What is self-love? For me, learning what this means and how to *really* do it has been my biggest personal life challenge. In my past, loving my work was always a higher priority than loving myself. It's easy to list things like getting a manicure or going shopping or treating ourselves to our favorite treat. But are these things *really* self-love?
I used to indulge in my favorite ice cream - often. Indulging every once in awhile as a treat is much different than what I was doing - mindlessly eating a whole container in one sitting multiple times a month. THAT is not self-love, my friends. Any behavior done consciously, occasionally, and with awareness can be a nice indulgence or a way to pamper ourselves. But any behavior that becomes a habitual pattern or becomes a way to escape, avoid, or soothe our emotions - can quickly become unhealthy.
So what does it mean to really love and care for our self? Can we look deeper? True self-love and self-care practices support our LONG-TERM wellbeing - mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. My job isn't to tell people what to do to love themselves better, it's to point them in the right direction. I guide people through the aspects of wellbeing so they can discover for themselves how to better love and care for themselves. We are all unique beings with unique needs, interests, and preferences, so the specific self-love practices will look different for everyone.
Let's consider the aspect of physical wellbeing and how to integrate self-love into our physical health practices. The most obvious components of physical wellbeing include physical activity/exercise, diet/nutrition and rest/leisure. I'll touch on two of these today and revisit the third in a future post.
When choosing a physical activity or starting a new exercise program, I encourage women to find something that takes care of their physical body that they also enjoy doing. When we do this, we are connecting the concepts of physical wellbeing and self-love. Because then you move your body in a way that you enjoy and that feels good rather than one that feels like torture. And every time you show up for your workout, you are choosing to love your body. And you have fun while you're getting fit. Win-win.
What kind of physical activities do you enjoy? Walking or hiking? Running? Aerobics? Kick-boxing? Dancing? Strength training? Something else entirely? Or a combination of these? The ideal workout is different for everyone based on your personal goals, interests and needs.
And speaking of goals... when it comes to physical wellbeing, I encourage women to look beyond the scale. Losing weight is consistently among the most common new year's resolutions. But what happens if you start working out consistently and the scale doesn't budge? We feel discouraged, disappointed, bad about ourselves and we give up.
What if instead we go deeper with our goals? What if our goal wasn't to lose weight, but to improve our health? Or to feel better or have more energy? With these kinds of goals, we are more motivated to make choices that support our health and energy instead of worrying about our weight and depriving our body of nutrients.
I worked out *daily* for 2 months straight during COVID and didn't see the scale budge - not one pound. However, I could SEE other changes. I could tell that my physical strength was increasing and my cardiovascular endurance was improving. And I could SEE the changes in my body - my arms and legs were leaner and more toned and there was visibly less belly fat. Even though I didn't lose weight, I didn't give up on my workouts because I was *seeing* visible proof of change, and I was *feeling* different.
Also important to our physical (as well as our mental, emotional and spiritual) wellbeing is making time for rest, relaxation and leisure. The nourishing rest and leisure activities we choose must also be enjoyable so we make time for it. Do you enjoy lounging in a hammock? Sitting outside? Reading? Journal writing? Making art? Doing yoga or Pilates? Meditating? When we do something we enjoy while also giving our bodies time to replenish, we are practicing self-love.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to physical health or self-love. What nourishes your body? What fuels you? What makes you feel better - energetically and emotionally? What honors your unique needs and preferences? Find your unique path to self-love and really embody it through your physical health practices and daily choices and actions.
Making positive personal changes can be HARD!! But by doing a little groundwork, creating a strong foundation, and putting support mechanisms in place, we can make it easier. Here's an example of a personal challenge I was struggling with and how I approached it. Part of loving and caring for myself means paying attention to how I am nourishing my body and energy level. I found myself in a place where I was neglecting these aspects. I wasn't exercising or eating well and as a result, I often felt "icky" and sluggish. I knew better than to try to integrate two new habits at once, so I chose one to focus on first.
I decided to address the exercise habits first, because 1) I knew that would be easier than addressing my eating habits, 2) I had identified a coach and an accountability group to help me get going and build consistency, and 3) in general, when I'm consistently working out, I tend to eat better overall. So establishing a workout habit first would actually help and support the eating habits later.
