Tag Archives: self-care

You are the Hub of the Wheel

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hub of the wheel

Imagine yourself as the hub of this wheel that daily life revolves around, make the spokes of the wheel as connections to those you care for most. The wheel’s activities, its responsibilities surround you, spinning and spinning through each day, week, and year. You are central, the key to keeping it all balanced. Recognizing this, it’s important you care enough about yourself in order to preserve your mental, physical, and emotional health. And consider this… when you’re out of sorts, the wheel’s balance is too. If you haven’t taken the time to give yourself the nurturing you require, the wheel can lose balance and begin to wobble!

Some years ago while on vacation, I recognized my own wheel-wobble. I wondered why I couldn’t put more oomph into just having fun with my family. Doing my job, both jobs, 1) taking care of my family and 2) working a full-time job, took every ounce of energy I had. I had nothing left to give. Fun, what was that? Playing cards or a board game, going to the museums, taking walks, watching movies just didn’t seem as needed as keeping the house clean, doing the laundry, running the errands, getting my youngsters where they needed to go, you name it, I was doing it. The “work” side of the wheel was heavier than the fun side, and I was wobblin’ big time!

Who suffers when we don’t care for ourselves? Right us, and not just us, but everyone we come into contact with. We are home base for our family, the safety net everyone falls into. It’s important for us to be rested, happy, healthy and nurtured. Use the lists you created from the last blog, “Me Time,” to help you do this next exercise.

ACTIVITY: HUB OF THE WHEEL:

  1. Draw a circle or other shape in the center of a blank sheet of paper and write your name in the center.
  2. Choose another color to draw spokes outward. Label each spoke a responsibility or commitment you have to someone, i.e. husband, wife, significant other, children, pets, church, school committees, civic organizations, fun activities with friends, etc… Anyone or anything you have day-to-day or week to week contact with should be included. Whatever takes time in your life, write it in.
  3. Using another color, draw branches off of each spoke. These will represent duties and responsibilities you perform regularly for that individual, pet, or organization.
  4. Finally, choosing one last colored marker or pencil, encircle your responsibilities connect them one to the next, surrounding the spokes like a tire revolving and spinning on the hub.

Now take the time to look over your wheel and reflect. Who do you spend the most time with? Who or what is an energy drainer? Who or what do you wish you might spend more time with? What do you want to change? Use this visual tool to evaluate your life activities. Do it every week if necessary to get a visual for where your time goes. Turn the autopilot off and make the conscious decision to LOOK at what you do. We will use information from this exercise in later modules to help change your focus to areas you have passion for, or goals you wish to take steps toward.

JOURNAL ACTIVITY:

  1. Who or what do you spend the most time with?
  2. Who or what do you wish to spend more time with?
  3. What do you want to change?

Kudos for this activity:  A workshop participant emailed me several weeks after doing this particular exercise to tell me that he had taped the wheel to the refrigerator for the entire family to see. He wrote, “The kids were amazed at how much I do on a day-to-day basis, other than going to work. After studying my “wheel,” they decided to pitch in to help where they could. Thank you for bringing the awareness of how much I do not just to me, but to my family as well.”

Give it a try. Post your “Wheel” and see what reaction you get from family members, friends or colleagues. Next week: Realities of the Past.

 

Primary Caretaker – Me time

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Me time

Art from lineleoff.com

 

Over a 25 year period, I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate self-awareness workshops. What I found is that there are countless numbers of us, both women and men, who have taken on the role of primary caretaker and as a result have put aside our own self-nurturing and self-care. This is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves to develop a life lived with joy.

In some of these workshops, taking care of oneself seemed an almost alien concept to some. “What do you mean by self-nurturing?” They would ask. We raise our children while maintaining a healthy environment for them. We promote education, gently guiding family members in particular directions when a talent is recognized. We are there to “lift up” our spouses, significant others, friends and colleagues when they’re blue. We rise in the morning thinking of others. We go through each day, each hour, sometimes each moment planning how we will care for our family members, friends, or coworkers. We are the nurturers of the world!

I am mother to five children (now ages twenty-one through thirty-eight). When they were younger, I remember getting up in the morning before anyone else was awake heading for the shower already thinking of the dentist appointments, what to cook later for dinner and when? How would I get my then sixteen year old to a German club meeting and still get to the event I had volunteered for? Mind moving on and on, all of these thoughts occurring within a moment or two’s time… once resolved, I moved on to the other challenges I’d face that day.

