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Self-Care and Community Service

I see you. You’re juggling business, relationships, and taking care of kids, partners, parents, and/or clients. People tell you you’re a superwoman because, well, look at your superpowers! But tell me this:

Who’s taking care of you?

Take a minute and let that question echo through your consciousness. If you can’t honestly declare, "I'm taking care of myself,” without any guilt or embarrassment, we need to talk.

Only you can say what self-care you need to feel your best. Don’t be influenced by what society says you should do for/to yourself; if those regular mani-pedis or blowouts make you feel good, enjoy! But ask yourself whether you’re doing them for yourself or for others. Take a moment to identify what self-care means to you.

Far longer lasting than mani-pedis or blowouts are the effects of intentional eating and mindful movement. We imagine that these things have to be hard, that we have to join a gym or start a big diet. But you don’t need to cut out all the foods that you love or run a marathon to care for your body. Small changes can make a big difference. Drink more water. Limit sweets. Take a walk. Read something uplifting.

These small acts of kindness towards your body will strengthen your mind-body connection, and you’ll gain a greater awareness of the messages your body is constantly sending you. Tuning into your body puts you at a distinct advantage over those who don’t. Your body is gathering information about your environment and filtering it through your subconscious mind at a rate of 11 million bits of information per second. Your rational, conscious mind can only process 40-50 bits per second. If you’ve been ignoring what your body is telling you, you’re cutting off an extremely valuable source of knowledge and inspiration. You’re ignoring your intuition.

But there’s so much more to you than just your body. Your mind needs nourishment, and so does your soul. Here too, small changes make a huge difference. What if instead of collapsing on the couch in front of the television and getting worked up over the news every evening, you open a book, or listen to an engaging podcast while you make dinner? Maybe read a poem aloud and revel in its sounds and the rhythm, the imagery and the metaphors. Take ten minutes a day to stretch in a doorway, or daydream. Do whatever is pleasing to you and you’ll notice right away that you feel better about, well, everything.

I know women who resist taking care of themselves because they equate self-care with selfishness. But we could learn a lot from the flight attendants who tell us to put on our own oxygen masks before attempting to help anyone else. You’re no good to anyone when you’ve passed out from lack of oxygen and are slumped unconscious on your panicked toddler or companion.

Not taking care of yourself is the energetic equivalent of failing to put on your oxygen mask. If you don’t practice self-care first, you may not be around to take care of those you love. What’s more, they may not want you around. When you’re exhausted or stressed, when your body hurts and your soul is heavy with worry and anxiety, you make life more difficult for everyone around you. Too much stress makes your temper short, builds resentment, creates a sense of martyrdom. It prevents you from being fully present and aware of the people in your life because you’re too wrapped up in your own physical and emotional pain. And it’s not good for you, either. You cannot access the creativity of your subconscious mind or use the information that your body is gathering because you’re too preoccupied with your own issues.

So, grow curious about how to feel your best – physically and emotionally. Make a list of things you can do that make you happy. Don’t concern yourself with what society advises, but listen to what your own body says. Find the time to do the things that make your heart sing. It will free up the physical, emotional, and mental energy you need to truly care for others.

When you make self-care a way of life, you are performing an act of community service. It’s putting on your mask so you can then assist others. And that’s good for everyone.

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