For the first 5 weeks of staying #safeathome I focused on getting a daily workout regimen in place. Five weeks later I am still doing it and am seeing changes in my body. Success!! Now that that habit has been established, I'm ready to start focusing on my eating habits too. I have been wanting to eat healthier for quite some time, but am an emotional/stress eater, so this is often a challenge for me. I know from my past struggles with this, that I will need extra support to accomplish this goal.
First, I got clear on WHY I want to eat better. Yeah, I'd love to lose a few pounds and feel better about the way my body LOOKS. But that's not the deepest, most motivating factor for me. If it was, I'd already be doing it. As part of my overall intentions to love and nourish myself, I want to make better choices that support this intention in all areas of my life. So my deepest WHY in relation to my eating habits is to better love and nourish my body through food choices that give me positive energy and contribute to my long-term health and wellbeing.
I chose the nutritional lifestyle (not diet) I want to follow: mostly whole vegan foods, organic when possible. For me, this means fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and vegan protein shakes. No processed soy/meat or cheese replacements and no processed sugar. I chose this lifestyle because I've eaten this way in the past and I know that it makes me and my body feel good.
Then I set my specific goal: To choose whole, healthy vegan foods for at least 31 days in a row.
To help me establish this habit and achieve my goal, I created a daily tracking chart. It's nothing fancy, just hand drawn. I included my why and my goal at the top and a summary of the food choices I want to make along the side. I hung it on my fridge and at the end of each day, I will put an X to mark the days I stuck to my plan. I hope to fill this chart with Xs!
What personal intentions or goals have you been struggling to achieve? Consider why this goal matters to you, the specifics of what you're wanting to implement, and then choose a specific goal to focus on. What foundation, support, or tools can you put in place to help you achieve your goal?
Almost four weeks into social distancing and self-isolation and I need a haircut. Badly. But, I did something a little different today. I shaved, got dressed, AND applied makeup! That's the first time those three things have all happened on the same day in over 3 weeks! Most days I work in sweats because they are comfortable. And let's be real, I've not had a need for shaving or makeup. We're in unprecedented times here and there's no ONE right way to do this whole stay-at-home thing. We're each experiencing different emotions, focusing on different things, and spending our time in different ways. What's right for one may not be right for another.
We all handle stress differently, too. Some of us appreciate humor to help get us through, some of us need to lean on our friends, some just want to be left alone to process in whatever way works for us. And some of us may need all three of those at different times or in different quantities, or need something completely different.
I'll repeat... there is no right or wrong way to experience this situation.
For me and where I am, at this point in my journey, my mission is to do my best to stay focused on my personal wellbeing and spiritual growth path, to cultivate positive emotions such as gratitude and joy for myself and others, and to stay healthy and be fully present for my daughter. In order to do those things, I can't get sucked up into the fear or worry or anxiousness. YES, I do feel it. I'm not avoiding the reality of the situation. I certainly have moments when I experience fear or sadness or loneliness. Last week when I had to make a DIY mask for my daughter, just so we could go outside for 30 minutes, I felt it. Every time I go to the grocery store, I feel it. When I hear stories from people living in the hardest hit areas, I feel it.
I feel the feels when they arise.... I allow myself time and space to be sad or scared or angry, or whatever other emotion is coming to my awareness. But, I choose not to camp out there. Staying there too long, for me, isn't productive. I bring my attention back to the present... to what is in front of me right now. I focus on what I CAN take action on, and I move forward.
What has helped me stay grounded the last few weeks has been bringing more attention to my wellbeing and self-care. I have been exercising at home, getting out for walks when I can, and trying to eat (mostly) healthy foods. Sometimes I crank music all day and have solo dance parties. Other times I enjoy total silence. I spend a little time staying connected with friends via text and Zoom, and spend a LOT of time alone in my sacred space, journaling and meditating. I do what I feel I most need in that moment.
I've been reevaluating my priorities and the true essentials in my life. I've taken this opportunity to let go of some unhealthy habits, unproductive patterns, and even a relationship that no longer fit. I've continued learning more about myself and exploring what kind of life I want to create for myself and my daughter.