Back then, time for my own interests was difficult to find. Whether to begin doctorate work became an anxiety ridden decision. Who would help with evening homework if I wasn’t home? Would my sixteen year old bring a troop of friends over while I was out? How would I prepare any kind of meal before I left for the evening? And finally, was the coursework something I even wanted to do? Or was I feeling pressured by my peers and employer? Talk about stress. One simple decision became a masterpiece of confusion and anxiety.

Does this sound familiar to you? Knowing how to care for ourselves, how to journey through each day being gentle on ourselves, being just as considerate of our “self” as we would be toward a family member, friend, or coworker… this is what we need to work toward and maintain. From a young age many of us were taught to be caretakers, we were conditioned to believe that it was our responsibility to care for others while our own needs were put aside. Today, many of us are caring for children or young adults, while very possibly caring for aging parents at the same time.

When you have a few minutes, try the following activity. What are some of the things that you do for others on a daily basis?

DO: List what you do for other people on a daily basis, right down to the smallest detail. 

Here’s an example of what a typical day looked like for me while raising my children and working a full time:

  • Cooked breakfast before school and work
  • Cleaned up the dishes and started the dishwasher
  • Made school lunches and my lunch for work
  • Threw in a load of laundry in both the dryer and the washer
  • Made beds
  • Worked all day at the office
  • Fed the birds
  • Paid Bills
  • “Helped” the kids do their chores
  • Took recycling out to the garage
  • Did the banking
  • Helped my oldest write his resume
  • Called a friend in need
  • Stopped at the store to pick up household goods
  • Worked on insurance benefits

My list was for a full day and I’ve most likely forgotten several things since that time. When you listed your day, you probably found your own list growing longer and longer with responsibilities that you typically do on “autopilot” and promptly forget. What I ask you to do next is more of a challenge. How much of your day is spent doing something for yourself, something rejuvenating or stress relieving? Something educational or a hobby you enjoy?

DO: List your own self-nurturing activities now.

I know you listed fewer activities. And you’re not alone! The majority of the people that have attended my workshops have had shorter lists as well. If you aren’t nurturing yourself, if you’re operating on overload… Not caring for you can lead to stress-filled days, resentment toward others, and finally burnout. What I’m suggesting is that you take the time to attend to your own well-being, just as you do for so many others.

Are you over-doing? It’s time to take steps toward self-nurturing. You are worthy of the same care you provide to others. You are just as important… just as special. Incorporate a reality check into each morning of your day. Evaluate what you want to happen in the day and how you’ll put some “me” time into your schedule. Set that time aside and stick to it as much as possible. Check it off at the end of each day. It doesn’t have to be some long impossible list. Here’s an example of my activities list. I would choose one or two from the list to incorporate into the day:

  • Work out
  • Spend time walking in nature
  • Sit at the local bookstore and sip tea
  • Read for 30 minutes after dinner
  • Write uninterrupted for one hour
  • Answer friends e-mail
  • Lunch with a friend at work
  • Sketch in my journal
  • Read and post affirmations
  • Attend a cooking class
  • Join a book discussion club
  • Have friends over once a week to just sit and gab
  • Refurbish a piece of furniture
  • Garden
  • Listen to music
  • Meditate

What did you put on your list? Choose one activity close to your heart and begin incorporating it into your day or week. Make it formal by putting it on your calendar or daily schedule. Block the time out for you! I’d love to hear some of the activities you’ve incorporated into the day or week just for yourself.

Next week: “You are the Hub of the Wheel,” an activity that helps create a visual snapshot of your life activities and responsibilities. Have a fabulous week!

Great Day to Start

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Driving in this morning I found myself thinking about, well about everything. I had the ole’ “monkey mind” thing going on, jumping from one thought to the next not really stopping to ponder any one of them in particular. Good thing is, I caught myself.

So I went back through a few of those thought-topics-things in my life that need attention and picked out a couple of them deciding today would be a great day to start just targeting one to two thoughts, one project at time for a few days until completed, and then move onto what’s next on the list.

Now you know I talk about being mindful all the time, being observant, paying attention to what’s in front of you. And I do, but I move quickly. I think it’s time to slow the pace a little. Over the last six months I’ve slowed it considerably from frantic to fast, now I think  in-the-middle  might be kinda cool. So I’m going to give it a try.

That means monkey-mind thoughts like this morning, “Wow that garage is really a mess, the shredding needs to be done. It really bothers me that those boxes are right smack in front of my face on the shelves when I get in the car every morning. Maybe I should fix the recycling can too, it’s not labeled properly. I wonder if my daughter ever got a winter coat. I better check. What time am I going out for dinner? Better pick something up for the boy. What groceries do I need? When will I shop? Eggs. Soy milk. Pancake stuff. Better get some yogurt butter. I’d like to get to Whole Foods. I wonder if my boss looked at the survey I left on her desk. 7:20 almost there, maybe I can get it edited before the event today. My sister just sent me a text, darn! I forgot to look for those gifts she wanted.”  Oh…shoot. Whoa, I think I have monkey mind. Ahhh…STOP!

