Today in my department retreat I led sessions on office yoga and stress relief and it got me thinking about self-care.  Why do we often see self-care as selfish?  We spend so much time (and energy!) taking care of our spouses, children, pets, friends, and colleagues that we have nothing left for ourselves.  The thought doesn’t even cross our minds until we’ve entered the danger zone – a place of exhaustion, frustration and anger.  I challenge you to commit to self-care because I promise you that everyone around you will be happier.  Because you will be happier.  You’ll have a more positive attitude, more to give and be authentic in your caregiving and not coming from a place of resentment.

Here are five simple tips for self-care to get you started:

1.  Wake up 15 minutes earlier than usual so that you can have a few quiet moments to sip your coffee or tea and prepare a healthy breakfast for yourself (I highly recommend avocado toast!).  These serene moments and calm meal will nourish you throughout the day.

2.  Pick one way to pamper yourself.

What makes you feel special and taken care of?  Maybe you love manicures, bubble baths, or silk pajamas.  I love getting regular facials.  I’ve been self-conscious about my skin my entire life and treating myself to a facial is one way that I release those negative feelings and do something to make myself feel good.

3.  I hate to break it to you…but…exercise.

The word “exercise” used to make me run and hide.  Now I crave yoga.   The change?  I found a form of exercise that worked for me and did it on my own terms.  Even if I only have 15 minutes, my time on the mat is “me” time and allows me to release the stresses of the day.  Maybe you like to take walks with your dog, go a few rounds with a punching bag or swim laps.  Physical activity is a phenomenal stress reliever and an investment in yourself and your future.

4.  Be kind to yourself.

Cut yourself some slack.  Maybe you ate a package of guacamole and called it dinner (confession time!), went to bed before the sun set on a Friday, or got sucked into an all-day Bravo marathon even though the sink was full of dishes.  It’s okay.  Life moves on and so should you.

5.  Focus on your breath.

The times when I feel the most anxious are the times when I’m not breathing.  We tend to hold our breath or take shallow mini-breaths when we’re tense or concentrating.  Spend 5 minutes a day really tuning into your breath.  I’m not saying that you need a meditation pillow and new age music playing – although I am a big believer in a regular meditation practice because it’s what works for me.  Just focus on your breathing…anywhere, anytime.  Maybe you’re stuck in traffic, in line at the grocery store, at your desk, or settling into bed for the night.  Allow yourself to sit or stand up straight and take long, deep breaths in and out.  You want your abdomen to fill up on each inhale and cave in on each exhale.  I honestly believe this is the best way to take care of yourself.  Your stress and tension will automatically decrease each time you focus on your breath!

Self-care is about identifying the things that are important to YOU and will work for YOU.  How are you going to make self-care a priority?