These are the things that work for me. But what matters is that YOU do what works for YOU. If you could use a little help focusing on any of this for yourself, reach out. I'm here and able to offer support. I can help you find YOUR path forward.
Do you ever find yourself in a position where you've been putting off making a decision for too long, full well knowing that a better future awaits? But you've been putting off deciding, because even though you want the change that lies on the other side, there's something about your current state that you don't want to lose? Or because you're unsure how you'll navigate the new, unfamiliar territory you'll be entering?
I've been stuck in indecision on one particular situation for a few weeks now. Deep inside, I knew what I needed to do, but I was resisting it. I didn't want to let go of the comfortable and safe situation I had created for myself. Even though I knew I wanted and deserved something better, I was still clinging to the familiar.
Fear is a powerful force. If we let it, it can hold us back from receiving what we most want in life. It takes courage to let go of what's become comfortable and allow ourselves to flow into uncharted territory. But if we really want to reach our biggest desires, we absolutely must loosen the grip, make different choices, and open to receiving what we want. All decisions are different. Some we can make fairly quickly and easily, others may take us awhile. And that's OK. This post isn't about how long the decision takes. This post is about tuning into your inner voice, listening to your heart, trusting yourself, and making the choices that are best for you longer term.
So I made the tough decision I had been putting off. I knew in my heart it was time. I wrote in my journal to help me process my fears and hopes relating to the situation. I asked for help to release the old and make way for the new. I cut the emotional cords that were keeping me bound to the past. I reminded myself why I wanted the change, and that I was worth the new possibilities on the other side. And almost immediately, I felt lighter and more open, ready for the exciting new beginnings that are to come.
What decisions have you been putting off in your life? How can you create the space you need to decide and take a step forward?
What kind of relationship do you have with the natural world?
Spending time in nature contributes to restoration, stress reduction, and healing, and generates positive feelings such as wonder, fascination, and awe. Even indirect experiences of nature contribute to our wellbeing, such as viewing plants or trees, tending to houseplants and gardening. As we spend more time observing nature, we cultivate a stronger appreciation of natural beauty and see how the cycles of nature apply to our own life. In nature, we see both destruction and the promise of renewal and rebirth firsthand.
Bringing nature or nature-inspired elements indoors allows us to experience the many benefits of nature from the comfort of our own home. Green spaces and gardens nourish us and support our renewal. Bringing plants indoors gives life to our living spaces and creates a softer, more comfortable and soothing environment. Houseplants provide us with fresh air, reducing carbon dioxide and air pollutants in our home. Green spaces can help improve our focus, concentration, attention, learning, and creativity. Caring for plants increases our energy levels and feelings of vitality and joy.
The relationships we have with other people are calling us toward a higher level of self-understanding. People come into our life to help us learn about our self and where we still hold old emotional wounds. We all have unhealed places in our heart and these old wounds can't be released until they are exposed and we become aware of them. If we pay attention to what triggers us in our relationships with other people, we can come to know our wounds and the blocks to love that we have created; then we can work toward healing. As we learn to forgive in our relationships, we begin to heal. As we begin to heal, we learn to open our heart more fully and become more loving. We need to make the conscious choice to heal, and we need to be open to learning from each of our relationships. This takes a commitment to self-inquiry, self-awareness, and self-understanding.
The feelings and emotions that I have felt in response to my relationships are signals about something going on within myself that needs to be acknowledged, healed, and released. I have to remind myself that in most cases, people don't do things with the intention of making me irritated or angry. So if that's how I'm feeling, I need to inquire into the emotion to understand why I'm feeling that way. Often these feelings are a signal to something deeper - a need I have that's not being met (such as need to be acknowledged, a need to be respected, or a need to be heard).
