Many individuals view wellness as a goal, a destination that may even include long distance plane trips to zen-like locations. But in truth, wellness is a journey, and one that we can make each day. Some days our strides may be long and confident, with loud reverberating steps. Other days our steps may be tentative and uncertain, even begrudging.
We’ve all heard that life is a journey and not a destination. The same is true of wellness. And we are just as successful in remembering that truism in regards to wellness as we are in remembering it in regards to our lives as a whole. Some days are just easier for us to be more present and there for ourselves than others.
It seems we spend our days in a flurry of activities - both our own as well as our loved ones and family’s. At least for us in the States, we seem to have gotten used to this frenetic pace of being overbooked, double-booked, even triple-booked. In fact, some of us even wear the “busy-ness” as a badge of value or honor. In reality, we have somehow, somewhere along the way, short-changed ourselves. The impact on our health can often be staggering and often, at minimum, we become exhausted and unable to really enjoy our lives.
So here you are. You are living a life that is too hectic, too scheduled, and too complicated. You are short on joy, don’t even remember what it really feels like to do something for yourself, and are even at times short-tempered. What do you do now? How do you reclaim your life in a way that is more gentle on your body, more rewarding to your spirit, and is non-invasive to your current obligations and family? One step at a time!
There are lots of quick things you can do for yourself to help you take a few steps toward wellness, even if you only have five minutes. Whether you gain those five minutes by setting your clock a little earlier, not answering your phone, closing your door, or even making other choices about your time, it can be done.
First, allow yourself a bit of time to determine what taking better care of yourself really looks like to you. For some this may mean getting more physical, for others it may mean developing some period of time just for yourself - your own needs, thoughts, or space.
Making a list of these things is important as it will help you over time be better able to see where you started and how far you’ve come. As you start any goal, it’s important to set things up so you can see progress over time. This helps you to identify the ways in which you’ve met your goal and will encourage you on to meet additional goals. It will also help you to identify what you may need to change in order to better meet your goals. Keep your goals realistic so that you don’t set yourself up for failure. If you know you can only carve out five minutes a day for your new activities at first, a goal of running ten miles a day isn’t going to work.
Once you have a clear idea of the actions that are important to you, take a few moments to prioritize what’s most important on your list and where you’d like to begin. You also should spend a bit of time evaluating whether you need to make any changes to your lifestyle to support your new goal. For instance, in this example, will you set your alarm earlier, dedicate time while your children are at school, take time at the end of the day, etc.?
Setting a date and making a commitment to yourself, or even a loved one (to help you with accountability and support if you need it) is also a good step to take. Particularly if you are an individual who is prone to be there for everyone except yourself, this step indicates your willingness to place yourself firmly back on your list of priorities.
If you don’t have a long history of putting your own needs first, starting small will help to show you that you can accomplish your goals and will help encourage you to accomplish more. Not only will you receive health benefits by accomplishing your goal, but you will also become more present in your life. The more you take time to care for yourself, the more available you are to care for others.
Once you complete the planning steps you can move forward with your plan. Here are some creative small things you can do as you start out. Keep in mind these are designed for those who have limited amounts (5-10 minutes) of time in the beginning. If you have more time, your goals can be more aggressive. But be creative, these are just a start!
- Meditate, or if meditation is frustrating for you at first, practice breathing deeply in a quiet space with your eyes closed. Focus on relaxing and easing tension.
- Do small sets of exercises that can be done in your home easily. Sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, using the exercise ball, a treadmill, or even working out briefly with a DVD can help. Some exercise is better than no exercise.
- Bring attention to your activities and try to be fully present for yourself in the moment. This exercise can even be done at work or anywhere else. The point is to do whatever you’re doing in a way that allows you to become fully centered in the present moment. This exercise could even include pampering yourself by washing your body with full and loving attention or giving yourself a needed foot rub. This exercise is particularly important for individuals who rarely have time for themselves.
- Establish an internal affirmation that helps you to change internal dialogue that may no longer be serving you. As much recent scientific evidence is showing, we are our beliefs. If you habitually find yourself leading a chaotic, hectic, and stressful life, a good affirmation might be something like, “I accomplish my goals easily with joy. My life is supportive and loving.” Examine your internal dialogue and identify what you would like to begin to change. This is an activity you can practice anywhere, even in the midst of a meeting!
- Visualization is also an exercise that can help you to establish a greater sense of inner peace and help you to get excited about the future you are building for yourself. Close your eyes and imagine yourself accomplishing a dream and allow the pictures to fill your mind.
These are small steps. But you will find that as you begin to place yourself on the list of your priorities again, you will discover that you had time you didn’t realize. As with so many other areas of our lives, it is your attention and intentions that lead you to the next step of where you truly want to be. Enjoy!