“Instead of dividing up my actions into good and bad ones, I studied what behaviors caused what results. I paid more attention to karma, or the fact that actions have consequences…. If I allowed myself time to rest in the late afternoon, I would be more cheerful at dinner.”
Mary Pipher, Seeking Peace
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Mary Oliver, "Wild Geese"
“Many of us live almost exclusively in the realm of the mind…. We are never fully in our bodies. If anything, our bodies are an inconvenience…. But the hard truth is you are not an airy spirit. Nor are you a floating head with no body. You are an animal…. Living in the ‘soft animal of your body’ means you must respect the systems of that body.”
Katrina Alcorn, Maxed Out
When we think of self-care, we often think of massages and pedicures.
But some of the most important self-care activities are those that tend to the more mundane needs of the body: getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, eating healthy food, and getting some exercise.
It’s important to do self-nurturing things like spending time alone, reading a good book, or savoring a gorgeous sunset. But we mustn’t forget to take care of our physical bodies and their basic needs.
When we don’t attend to the needs of the body, we usually wind up getting sick. I don’t know about you, but I get super frustrated when I’m sick. The house gets messy because I am too tired to clean it. Grocery shopping becomes an exhausting journey. My lack of productivity stresses me out.
I would like to invite you to broaden your definition of self-care, to think of it not as an indulgence, but as a necessary form of scheduled maintenance. I invite you to see meeting the needs of “the soft animal of your body” as the way you nurture what, as Jim Rohn reminds us, is “the only place you have to live.”
The average adult gets less than 7 hours of sleep per night, which the experts tell us is not quite enough for our mental and physical needs. Yes, we have busy schedules and lots to do, but we must honor the body’s need for rest.
1. Make Sleep a Priority
Set a reminder for yourself to go to bed 30 minutes earlier — and then do it! (And do a quick sleep hygiene check to ensure that you make the most of the hours you set aside for sleep).
2. Take a Visual Rest
You don’t need to nap to get some rest. Take a few moments and just close your eyes. You take in so much visual stimulation and information throughout the day, and it can feel wonderful to just let your eyes take a break. Notice what it feels like to “turn off” your visual field for a few moments.
3. Take an Auditory Rest
It’s a noisy world! Can you take a few moments to retreat to your bedroom, or somewhere quiet, and just appreciate silence? Could you go a few hours this evening without the noise of the TV, your phone, or even conversation? (Maybe once the kiddos are in bed?)
I know this is such a no-brainer, but exercise does SO much for your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
4. Commit to Exercise
Find a buddy to workout with, or find a new, fun way to exercise, like a dance class or a basketball league. Mix up your workout routine so you don’t give up on it out of boredom. (See this list of 13 Ways to Make Exercise Fun, Not a Chore).
5. Integrate Movement Into Your Day
In addition to exercising, make moving a part of your day. Get a standing desk at work, take the stairs whenever possible, or have a 10-minute dance jam with your kids when you get home. These little moments of movement can nourish your body.
6. Stretch in the Morning
Your dog does it every time he gets up, so why not join him in a few yummy stretches when you wake up in the morning?
7. Play with Your Pets
His animal body needs movement, and so does yours. Go throw that ball around or take a quick jaunt around the block. (No pets? Borrow your neighbor’s — they’d probably appreciate the help!).
Pay attention to the fuel you provide your body!
8. Hydrate and Be Happy
You probably don’t need 8 full glasses, but see if you can make an effort to drink more water throughout your day. Add some lemon or cucumber and pretend you’re actually at the spa.
9. Eat Some Protein
Keep some protein-filled snacks on hand throughout your day — cheese sticks, Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, apples and peanut butter, mixed nuts, etc. These snacks will help you keep your energy up, and you’ll avoid the “crash” that sugary foods can cause.
10. Pay Attention
Pay attention to your body throughout the day. What foods make you feel good, and which ones make you feel sluggish? What activities energize you, and which ones deplete you? How much does your sleep impact your mood? Study your habits, and make note of what’s working, and what’s not.
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