9 Self Care Practices to Manage Your Desire to Succeed

My latest blog post  was published on PersonalGrowth.com

Have a strong desire to succeed and always improve?  Then you are hard-working and driven Go-Getter.  The world is your oyster. Seriously, You're amazing!  

Step up your game by giving yourself a much deserved self-care routine, that will assist in further success by attending to your need for rejuvenation.

In my new article published on PersonalGrowth.com, I detail 9 self-care steps that are sure to manage your stress levels and renew you for your next work endeavor.

Read the full article below...


Self Care Practices to Manage your Desires to Succeed and Allow you Time to Just Be

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In a fast paced world and with a desire to always improve and be better than the next, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up and maintain the satisfaction of success.

As a self-proclaimed “perfectionist,” I know this feeling all too well.  The desire to produce and succeed often results in losing sight of the purpose of our hard work.  We become resentful, exhausted, and burned-out.  

Our society and culture has taught us that it is productivity that creates success; “The key to success is hard work and determination.”  And while this may be true at times, isn’t there more to life?

Although most have a strong desire to succeed, don’t we equally have a strong desire to just ‘be?’  Be quiet, be still, and be free.  How many times have you fantasized about a day with nothing to do, where you could just lay on the couch and relax or engage in a leisure activity of your choice?  No tasks, no chores, no deadlines.  Just sweet, sweet, quiet. 

If you fantasize about this often, then you likely need a self-care routine to balance your productivity.  Dedication and hard work are very important, but so are rest and relaxation.   In fact, it is times of quiet and stillness that allow us harness creativity, recharge and refuel, and ultimately produce effectively.

Here are 9 self-care practices to assist you in letting go of your desire to ‘Do’ and increase your ability to ‘Be.’

1.     Learn to say “No.”

Let’s face it, there is never enough time in the day to complete all the tasks and activities our hearts desires.  Therefore, in order to maximize on what’s really important, you have to learn to say “No” to all the extraneous stuff, particularly the tasks or activates that keep you from behaving in line with your values.  Ask yourself what NEEDS to get done and then ask yourself what you may be willing to let go of in order to manage self-care.    

2.     Unplug from technology.

Yep, that’s right.  Turn it off.  I know it’s difficult, but just try it out.  Remember you can always turn your tech back on, so no need to worry for too long.  You deserve it.  Turn off your smart phone, tablet, computer, and even your TV.  It’s time to get quiet.  

3.     Find stillness.

Schedule some time to get quiet and become still.  Start by connecting with your breath. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.  Notice your belly rise as you breathe in and notice your belly fall as you breathe out. Take a full deep inhale through your nose.  Pause, then begin to slowly breathe out your nose.  Pause, completely emptying out all the air from your belly.  Repeat this 5 more times and you will be on your way to finding stillness.  

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4.     Connect to your 5 senses

Connect to your sense of sight.  Look around the space you are currently in and begin to internally label the things that you can see around you.  Connect to your sense of touch.  Without moving, begin to internally label the things that you can feel.  Notice the weight of your body as you sit or stand, notice the feeling of clothes on your body, and notice the coolness of air on your skin.  Connect to your sense of sound.  Become aware of the distant sounds that are outside of the room you are currently in, just noticing.  Then direct your attention to the closer sounds just inside the room you are in, internally label all the things you can hear.  Maybe bring your sense of sound even closer and see if you can hear the sounds inside your body, your heart beat, your breath, etc.  Move on to connect to your sense of scent.  Notice all of the things that you can smell in the space around you, internally labeling these.  Lastly, connect to your sense of taste.  Become aware of the things that you can taste, as well as notice any absence of taste that may be happening.

5.     Move

In your free time, try to get moving.  Go for a walk, take a yoga class, ride your bike, go to the gym, dance, or whatever get’s you going.  Literally.  Movement and exercise improves your healthy in so many ways.  We all know about the physical benefits of exercise, including managing weight, cholesterol, heart health, and improving sleep.  But did you know that exercise and movement also can also improve your emotional and psychological wellbeing? Research has shown that exercise also regulates mood, improves symptoms of depression, increases feelings of happiness, improves cognition and memory, and may even increases self-esteem and feelings of self-worth and confidence. 

