This is the fourth module in a series of self-care exercises that I developed and facilitated in workshops over a 25 year period. The practices are just as relevant today, as they were then. Especially now, when we find ourselves working at home, and caring for family at the same time. Or maybe you’re part of the “sandwich” generation, caring for older parents and children too. How do you strike a balance between caring for yourself and caring for others?
Striking a Balance
Do you take the time to relax? Do you get enough exercise? Do you make time for yourself in the day? Do you spend time with friends or doing a hobby? Do these questions make you nervous? Complete the following totally non-scientific and fun quiz to determine where you’re at on the self-nurturing scale.
SELF NURTURING ASSESSMENT QUIZ
1.) I have friends I spend time with:
a) when I can squeeze them into my schedule.
b) Once a month or so.
c) On a regular basis.
d) A couple of times a year.
2.) I have some form of spirituality in my life through weekly service,
meditation, or group gathering:
a) Under consideration.
c) Every week.
d) Only on holidays.
3.) I sleep at least:
a) 4 hours a night.
b) 6 hours a night.
c) 7-8 hours a night.
d) Whenever I get the chance.
4.) I enjoy my job:
b) When things are going my way.
c) Most of the time.
d) Not at all.
5.) I have an annual physical and take care of my health:
a) If I am on my deathbed.
c) On a regular basis.
6.) I have quiet time set aside for myself:
a) Rarely, I have no time.
c) Almost every day and I love it!
d) Quiet time?
7.) I eat healthily, avoiding fatty or highly sugared foods or drinks:
a) Rarely, who has time to eat?
b) About 50% of the time.
c) Enjoying a variety of healthy menus.
d) Several times a year, fast food is my friend.
8.) I exercise:
a) Less than once a week.
b) 2-3 times per week.
c) 3-5 times per week.
d) When I take out the garbage.
9.) I have a regular afternoon or evening away from kids or my
significant other for myself:
a) once a year.
b) Every month.
c) Every week.
d) To do what?
10.) I attend something of interest to me, i.e., a concert, get a massage
attend an art exhibit, get involved in some other hobby:
a) Only once or twice a year.
c) Very often, and I find it rewarding.
d) I have no interests right now.
Scoring your quiz:
Go back and give yourself the following points for each letter:
A = 3 points
B = 5 points
C = 10 points
D = 1 point
10 to 49 points – Your self-care practice is sadly lacking. In the pages that follow, go over the suggestions below. Start putting together a plan to incorporate some of these actions into your daily life.
50 to 79 points – Not bad. Still, it’s best to look over the questions where the scores are low to make some changes. Use the ideas that follow to help you get started with self-nurturing.
80 to 100 points – Great job! Keep going. You are practicing excellent self-nurturing skills. Use the suggestions that follow to enhance what you’re already doing.
1.) Spending Time With Friends
Having a support system is essential. It gives you the ability to open up with someone, talk over thoughts and feelings, or bounce ideas off someone you feel safe with. Spending time with friends you can trust to be honest but gentle is an excellent self-nurturing practice.
To Do: Journal Activity: Name three people you would like to spend more time with.
Having a practice to connect with God, a Higher Power, your inner self or other people in a spiritual setting is an excellent way of reducing life stress, inviting healing into your life, and finding peace.
To Do: Journal Activity: How have you/will you incorporate spirituality into your day?
According to the second annual Better Sleep Council Stress Survey, sleep changed with Covid. In January 2020, 54% of Americans were getting the minimum 7-8 hours of recommended sleep. As of March (2020), fewer than half (49%) did. (bettersleep.org) Recommendations for better sleep include maintaining a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule, even on weekends. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Create a comfy, quiet environment for yourself. Invest in a good mattress and pillows. Finish eating two to three hours before your regular bedtime, and avoid caffeine.
To Do: What are three things you can begin doing right now so that you sleep better at night?
