to do everything myself, I too can stand tall, reaching for the sky instead of gazing at the ground.

What began as a determination to eradicate an unwanted plant ended up as a valuable reminder that I do have choices when feeling burdened by responsibilities. I can choose self-care and letting go. What obligations can you release today to lighten your load so you too can look up and see the sky?

Physical Self-Care: A Priority for Successful Clutter Clearing

When I greeted my client today and asked how she was doing she told me she was OK. . . . . In other words she wasn’t really OK. When I inquired further she told me she hadn’t had much to eat today, that she felt tired. We talked about how to proceed with our clutter clearing project, given how she was feeling. Once we’d agreed on our approach and focus we got to work.

This client is a busy inner-city elementary school principal. She is very capable and it’s not unusual that she presents at our sessions as tired and stressed. What was unusual was her admitting that she didn’t feel well. I kept that in mind as I worked with her. About 30 minutes before the end of our two hour session she complained about feeling hot and was not experiencing a hot flash. She decided that a snack might help her feel better, and rather than snack while we continued to work, she chose to take a break and eat a yogurt and drink some water in an adjoining conference room. It was VERY unusual for this client to stop working altogether because she is all about getting things done. Clearly something was not right!

For the next 10 minutes I worked independently to help move her along despite her need to stop. When I got to a point that I could not proceed without her input I joined her in the next room. There we talked about her symptoms and the possible causes of her discomfort: dehydration, a blood pressure drop, a reaction to food she had at lunch, and a blood sugar drop. When I informed her that you can become dehydrated after 15 minutes of concentrated work, she drank several additional bottles of water. The more water she drank, the more she perked up and she eventually felt much better.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because her behavior reminded me that self-care is an important part of successful clutter clearing. Following are several ways you can ensure that you arrive at that challenge as your best, most empowered self:

  • Be well rested.
  • Make sure you have good fuel for your brain–preferably some protein and fresh fruits or vegetables. Avoid simple carbohydrates like sugar and wheat-based products.
  • Be well hydrated and plan to sip water while you work to avoid dehydration.

Your body and your brain are tools that need to be in the best possible shape to tackle the challenging process of decision-making involved in clutter clearing. If your body or your brain shut down, you must stop. Make attending to your physical self-care a priority any time you plan to clear clutter.