6.     Participate in nature

There is something so healing and restorative about connecting to nature. This is about taking a break from worldly stressors in order to keep things simple and return to basics.  Breathe the air, smell the trees, see the colors, and get dirty.  Return to your roots and connect with the earth.  You could even ‘kill two birds with one stone,’ figuratively speaking of course, and get out into nature and move at the same time by taking a hike, flying a kite at the beach, gardening in your back yard, or taking yoga at the park. 

7.     Develop a gratitude practice

Try to get into the habit of identifying gratefulness.  Dedicate a specific time in your day to use this practice, such as first thing in the morning when you wake up or right before lying down to bed.  Identify three things to be grateful for.  These can be as big or as small as you like.  When you feel particularly challenged in identifying things to be grateful for, just keep it simple.  Maybe you are simply grateful for your morning coffee, a kind word from a stranger, or even a fleeting feeling of contentment.  Even in times of difficulty, we all have something to be grateful for. 

8.     Be kind to yourself

Can we be mean to ourselves, or what?  We have got to be better at this!  Our private thoughts about ourselves can be just awful.  We wouldn’t dream to make such negative statements to any other person, so why do we do this to ourselves?  If you find yourself with unkind and unhelpful thoughts, engage in a technique called Thought Stopping by noticing the negative statement, pausing, and then stating out loud to yourself, “Stop it,” “Knock it off,” or “Shut up,” stopping that negative thought dead in it’s tracks.  Then choose a thought that is more kind, or if not kind, at least useful.  Ask yourself, “Is __________________ (Thought; E.g. “I’m worthless”) useful for a vital and meaningful life?”  If the answer is no, choose another thought that is more useful.

9.     Give back

Last, but not least, don’t forget to give back.  Get active in a cause that is near and dear to your heart.  Volunteer, advocate, or just lend an ear to a loved one.  Often times we get so busy with our own personal dilemmas and stresses that we lose sight of the bigger picture, leading us to feel small and disconnected.  So, get involved in something that it outside of you and your benefit.  Use your skills and areas of expertise to offer a helping hand to someone.  The rewards are not just your own satisfaction of offering assistance, but you may be the impetus in changing someone’s life, which has the potential to reach to countless other individuals.  The sky is the limit!

Why Letting Go of What We Want Enables Us To Get What We Need

My latest blog post on Paradox and Letting Go is now up on Tiny Buddha.  This was a very challenging one for me to share about, because it is incredibly personal, but I've been meaning to do it for some time.  Living in Truth and Vulnerability.  Read full article below:


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“The most exquisite paradox: as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can’t have it. The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.” ~Ram Dass

The first time I felt this paradox was in the middle of savasana after a challenging yoga class. I always say that yoga is a metaphor for life, and this is exactly why.

Savasana is the final resting pose in which you lay flat on your back, close your eyes, and do nothing. A super yummy savasana is just so due after your work throughout the class.

The more you are challenged throughout the yoga flow, the more likely you are to be pushed to a place of brokenness. You gave your all, and now you are spent. Dizzy and exhausted, you settle into savasana and release your entire body into the earth.

Lying on the cold, hard ground never felt so good. You lie in silence, let your thoughts and breath go, and completely release. You feel deliciously blissful. And you might actually be feeling emotions for the first time all day, or maybe even all week.

A slight smile spreads across your face as the sweat beads drip from your forehead. Or tears quietly stream from your eyes as you feel absolute joy and gratefulness. By the end of that savasana, you feel incredible. You feel like yourself again. You know you are whole.

And it’s a good thing they have you do savasana at end of class, because you need the build up of tension during your yoga flow in order to allow yourself to really let go and just be.

Could you imagine doing savasana at the beginning of class? Mind buzzing from a long, stressful day, thoughts racing. It’s possible, but much harder to do.

This was how I came to understand the paradox of letting go in order to become whole. And trust me, it took many years of therapy, meditation, reading, seeking, and savasana to get there.

We often cling to our desires and fight for them because we think we’ll be happy if we get what we want. But when we let go and accept what is, what shows up for us are often the things we need. 