Caught myself. Breathe in, breathe out. Slow fast down to…in-the-middle. Pick a couple of things and do those this weekend and blog it. So here it is. There you have it. I know you do it too. Find an in-the-middle pace that works for you until you can experience what it means to go slower and then hey maybe you, and for that matter I, can get to slow. Slow is probably a reasonable pace that we haven’t done for so long it feels awkward. But maybe something we can all get used to. We are more than this…

“And so taking the long way home through the market I slow my pace down. It doesn’t come naturally. My legs are programmed to trot briskly and my arms to pump up and down like pistons, but I force myself to stroll past the stalls and pavement cafes. To enjoy just being somewhere, rather than rushing from somewhere, to somewhere. Inhaling deep lungfuls of air, instead of my usual shallow breaths. I take a moment to just stop and look around me. And smile to myself….For the first time in a long time, I can, quite literally, smell the coffee.” ~ Alexandra Potter, The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather

Independent Solitude

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I sometimes get buried in daily life, forgetting what it means to practice self-care. This last weekend there was so much going on with children and friends I totally forgot to take care of me. I just couldn’t say no, especially to my kids.

Every time I overdo I wonder how I landed in this place again. I’m an aware individual, an intuitive, I know better right? Ha! Thing is I’m also human. The autopilot switch goes on and wham I get lost in the needs of others.

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion, it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the world, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”         ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now back into the work week, it’s necessary to seek out pockets of time for quick snoozes and centering meditations. Sitting on a park bench by the prairie for five or ten minutes before work, catching a catnap at lunch, there are ways to bring myself back to a wonderfully centered calm. In a few days, I’ll be good as new. Still, it might be a good idea to catch myself before I’m standing with too much going on no time for me and now I’m exhausted place.

How can I do that? I’ll mix five-minute meditations into the day, do some mindful walking at lunchtime, use breaks to reflect on how I allowed myself to run on auto and get to sleep an hour earlier each evening. When the weekend comes around again, I’ll keep an afternoon of rest in the schedule. The key is to keep practicing, to say no sometimes to others and say yes more often to self.  What can you do to recover from those run on days that leave you limping? What can you do to stay on track?

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.” ~ Martha Graham

We Are Enough

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This week has been particularly crazy busy in the office with projects coming at me one after one, all with Friday deadlines. Yes, that would be today, and it’s a short work week! By Thursday morning my head was spinning.

Ah, but there it was, that Grace I keep telling you about, just coming along surprising me again and again. How is it that our general state of modus operandi is worry, fear, and anxiety, even when Grace appears over and over again? How can a state of calm knowing replace the MO that is so insidious living as human? Even with daily meditation and mindful living, I still find I fall into old behavior in times of busy-ness. I suppose I can say, “I’m only human.” But is that just another way of saying nope can’t do it, an easy excuse?

We are enough. At any given time we are all that we can be, we just don’t trust it. Realizing the lapse in confident calm and knowing, I decided to look for an inspirational blurb to pull me back into a peace-filled state. I share this with you.

Living Beyond Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous. Actually who am I not to be? You are a child of God. If you are playing small, that doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are born to manifest the glory of God within us. It is in everyone. And as we let our lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

~ Marianne Williamson

Shiny Smooth Edges

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So many words clamoring, banging at the walls, running and jumping to see if they can escape from the collected memories of yesterdays that shaped this life I live today, I decide to be mindful of how it feels to just sit right here in the now.

This morning I realized how I love quiet simplicity, the sound of the wind in the leaves, moving blinds against the window with the breeze, morning birds singing while the coffee brews and fills the room with comforting aroma. This is the time of day I enjoy most. Routine simple pleasures holding me in place. I’m the peg in the hole, edges worn shiny smooth, a perfect fit of simplicity.

 i thank you God for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing

 day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

 and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything

 which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,

and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth

day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay

 great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing

 breathing any–lifted from the no

 of all nothing–human merely being

doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake

and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

                                                                  ~ e. e. cummings

Nurturing Self

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For many years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with several types of support groups.  During this time, it’s become apparent that many of us, being primary caretakers, have not learned self-nurturing, one of the most important things we can do for ourselves to step toward a life lived with happiness.

