Can you feel the change of season on the horizon? Sure, it’s still August, it’s hot and sticky most days, and I still feel like it’s the height of summer here in North Carolina. Yet the evening darkens just a little earlier, the crape myrtle blossoms are dropping, and I can’t help but feel a gentle but persistent call to … load up on school supplies. I know, I’m weird.
It’s funny how the rituals of our youth – and of adulthood for those who have worked in an academic field, raised children or gone back to school – are woven into the rhythms of our lives. The tools and habits change. (As I learned when I went back to graduate school and bought my school supplies, most students don’t use notebooks and fancy pens to take notes anymore!) But the urge to reset and refocus stays the same. We all have a need to do this, and that need can be seasonal.
Whether you are feeling the tug of fall, headed back to work or school yourself, or are just settling back in after a summertime vacation, there are likely some busy weeks ahead for you. Many of us gear up for a period of hard work and long hours as we push toward year-end goals. If we have children, things get busy as they go back to school. And the push to schedule meetings and projects so they are complete by the time the holidays get here can make for a very busy early fall.
With that in mind, I present a little self-care inspiration for the season. As you head into these busy days, you’ll achieve more and feel better if you preserve a little time and space for yourself and what matters most to you. Some ideas:
- Take a few moments on Friday afternoon to look at next week’s schedule. If you can, take one thing off your calendar for the coming week. It’ll free up some white space and help make you a little more mindful about what you put on your schedule in the future.
- Take a walk for physical health benefits as well as the mental clarity you are likely to find. Not a walker? Try another form of exercise.
- Get outside. The Japanese practice of forest bathing is one way. The idea is to get out of your routine, engage your senses, center your mind and soak up the myriad benefits of connecting with nature.
- Get your hands in the dirt if you garden. If you don’t, let yourself cook, create art or do something else engaging but apart from your work.
- Bond with your pet or somebody else’s.
- Fix one more meal at home than you normally would this week. Too much? Eat one more meal at home than you otherwise would, and enjoy the ease of takeout!
- Set a regular bedtime for yourself (bedtimes are not just for kids).
- Get up 15 minutes earlier than usual for a bit of “you time,” whatever that means to you.
- Plant a flower or buy some cut flowers for the house.
- Take one trash bag and fill it up with clutter or other things you don’t need. Donate or toss these things. Clutter saps energy and letting it go can be refreshing.
- Identify the relationships with others that matter to you (parents, spouse, siblings, friends, children). Commit to doing one additional thing each month to feed and nurture one or more of those relationships.
- Then prioritize your relationship with yourself, and add yourself to the mix. You might read a non-work book, take some time to journal, or just sit and do nothing (which is actually a very productive way to tap into creativity). You might also use this time to do one of the other items on this list.
- Look ahead into the fall and winter, then schedule one long weekend once a quarter away from work. I don’t mean leaving work at noon on Friday. Take all of Thursday, Friday and the full weekend to recharge.
- Drink water – at least 64 ounces a day. You’ll be surprised how good this will make you feel.
- Leave time for spirituality, psychological wellbeing or both – whatever speaks to you. The point is, it’s easy to set your psychological or spiritual wellness on the back burner, but doing so leaves you less resilient for life’s challenges. Try something new that has meaning for you.
- Are you overwhelmed? Close your door, turn the lights off, take a deep breath, then two more, and then a full five minutes of deep breathing if you can. This will interrupt your fight, flee or freeze response (brought to you by the sympathetic nervous system, which was useful when we had to run from predators but serves us less well in our modern lives). The idea is to allow the parasympathetic nervous system to take over, calming our senses and allowing our best selves to prevail.
- Give yourself a treat! A massage or some other form of body work can be wonderful once in a while.
- Play a game. A board game, a card game or something else that reminds you of being a kid. Fun with children or adult friends. In my home, we love playing Scruples with friends. We always learn something about ourselves and each other, and we have fun while we do.
Self-care is so important to our growth as people and professionals, and the options are endless.
Now it’s your turn. How do you practice self-care?
Please share in the comments!
This post was first published on LinkedIn.com. Last updated August 22, 2019