Self-Care for Self-Repair

In this last quarter of 2013, I have found myself in the middle of a huge self-care challenge. After pushing very hard in my career for many years, while simultaneously caring for an aging parent, my body finally said, “That’s enough”.

I have been forced to slow down and not in a graceful, please take a seat kind of way but in a screeching, skidding, stop dead in your tracks way.  And while I   continue to work with my patients and coach my clients in communication skills, which has been very fulfilling, there has been no space or energy for that next book, or even that next push in my career.

It has been very humbling.

As many of you know, I am a body-mind expert, someone who believes in listening to what our bodies have to tell us. And my body certainly was chatting up a storm last year, but I was distracted, caught up in some big projects and dealing with the aftermath of caring for my mom. I didn’t ignore my self-care but I squeezed it in an usually when I was beyond exhausted.

Consequently, I have had to carve time out to regain my vitality.  And that process has involved a daily, sometimes moment to moment conversation with myself about what I need to do to heal. There have been numerous talks with friends and health practitioners who continue to encourage me to take the time I need and to be kind to myself. And as frustrating as it has been, I know I need to because there is more life to be lived and I want to participate.

So through my own experience and listening to the issues of others, I want to share some thoughts on how to keep or get your own self-care on track.

1. Transitions: Allow more transitions between events and activities in your life. By creating time to transition from one thing to another, you give yourself more time to; feel what you need to in that moment, address what you need in terms of self-care, and keep yourself from living life in a state of chronic stress.

2. Components for healing. In my experience, it often takes more than one modality to heal from emotional, psychological and physical stress. If you have been feeling frustrated or stuck in your process of healing, instead of blaming yourself, it may be time to try something else. Take a look at other methods such as coaching, therapy, a new doctor, meditation, acupuncture, a different type of exercise or nutritional guidance as possible options.

3. Emotional messiness is part of life. There will always be deep feelings to experience as we live life.  There is loss, excitement, mistakes and unexpected joys, to name a few. We continue to evolve as human beings till the end of our lives and there is no such thing as being perfect. Cultivating acceptance of where we are, which does not mean giving up, does make the journey easier. And to be honest, as I have run out of steam, this has been my biggest challenge and one I will keep you posted on.

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or comments on self-care and how it has affected your self-esteem, please feel free share them with me via email or in comments, including what has worked for you and your own experience with reaching your limit.

www.karolward.com

Short Cut or Short Changed?

My epiphany happened over the kitchen counter as I was staring down at the blouse I was ironing on a towel. I was running late and didn’t want to stop and take down the ironing board because I thought it would take too much time. But, as I looked at my still wrinkled top, I realized I would have to use the ironing board anyway and that this wouldn’t be the first time I had had this experience.

For a long time, whenever I was headed out and noticed I had a wrinkle in something I wanted to wear, I would put a towel down on the kitchen counter and iron there because I told myself it would take less time than setting up the ironing board. Where I got this idea, I’m not sure but I have to tell you, it never worked. Almost every single time, I would find myself struggling to get my blouse straight on the towel or keep the towel from bunching up. I would inevitably take down the ironing board and do it the way it should have been done in the first place.

There are times when bypassing the usual route provides us with opportunity to leap forward on the path we are traveling. I love those moments, those times when we say to ourselves, “Go for it!” There is enough self-confidence to skip over the usual analysis, take action and fill in the details as we go. How do we tell when to take a short cut?  In my experience, it’s when our internal response to the potential decision has more excitement, than fear. We believe in those moments that no matter what, we will be “all right”.

But what about the decisions that short change us when we move too fast? My ironing choice kept short changing me in the long run. The blouse needed more time and attention that I wanted to give it and ultimately I knew it. But I overrode that knowledge because I was invested in a false sense of speed. It is that that knowing, that sense of really knowing that something requires more time, more patience to really be what you want it to be that keeps us from short changing ourselves. And a way to recognize it is to look at our habitual patterns and the upcoming decisions we need to make.