While discussing the topic of self-nurturing with others, I’ve discovered that taking care of oneself is an almost alien concept.  What do I mean by self-nurturing?  Webster’s dictionary defines nurturing as “…anything that nourishes; the act or process of raising or promoting the development of; training; rearing; upbringing; and fostering.”

We sustain and guide our children while maintaining a healthy environment for them. We promote education and steer family members in the right direction when a talent is recognized.  We are there to “lift up” our spouses, significant others, friends and colleagues when they’re blue.  We rise in the morning thinking of others.  We go through each day, each hour, and each moment planning how we will care for our family members, friends, or coworkers, because we care.

The mother of five children, I get up in the morning, hit the shower, already thinking of the dentist appointments, and what and when will dinner take place?  How will I get my sixteen year old to a German club meeting and still get to the event I volunteered for?  And on and on, all of these thoughts occur within a one or two-minute time frame, once resolved, I move on to thinking of other issues I know I’ll face that day.

Major activities are difficult.  Whether to begin doctorate coursework is an anxiety ridden decision.  Who will help with evening homework if I’m not there? How will I fight the traffic home and then prepare any kind of dinner before leaving for the evening?  And finally, is the coursework something I even want to do? Talk about stress.  One simple decision becomes a masterpiece of confusion and anxiety.

Does this sound familiar to you? Knowing how to care for ourselves, how to journey through each day, taking care to preserve ourselves, being gentle on ourselves, being just as considerate of ourselves as we would a family member,  friend, or coworker, this is what we need to accomplish.

As women (and men too), from a young age, we are raised to be caregivers.  From a young age we are taught that it is our responsibility to care for everyone else while our own needs are put aside.  Today, many of us are caring for children while at the same time caring for aging parents or other family members.

Take the time now to do the following activity.  What are some of the things that you do for others on a daily basis?  This activity will help you put together a visual snapshot.

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR OTHERS DAILY?

Sit down and list on paper what you do for other people on a daily basis, take your time and get right down to the smallest detail.

Here’s an example of what a typical day might look like for me:

Cooked breakfast before school and work

Cleaned up the dishes and started the dishwasher

Made school lunches and my lunch for work

Threw laundry in both the dryer and the washer

Made beds

 Worked a full day

Fed the birds

Paid Bills

Took recycling out to the garage

Stopped at the bank

 Helped my oldest write his resume

 Called a friend in need

 Stopped to pick up household goods

 Worked on insurance benefits

My list is for a full day.  I know I skipped several things, like writing a business plan with my older son and running out to pick up last-minute school supplies for the next day for another.  Rushed activity causes mindlessness! When you listed your day, you probably found your list growing longer and longer with responsibilities you typically do on autopilot and promptly forget.

What I ask you to do next is more of a challenge.  How much of your day is spent doing something for yourself, something rejuvenating or stress free?  Something educational or a hobby you enjoy? List those activities on paper or in your journal.

I know you filled in fewer lines.  Chances are you couldn’t fill in half of the page.  And you’re not alone!  The majority of the people who attend my workshops can’t fill them in either.   If you are operating on overload…chances are significant others or family members are suffering the backlash of your stressed life.  Not caring for you can lead to resentments toward others.  What I’m suggesting is that you take the time to attend to your own well-being is just as you do for others.

Several years ago I recognized how wrapped up in responsibilities I’d become.  It was impossible for me to sit down.  I had to learn to slow down.  Sit and relax.  I had to learn that it was ok for me to have time just for me.  And I remind myself over and over again on a day-to-day basis, because I forget!  The autopilot takes over and like you I get buried all over again.  It’s all about staying conscious, mindful of the moments.

Are you over doing?  It’s time to take that first step towards self-care.  Realize that you are worthy of the same care you give others.  You are just as important, just as special.

Incorporate a reality check into each morning of your day.  Evaluate what you want to happen in your day and how you’ll put some “me” time into your schedule.  Set that time aside and stick to it as much as possible.  And check it out at the end of each day.  It doesn’t have to be some long impossible list.  Here’s an example of some optional activities things I may incorporate into my day for enjoyment and self-nurturing:

Work out at the gym

Sit at the local bookstore and sip tea

Read for 30 minutes after dinner

Write uninterrupted for one hour

Surf the net for 15 minutes to answer friends e-mail

Lunch with a friend at work

Sketch in my journal

Read and post affirmations

These are just a few.  Other activities include taking an interest class, like watercolor or kickboxing, joining a book discussion club at the library, or having friends over once a week to just sit and gab.

What can you put on your list?

Now choose one activity and begin incorporating it into your day.  Make it formal by putting it on your calendar or daily schedule.  Block the time out for yourself, schedule your Self  into your day! Happy Planning! (C. Morgan, Copyright 2005)