Sometimes my feelings are signaling that I'm feeling ignored or unloved in a relationship. And if I'm being completely honest, I've had to do a lot of work in this space. I've spent many years believing I'm not loved. It took a lot of deep self-inquiry and self-reflection to understand that feelings of unlovability were running deep. In most cases, when I felt like someone didn't love me, upon a deeper self-inquiry, I realized that I wasn't doing a good job of loving the other person, or that I wasn't doing a good job of loving myself
I've found it helpful to use my journal to help me reflect on what I'm learning in my various relationships. As I interact with others, whether acquaintances, co-workers, colleagues, friends, or family, I pay attention to when I am triggered with strong emotions such as irritation or anger. When I feel like someone is "pushing my buttons" or find myself blaming someone else for something that is not going the way I want it to, that is a signal to inquire into the situation and explore why I am feeling so triggered. When I feel triggered by a relationship, I explore the situation fully in my journal, using questions such as the following:
Wellbeing is related to, but extends beyond “happiness.” Focusing on our wellbeing is a pathway to living an optimal, connected, and fulfilling life. There are three core, interrelated elements of wellbeing that are foundational to our ability to grow into our best self and live our best life: personal wellbeing, spiritual wellbeing, and relational wellbeing. These elements are fundamental because the core of who we are - personally, spiritually, and relationally – influences how we relate to and interact with ourselves, others, and the world. Investing in our wellbeing includes prioritizing our self-care and focusing on our own personal and spiritual growth. Nourishing our body, our heart, and our spirit gives us the fuel we need to fully engage in all other areas of our life.
Often the place to look first relates to our personal wellbeing and how well we are caring for ourselves. Sometimes we need to examine what is not working in our life so we can understand what we *do* want. As we then make change in that direction, we ultimately will find peace, harmony and ease. Making a commitment to consciously focus on our wellbeing can guide us toward healthy stress-management techniques, and sources of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation when we need it the most. Investing in our wellbeing includes prioritizing our self-care, physical health, intellectual heath, and emotional health, as well as focusing on our own personal and spiritual growth. It also involves treating ourselves with compassion and kindness, and choosing to forgive and love ourselves.
When we care for ourselves in this way, we receive the energy and fuel we need in order to care for and fulfill our commitments and obligations to others. If we expend too much energy focusing only on our external relationships and are not also caring for our needs or focusing on our own self-care, we won’t have energy to be fully present in our relationships with others over the long term. Similarly, when we neglect our physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs, we may have a difficult time devoting energy to or finding meaning in our work. Nourishing our body, heart, and spirit gives us the fuel we need to fully engage in all other areas of our life.
For most of us, our work and professional life consumes most of our time, attention, and energy. But we all deserve and need to take care of our personal and spiritual wellbeing, too. We need to nourish our body and nurture our soul so we don’t become depleted. Our spiritual path invites and encourages us to search for a deeper meaning and purpose for our life. What I’ve come to believe is that we have multiple levels of purpose that guide us through life.
The various levels of purpose are intertwined and connected. No one else can tell us what our purpose is – it’s up to each one of us to discover that for ourselves. No matter what our purpose is, imperative to the process is ACTION. Each choice we make and each step we take gets us one step closer to understanding why we are here and how we are meant to serve.
The quality of our relationship with those people is impacted by how well we are taking care of our self. If we are feeling depleted, it is hard to be fully present with the ones we love. So the first place to start on our personal growth journey is often exploring our personal and spiritual wellbeing first, before we look to this area of relational wellbeing. But personal relationships are important. The amount of joy and fulfillment we feel in our life is impacted by the quality of our relationships with other people. We are relational beings and are wired to connect with others. Even those of us who enjoy our solitude need to connect with people sometimes.
Time is a gift that most of us take for granted. We get so caught up in the busyness of our daily lives that we may not realize how much time we’re spending on activities that don't really matter all that much and how little time we are spending with the people who matter most to us. Our priorities are reflected not by what we say, but by what we do. In other words, we might say that spending time with family or friends is one of our top priorities - but are we showing that in action? How much quality time are we spending with our loved ones? And the time we are spending with them - is it of good quality? Meaning, are we actively engaging in dialogue or shared activities, or are we sitting next to each other scrolling through our phones or watching television? Do we make a difference in the lives of others, and are we receiving the support we need from those around us? It's important to reflect on the status of our relationships and to made adjustments where needed.