Here are a couple of ways to explore whether you are ready for a short cut or causing yourself to be shortchanged.

Is there a long established pattern of behavior that hasn’t changed over the years? If so, this usually means there is a deeper exploration needed of why you may be short changing yourself in achieving or healing something you have long desired.

Do you feel that you have been holding back your creativity, expertise, or knowledge because of an outdated sense of self? If doing things the same old way feels like you are moving at a snail’s pace, it’s time to take a short cut by asking more directly for what you want.

Do you feel a sense of anxiety, nervousness or conflict when you imagine taking action in your career, relationship or health? These feelings indicate that premature action will short change the result you want and that a deeper examination is needed of why you feel the way you do.

Do you feel excitement, happiness, calmness or joy when you picture yourself in the future being who you want to be?  This means it’s time to speed up the process and start taking the short cuts you need by getting support from friends, colleagues and experts who can get you there.

My ironing epiphany let me know, that taking the time to achieve a wrinkle free look, required an attention to detail that ultimately let me look and feel more confident. Who knew that my kitchen counter had so much to offer?

If you have thoughts or comments you want to share on Short Cuts or Short Changed?, please feel leave them on my blog, (no email information will be shared) or post them on Facebook.

Overwhelmed?

Whenever my schedule is too packed and I am running late, I find it very easy to blame others for my predicament. I fume at the cab driver who, in my mind is deliberately driving slowly; I get annoyed that people are not going up the subway stairs fast enough; or stand impatiently in the elevator that is packed, in my opinion, with too many people.

However, when I am more in charge of my life, when things are running smoothly, none of this bothers me and life is good.

What affects my perspective so strongly? It all has to with whether or not I am feeling overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed makes me feel stressed, behind schedule and unsure of what action to take next. At different times, many of my clients feel exactly the same way and are looking to find answers to why it occurs.

In my experience, when we feel overwhelmed in some area of our life, it’s usually because we are under-supported. A system is not working, a schedule issue has to be addressed, an emotional concern needs attention or a physical problem has to be resolved. Whatever the area, if it is not attended to, it usually continues to show up and slow us down. That’s when the wave of being overwhelmed rises and we find ourselves feeling out of control.

Being under-supported can be a chronic pattern that has continued to be ignored for years or it could be caused by a series of current events that get added into your already overloaded schedule without the time, foundation or space to support them. Whenever this happens to me or any of my clients, I always consider two questions.

1. What area of life needs the most attention right now?
Make a list of 5 things that are pulling your focus, list them in order of priority and start with the first one and only the first one. Yes, it’s hard to imagine that focusing on one thing will have an effect on the others but it does. You will feel relief, satisfaction and a sense of momentum in completing what needs to be done. This creates energy and allows you to take on the next item.

2. What needs to be taken off your plate?
Often we want to do something when we are feeling overwhelmed-take on something new to address the problem, learn a new skill, buy a new product or read up on a new perspective. All of these are great ideas when we have the capacity to absorb the information. But being overwhelmed means we have reached capacity and need to lighten the load. We do this by taking a hard look and what can be taken out of your schedule in order for you to address the most important things on your list of priorities.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, here are three common areas to look at where you may be under-supporting yourself.

Time: What activities do you want to participate in and what activities do you have to participate in? Make sure there is good balance between the two. Continue to monitor where you want to put your energy. Use your body as a gage to see if you feel anxious or calm when accepting an invitation or taking on new projects.  

Health: Keep checking in with yourself to see if you are operating in your life the way you want to be. Are you making habitual, short term choices for health situations that may require deeper examination? Are there physical, nutritional or psychological changes that need to occur so that you will operate more optimally in your life? Create the time to feel better.  

Rest: When we rest we acknowledge that we are human and not machines that can be productive every minute of the day. We need to rest more often than we think and when we do, we provide ourselves with the space to rejuvenate our bodies and clear our heads. Give yourself a 10 minute break to close your eyes, look at nature or listen to music and see how it feels.