These things tend to be the ones that really count, creating true happiness and meaning in our lives.

But let’s face it, letting go on some issues is easier said than done. When it comes to deeper issues and matters of the heart, letting go can feel downright impossible. And on some issues, letting go may never happen. Some burdens may be too important not to bear. That is okay.

However, even on the more difficult issues you may be facing, there still may be places in which you can soften your grip.

I have had a strained relationship with my father since birth. From about four years old, I knew that he did not love me.

All throughout my childhood, my father was both physically and emotionally abusive. My mother was loving, but also put in a position of trying to appease her husband, while at the same time protecting my siblings and me. This inevitably led to a lot of confusion and chaos in the household.

Things finally came to a head when I was about ten. I was severely depressed, expressing passive thoughts of suicide, and displaying classic behaviors and symptoms of trauma. 

After a couple years of therapy and attempting to repair things in the home, my mother decided to divorce my father.

Due to the history with my father, the court granted my siblings and me the opportunity to decide for ourselves whether or not we would like to visit him. Perfect timing too; my twelfth birthday was right around the corner as the divorce was being finalized.

So, it was at the age of twelve when I decided to no longer participate in weekly visitation with my father. I would still see him occasionally for family events and holidays, but I kept my distance and he kept his.

In my mid-twenties, I had little to no contact with my father, only seeing him about once a year for the holidays. However, I confronted him via email, defending my younger sister on an issue she was dealing with.

She was only sixteen at the time, and was devastated when my father packed up all her belongings from his home and dropped them off on my mother’s doorstep without any warning. Apparently, she was no longer welcome in his home, and their relationship, too, was ending.

In my father’s correspondence to me, he verbally confirmed what I had know all along, and stated outright that he did not love me and did not need me in his life.

I was devastated and inconsolable. Although I had known and felt this since I was a small child, I had not actually heard these words before. Something about those words broke me wide open.

I spun out of control and began a turbulent phase in my life in which I became severely depressed and anxious.

I immediately began doing work in therapy, finally addressing the years of trauma that I had experienced, coming to terms with my broken relationship with my father. It was here that I began the long process of healing.

Ten years later, I am significantly stronger. However, trauma is stored in our bodies, in our tissues, and in our brain chemistry, reminding me at times that it’s still there, but a mere shadow of what it used to be. Like an onion, the layers of trauma must be pulled back one at time.

Looking back on my recovery process, the most challenging part for me had to do with my clinging to questions of what happened. 

I couldn’t understand why this had happened to me. I couldn’t let go of the fact that I was unloved by my father. I needed to have answers. I had been wrestling with these questions my entire life, and was bruised and broken time and time again, with no end in sight. This deep need and clinging only lead to more pain and hurt.

Through therapy and yoga, I have come to let go of this ideal. I now know that I may never have the answers to my questions. I likely will never fully understand why this happened, why I had to experience this, or why my father behaved in this way.

Now, instead of wrestling, I stand beside my questions, I cradle them in my arms, I offer them support, and I show them kindness. The questions, the injustice, the memories of hurt can be there, and I lovingly accept them into my life.

More than this, I know that I am loved, that I am deserving, that I am kind, that I am a survivor, and I am whole. I always have been.

In order to find acceptance and wholeness in my life, I had to release my death grip on my ideal relationship with my father.

Whatever ideal outcome you’re clinging to, could you be open to the possibility of releasing it so that you can breathe, yield, and expand into something that is bigger? Could you give yourself time and create space so that you can become concise and clear about your being?

If you can do these things, you will get what you need.

Not unlike that challenging yoga flow I spoke of earlier, the real work comes when your body, mind, and spirit has been fully broken, your heart has been ripped wide open, and there is nothing left to do.

And, no this is not easy. It will be hard.

Letting go will make you question your identity, leaving you wondering if you give this one thing up, who will you be? What will you stand for? Will all your stress, worry, pain, hurt, sadness, be in vain? If you let go, who will believe your story? What will others think of you? What else will you have to let go of? What will you do next?”

And here is where the paradox begins!

