By: Dr Cindy Zurchin, Positive Consulting, LLC
Published on Learning Omnivores
The New Year brings thoughts of resolutions and ways to improve our lifestyles and create healthy habits. Many of us have experienced our best intentions end up in disappointments. There is no reason we have to pick the date of January 1 to make improvements to our lifestyles. It is always the perfect time to commit to yourself to develop the best YOU!
As educators, we are thinking about our students, our staff, the parents, the community and ways to help and serve all of the important people associated with our schools. The most important person we all need to serve first is ourselves. We cannot pour from an empty glass! It is important to keep ourselves at a level of being able to deal with the present, no matter what the present involves. And a great way to prepare for this is to practice what I refer to as the Four E’s of Maintenance: Eat, Exercise, Energize and Enjoy!
The first E pertains to eating well. Whatever imbalance you are experiencing in your eating, take steps to correct it now. Maybe your diet includes lots of sugars or preservatives (as in fast or prepared foods), and you’re jumpy all the time. Maybe you’re always craving carbs, and consequently you’re tired a lot. Whatever your situation, find out where the imbalance is and make a plan to correct it.
However, I do have one caveat: Make a commitment to eating well, but don’t be fanatical about your diet. I want you to avoid the dieting syndrome. Instead of obsessing over every calorie and morsel you put in your mouth, focus on eating well and nourishing yourself with healthy foods.
Your body is a well-oiled machine. So why would you put bad gas in your car? The purpose of eating well is to keep all your parts moving efficiently and effectively. If you find yourself obsessing about food or your weight, you may want to seek help from a professional. It will be beneficial to have someone help you address any concerns you have over food to help you embrace the important step of nourishing yourself with healthy food.
The second E involves physical exercise to maintain a healthy mind and body. Do something you enjoy and make it a regular practice. If you haven’t been including this all-important ingredient in your self-care routine, one of the simplest and most natural ways to start is by walking. Walk around the block. Or if that seems daunting, just walk to the corner and back. Don’t look down on starting small. Instead, allow yourself to feel good about your commitment and say something like, “Hey! I’m doing something I’ve been putting off for far too long! Look at me, taking the first step. I’m so proud of myself. I’m going to stick with it.”
Yoga and meditation are another great way to incorporate this second E into your routine. An added bonus from these practices is that they can help you stay in the present moment and deal with whatever comes up in a more calm and balanced manner.
There have been times when I’m having a hard time sleeping at night. When this happens my mind and body are very restless. I’ll be thinking about dealing with a crisis or my endless to-do list. To try to prevent this, I write things down, so I can forget them and clear them out of my mind before bed. There are days, however, when this is not enough to help me relax. I need more to calm my mind. In these times, I remind myself to take the time to sit on a comfortable chair or coach, close my eyes, turn on my soft music, and begin to breathe deeply and focus on relaxing each part of my body. In these moments, I find my body softening. My mind retains its focus. Each time my mind wanders, I acknowledge the wandering and return to breathing and relaxing as I meditate. About 15 minutes of breathing and relaxing your mind can help you to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Running is another way to practice the second E. A friend of mine started running again in his mid-forties and a friend suggested that he start small and run as long as he could and then to walk and when he caught his breath to try to run again. He did the run/walk on the same two-mile stretch for two weeks before he could run the whole two miles. Because he didn’t overexert himself, he was able to gradually build up to running the two miles. Today, he loves his running practice and has kept it up. The key to each of these four Es is getting started in a way that is gentle and supportive so it becomes something you want to practice long-term.
The third E is about maintaining your physical and mental energy to support a healthy mind and body. To do this, spend time with people. Keep your mind active by reading. And if you choose good and uplifting books that challenge your thinking, even better! Seek to belong. The more groups you engage with, the more physically and mentally ready you’ll be, and the more support you can call on.
Beware of moods. All of us have to fight moodiness from time to time. One of the best ways to fight depression is to go find someone in need and help them. You will take the focus off the self while feeling good about your ability to make a difference in the life of someone else who is suffering perhaps even more than you. There’s nothing like a fresh dose of perspective to get us feeling better.
A friend of mine from high school has been through a lot of challenges in her life. From the loss of her brother to a tragic accident where she witnessed her daughter being hit by a drunk driver. The accident could have killed her daughter. For months we didn’t know if her daughter would ever walk again. I sent my friend and her daughter flowers at various times to let them know I was thinking about them and supporting them with positive thoughts for brighter days. Each time I have done something like this it makes me feel very good. I can move from thinking about my own problems to helping and supporting others.
Giving to others also helps your own problems seem solvable. The happy boost in your brain after helping another person is a powerful feeling! The next time life presents a challenge, I encourage you to take a moment and take your focus off of yourself and take a moment to think about helping someone else. Once you have helped them, notice how you feel about your own problems. Chances are your perspective has shifted and what once seemed insurmountable is now doable.
While, it is beneficial to help others. If you are constantly working at fulfilling needs for others, it is imperative that you also take some time to care for yourself. By doing this regularly, you create a habit of self-care. For example, maybe there is one day a week you can take an hour or two to pamper yourself.
I know someone who used to do this, and each Monday she looked forward to her “Diana Time.” She would turn off her phone and computer, and soak in the hot bath. She says this time was wonderful and gave her time to decompress, reflect, and reset for the week ahead. A practice of self-care can help us stay healthy and balanced.
We’re all different. So, do what works for you. And if you’re pressed for time, try what I like to call the one-minute-enjoyment rule: Watch a funny or inspirational video, call a friend, or smell the flowers. These are all quick ways to recharge your batteries and work well when you’re needing a quick pick-me-up in the middle of a busy day. Sometimes when I am having trouble accomplishing a task, I take a break and tidy up my home. I vacuum, make a bed, and wash a mirror. Then when I look in the mirror, I can feel that sense of completion and accomplishment and take that feeling with me when I return to the challenging tasks at hand.
Remember, be kind to yourself. Start small and keep up the maintenance of YOU! Cheers!