Finding balance in our busy lives is a challenge for most of us.
In the most recent American Psychological Association publication, the Monitor on Psychology (July/August, 2016), I read an article intended for psychologists entitled “Seeking more balance” by Kirsten Weir.
She wrote, “Even though psychologists are well-versed in the principles behind work-life balance, achieving it personally can be a struggle.”
I certainly have found that to be true for the majority of psychologists and health practitioners that I know. As with many of the women who come to Green Mountain at Fox Run, putting our own self-care at the top of our priorities can be a real struggle.
Indeed, work-life balance and burnout are common among even those of us who talk a lot with clients about the importance of self-care and putting our own health and well-being before the busyness of care-taking, our personal drive and ambition, and our need for productivity.
Many of us would agree with the author of the article, “…no one is as productive as they can be when they are exhausted and overworked”.
Incorporating Self-Care Into Busy Lives
But adding more tasks, even if they are self-care tasks, can be difficult to even consider if we are truly immersed in our go, go, go lifestyle.
A recommendation from Sandra Lewis, PsyD, from Montclair State University was that everyone “Find self-care strategies that you can integrate in rather than add on. Honor the smaller things.” I think this is very good advice.
Sometimes self-care can be as simple as setting a timer and being sure to take a 5-minute break every 25 to 30 minutes, or it can be parking farther away from the office building to get a little extra walk in, or reaching out to a friend for a quick hello on your phone as you walk to your car at the end of the day.
Here at Green Mountain, one of our slogans is that “something is better than nothing,” which reflects how small self-care practices don’t have to be big add-ons to our day, but can be integrated into our existing routines.
It’s important to create meaningful opportunities for self-care every day.
In this article, Kirsten Weir offers several research-based strategies for better balance that are recommended by psychologists for psychologists.
Interestingly, these strategies are all taught here at Green Mountain at Fox Run in our Core Program, and I am reminded of the need to practice these strategies in my own daily life .
8 Strategies for Incorporating Self-Care Into Your Life
Be present in the very moment you are in, present without judgment. Practice 5 deep breaths throughout the day as Shiri, our clinical director and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction expert, recommends.
Look for Silver Linings
Find the positive or the gift in any situation (yes, this takes practice but it is so worthwhile to develop this capacity). I teach this practice in several of my classes including ‘Cultivating Gratitude’ and ‘Perspectives on Stress’.
Draw from Positive Psychology
Focus on what is right with you and with others instead of what is wrong.
Take Advantage of Social Support
You are loved and appreciated, so be mindful of that and reach out to those who support and care for you.
Seek Out Good Supervisors
Good bosses and supervisors provide opportunities to grow personally and professionally and help us find meaning in our daily work lives.
Get moving, and as Anne, our program director and Drums Alive instructor, will tell you, have fun with your movement and find joy and laughter when you move.
Get outside and go “Vermonting” as we call it here at Green Mountain at Fox Run. Lori, our yoga, meditation and Vermonting guru, is always encouraging everyone to get out into the woods, meadows, and back country roads for some natural beauty and fresh air.
Make Your Life Meaningful
Seek and pursue meaning over avoiding discomfort, as health psychologist Kelly McGonigal recommends in her book The Upside of Stress.
Sandra Lewis states that “People focus a lot on time management, but [she] think[s] in terms of personal energy management. If you have enough energy, you make better use of your time… In the same way we charge our cellphones, we need to charge ourselves.”
These strategies, practices, and wisdom ring true for psychologists and non-psychologists alike.
We all must honor our practices of self-care because our health and well-being are the most important and valuable assets that we have. Our health and well-being enable us to be better and more satisfying versions of ourselves, more balanced, joyful, and self-compassionate beings.
The world is a better place when we are practicing self-care every day, even if our practice is completed in very small ways.