“What will I do next?” is a tough question that can be scary to even consider. But it is here that change happens, and you do have a choice. Wholeness is knocking at your door, and you know what they say, “When one door closes, another door opens.”

All that is required is to let go of the past and step boldly and bravely into your true self, your beautiful, loving, compassionate, deserving self. It is from this place of being that you may know wholeness.

Knitting as Self-Care

It wasn’t until I was in my Masters program for Clinical Psychology that I ever heard the words “self-care.”  Self-care was drilled into our teachings, due to the fact that burn-out is high in healing professions.  When I think of this, what always comes to mind is the speech given by flight attendants before takeoff,

“In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth….  If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.”

Clearly, it is imperative to help yourself before you are able to help others.

Yet, since my educational years, I hear ‘self-care’ used quite often, in many different contexts, many of which are unrelated to the psychology field or other helping professions.  This little phase seems to have caught on, and we are all, no doubt, thankful.

Self-care is so important because it keeps us fresh, clear-headed, and motivated.  It allows us time to re-charge and experience life’s pleasures.  Self-care increases productivity.  It gives us feelings of well-being.  And if you are in a healing or caring profession (this includes all the mothers out there), self-care increases empathy, compassion, and your ability to provide to others.

The best part, self-care means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. What may be self-care to me, may not be self-care to you, and vice versa.  Also, there are many activities out there that could be self-care if only I had the time or interest to try them (i.e. surfing, painting, martial arts, running, _____________ fill in the blank).  Therefore, here, I want to discuss interesting forms of self-care, specifically, knitting.

Maybe knitting is already your self-care and you didn’t know it.  Maybe you knew knitting was your self-care, although it wasn’t really your intention to be such; you just like to knit!  Maybe you’ve never tried knitting before, but could dig it.  Or maybe you think knitting ‘is for girls’ or for ‘nerds’ and wouldn’t think to touch it with a 10 foot pole.

Well think again!

Knitting is for everyone!  As long as you are willing and show a little interest, knitting might just be the best thing that ever happened to you, as far as self-care is concerned.  And if you already believe this whole-heartedly, well, as they say, keep on wit’ yo’ bad self!

Here are nine reasons why knitting is therapeutic and an excellent self-care tool:

1.  Knitting increases focus and attention:

Depending on the project you set out to make, the effort required to knit something varies.  On the more difficult projects, such as socks or a sweater, you most likely will follow a pattern that requires great attention and focus.  There certainly will be counting and some math involved, multitasking on different parts of the project at the same time, fine motor skills, spatial relations, and eye-hand coordination.  Research demonstrates that these kinds of tasks, particularly motor tasks, increase cell and brain development in the areas of thinking and focused attention (Schwartz, E., Knitting and Intellectual Development, 2012).  Therefore, by knitting you may be improving your academic and vocation abilities.

2. Knitting cultivates brain laterality

Brain Laterality refers to the ability to use both hemispheres of the brain.  Although we do use both sides of the brain, many of us have one side of the brain that is more predominant than the other.  To very simply summarize this process, the left side of your brain is more rational, analytical, logical, and linear, while the right side of your brain is more social, emotional, experiential, creative, and deals with interconnection of parts to create a whole (Siegel, D., Mindsight, 2010.)  If you are one who tends to be more left brained, you may be cut off from your emotions, rigid, and resistant.  If you are one who tends to be more right brained, you may be very sensitive and have difficulty regulating emotions.  Research demonstrates that cohesion between both sides of the brain, left and right hemispheres, allows for increased feelings of well-being, as one is able to better balance various aspects of life, the logical and analytical, as well as the emotional and spiritual (Siegel, D., Mindsight, 2010.)  Specifically, knitting helps to increase brain laterality, or cohesion of both brain hemispheres, because the creative process of knitting activates the right hemisphere, while the mathematical and spatial aspects of knitting activate the left hemisphere.  Also, knitting requires the use of both hands which naturally activates both hemispheres of the brain.