4.) Your Job
Having little control in your work environment, lack of support from coworkers and supervisors, having a job that doesn’t fit you means you are more likely to suffer from stress than individuals who are happy with what they’ve chosen to do for a living. Experts today recommend that to relieve stress, you should change your work conditions by reducing workload, increasing control over your work environment, and seeking more social support. Avoid burnout by doing the following things:
a. Take steps toward balancing workload – Talk with your manager or supervisor.
b. Talk with your boss about rigid company policies and your ability to manage a given project or situation.
c. Rewards are a big part of feeling valued; discuss a reward/promotion option with management.
d. Team efforts are better than going it alone. Look to your coworkers; bring them together if possible to share knowledge and ideas for getting the job done.
e. Your values are vital to the workplace. Keep your standards high no matter how others may be operating. It gives you the ability to take pride in your work.
To Do: What are two things you will do to make your work environment a more positive experience?
5.) Annual Checkups
Monitoring blood pressure, weight, yearly comprehensive blood workup, prostate exams for men, and mammograms and pap smears for women are part of taking responsibility for oneself. If you have not had a physical this year, stop right now, call your physician and schedule an appointment. Take charge of your health.
To Do: Write in your journal what you will do right now to begin taking charge of your health?
6.) Quiet Time
By creating quiet time-space in your busy day, you can restore balance to your mind, body, and spirit. Schedule it into your day. Thirty minutes at a minimum is best. Pick a favorite spot, an outdoor bench at the office, at home in a favorite chair, going for a walk to contemplate nature, whatever works for you. Let your mind relax by meditating on a place you’ve visited where you found peace or a prayer or mantra you know by heart. You’ll find you have more energy and better continue through the rest of your day once you’ve finished.
To Do: Journal activity – List how you will incorporate quiet time into your day?
7.) Healthy Eating
Healthy eating is an important factor in controlling stress. Eating a healthy diet most of the time prepares you physically for any stressful environment that comes your way. It’s time to look at your eating habits. Does your diet include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables? Are you watching your intake of caffeine and sugars? Boost your energy and your health level by incorporating healthy eating into your daily life.
To Do: Take note of your food. Are you eating healthy? If not, what will you change beginning today?
Incorporating aerobic/cardiovascular exercise three times a week reduces stress and the chance of heart attack. There are many ways to get aerobic exercise. Some of these include:
Weight training is another way to build muscle tone and body shape. Twice a week is the norm. You should work towards 12 to 15 repetitions.
To Do: Reserve time in your calendar for the day and activity you will do to blend exercise in with the rest of your schedule.
9.) Regular Time for Self
Regular time away from children, parents, friends, or other significant others that gobble up time in your life is healthy. Plan to do something that energizes you lifts you up and makes you aware of your own needs. During this time, be open to your own feelings about what your world consists of right now. Write in your journal, go for a walk to clear the cobwebs, watch an inspirational film or read the biography of someone you admire. Take time to break away from the norm every day. Do it for you.
To Do: Make a list of what will you do for yourself this week. Choose something that energizes you and makes you feel good about being who you are. Do this away from kids or other significant others who would otherwise dictate your schedule.
10.) A Strong Interest “Retreat” by Yourself or With Someone Else
Look into a vacation you’ve been dreaming about or a quiet retreat somewhere beautiful where you can connect with nature. Turn off the phone, read and relax, give yourself a break from the constant stress of responding to the needs of others. Immerse yourself in a favorite pastime, like cooking, painting, or biking. Whatever you choose, let it be something you enjoy and not something you do for someone else. What will it be? A week in the woods? A quiet weekend browsing antique stores? Week-long cooking classes?
To Do: Start looking for an activity you have a strong interest in. Register for that class, book that weekend away, enroll in a cooking class.
How’d you do? The ten topics I chose are based on the experience I’ve had with workshop groups over twenty years. People consistently talked about needing time for themselves and having quality time with significant others. Take some time now to do this revealing visual activity. On one side of the scale, list a few activities you do for others over a week. On the other side, balance your scale by writing in something you do for yourself the same week. Both sides should have an equal number of entries. Do they?
Copyright 2005 Library of Congress TXU-877-864