by Natalie Durand-Bush, PhD, CMPC
Self-care is important when striving to achieve your physical activity, sport, or performance goals. Self-care comprises everything you do to maintain your health and prevent illness. It contributes to your goal achievement experience as well as your mental health. It determines whether or not you are functioning at maximum capacity on a daily basis.
To determine if you are neglecting yourself and need additional self-care, identify relevant personal indicators and warning signs. For example, pay attention to your FAST (Feelings, Actions, Sensations, Thoughts) and notice any significant changes. Are you feeling more down or exhausted than you normally do? Are you more irritated, achy, distracted, moody, isolated, or worried than usual? Do you have difficulty sleeping? Are people around you noticing and telling you that you look tired or aren’t acting like yourself? It is valuable to monitor your level of stress, burnout, and well-being while trying to accomplish your goals. Use a 0 to 10 rating scale and determine the cut-off score that will prompt you to prioritize self-care. The following is the SEWP (Self-Regulation for the Enhancement of Well-Being and Performance) program that you can follow to engage in regular self-care to fuel your mental health and goal achievement. It involves 12 basic actions that typically take less than 30 minutes to complete each day. If you are awake 16 hours in any given day, this is the equivalent of 3% of your waking hours – it is therefore minimal and realistic. You simply have to do it.
Start your day by prioritizing the demands or tasks you are facing. Use a quick system by assigning each task a number from 1 to 5 (ex. 5 = get it done right away; 4 = get it done today; 3 = get it done in the next 48 hours; 2 = get it done this week; and 1 = get to it if and when you get a chance).
2. SET A ME GOAL.
Take 2 minutes to set a goal that will contribute to your own well-being (ex. make an appointment to get your eyes checked, read a few pages out of the book you bought, call home to talk to your partner).
Get off your seat, computer, or phone and move for 5 minutes (ex. get some fresh air, take the stairs, run around the block, park as far as possible from the entrance).
4. SHARE THE LOAD.
Take a few minutes to delegate tasks. Learn to let go of some control and trust other people. You are not alone; others can help.
5. SAY IT POSITIVELY.
Stop the negative chatter and phrase things positively in your head. For example, turn “I hate meetings” into “Just go contribute something and learn.” Also, say something positive to someone else and note how you can get energized from this.
Take 3 minutes to engage in mindful breathing. Slow it down and feel or visualize the air flowing in and out of your heart area. This is 18 full breaths if you breathe 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. You will likely see positive effects after just a few weeks.
7. HAVE A BITE TO EAT.
Grab a healthy snack and pack it the night before if you can. You need fuel throughout your day to focus and meet all the day’s demands.
8. REAPPRAISE A DIFFICULT SITUATION.
Pick one situation that is causing you stress and change your perspective. See it in a different or more positive light and watch how your energy and focus change (ex. instead of seeing this SEWP program as an impossible feat, start by incorporating 2 steps each day and adding a few steps each week until you can complete all 12 steps).
9. CHECK IN.
Ask yourself once per morning, afternoon, and evening “What am I thinking, feeling, and doing? Is this helping or depleting me?” Based on your response, accept and move on or make a change. It’s that simple.
10. TAKE A BREAK.
You are not a machine, even though you might like to be one. Turn the switch off to get a mental break (ex. get up to stretch, listen to your favorite song, joke around with a colleague).
11. TALK TO AN ENERGY GIVER.
You know those people who energize you, make you feel good, lift you up, or just make you laugh? Make a point of talking to at least one of them every day.
Be the bigger person and forgive those who have caused you grief or concern. Have some self-compassion and forgive yourself for making mistakes and for not meeting expectations or goals.