3. Knitting allows for silence and stillness:

Silence is golden, and seemingly harder to find these days.  The world seems to be going faster and faster, with the internet, cell phones, social media, and all those dang apps, we hardly have any down time anymore.  Therefore, in order to slow down and make time for ourselves we must make a committed effort and serious action to rest and decompress from the day’s events.  Knitting gives you the space for this.  It is the time when you can, and probably should, turn off the computer, TV, cell phone, etc, and just be quiet and still.  Trust me.  You’ll thank me later.

4.  Knitting is a form of meditation:

In a traditional meditation practice you focus all your attention on a neutral area of the body, usually your breathe.  You notice the sensations of breathing as you sit in stillness and silence.  When a thought, sound, emotion, or some other distraction arises, you notice the distraction, let it got and then return to the sensation of breathing.  The principals are the same with knitting.  However, while knitting your focal area will be your hands and fingers.  Focus your attention on the sensations of knitting; the yarn running across finger tips, the throwing of the yarn, the movement of the needs, the clicking sound of the needles, the texture of the stitches, the weight of the yarn, etc.  When you notice a thought or another distraction, simply notice it and when it no longer holds your attention return your focus to the sensations of knitting.  In this way, you are increasing present moment awareness and not being swayed by thoughts of the past or future.  As in any meditation, present moment awareness increases mood regulation, empathy and compassion, feeling of well-being, relaxation, immunity, and resting functions of the body.

5. Knitting is calming:

Anyone who has ever knit before will tell you how relaxing it can be.  After you learn the basic skill and technique, your hands go on autopilot and you don’t even have to think about how to make each stitch.  The subsequent relaxation that this cultivates is due to “flow,” which is defined by a Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, as “a few moments in time when you are so completely absorbed by an activity that nothing else seems to matter” (Wilson, J., This Is Your Brain on Knitting, 2014).  The repetitive movements of knitting induce flow by centering your attention on the task at hand.  This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, or the part of the brain responsible for rest, relaxation, and reparative functions of the body (Wilson, J., This Is Your Brain on Knitting, 2014). 

6.  Knitting induces faith:

In knitting, you create something from nothing.  It is faith that gets you through that process.  In order for it to work, you must believe that your repetitive movements and skill will build stitch upon stitch to create something new and unique.   And when I say “new,” I mean new.  Don’t be stuck in the traditional conventions of knitting, scarves, socks, sweaters.  You can literally make anything you want.  For example, Olek, a knit artist based out of Poland, has knit the Wall Street bull, full body suits, her house, and even under water, among many others!  If that doesn’t take an act of faith, I don’t know what does.

7.  Knitting increases self-esteem:

Once you are done knitting something, anything at all, a sock, a buoy, or just your first row, you will feel pride.  That is guaranteed.   Knitting is a task that when completed you feel successful.  Also, knitting is a safe way to increase self-esteem, because it is usually a very neutral task; there isn’t much riding on whether or not you are a good knitter.  Therefore, by practicing knitting you will most definitely increase feelings of confidence.

8.  Knitting tackles perfectionism

Inevitably when you knit, you will make a mistake; you might drop a stitch, create the wrong kind of stitch, forget an important aspect of the pattern, decrease or increase too few or too many, etc.   Yes, you can go back and fix it, but depending on how far down your project the problem lies, it might be quite a hassle.  Also, probably no one will notice your knitting mistakes, except for maybe you as the creator.  This is a lesson, not only in patience, but in embracing imperfection.  Fix what you can and let the rest go.

9.  Knitting teaches acceptance:

Ah, acceptance.  The hardest and most profound lesson in life.  Because you will make mistakes, because mistakes are inevitable, you will struggle with letting go and accepting things as they are.  Just remember this:  in knitting and in life, there will be difficulty.  Allow that difficulty to be what it is, rather than avoiding it, trying to change it, or get pissed off about it, just sit with it.  When you do you will find that things can naturally change and unfold into something amazing.  Use knitting as a tool to start this process.  In that way, knitting is a more tolerable metaphor that you can practice to help you with life’s more serious difficulties.

 

* This blog post was a collaboration project for AK Kerani, a company dedicated to promoting mental health and wellness through knitted fashion. Click here for the direct link for this article featured at AK Kerani.  Be apart of the movement to erase the stigma of mental health.  Comment below to get involved in mental health awareness. *