Self-care is a choice. When you find yourself feeling sorry for yourself because you "have to" hit the gym, because you "can't" have that piece of birthday cake or because you "wish" you could be like your friend who stays out late doing exciting things, remember that you're free to flop on the couch, have TWO pieces of cake or not go to sleep at all.
You're choosing self-care.
Instead of asking "Do I have to do this my whole life?" remind yourself, "I GET to do this my whole life, if I keep making the choice to!"
In his book, "Callings", Gregg Levoy writes, "In the Afghani tongue, the verb to cling is the same as to die."
To me, this drastic statement reminds me of the many years I clung to smoking, long after it stopped fitting into my life or my self-identity. I've been smoke-free for almost six years now, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to share what I've learned in my journey towards self-care.
My favourite self-care principle is to focus on what you want to add in, versus what you need to take out. In order to release the habits you might be clinging to, you need to shift the idea that you'll have to give up things that you love to take care better care of yourself.
When you begin, instead, to ADD nourishing self-care treatments, rituals and habits to your life, you'll become naturally ready to let go of what's not right for you. Because you've sent yourself the message that you're worth it.
You'll become clear about your priorities and will naturally let go of whatever doesn't fit into the new life that you're building – a new life of more energy, resilience and tolerance of stress, increased joy and ease of productivity.
TAKING IT TO YOUR SELF-CARE PLAN
Clutter: Instead of imagining you have to clear the clutter from your entire house or office, instead think about ONE AREA you'd really like to have clear. Think about the purpose that space will fulfill, what you'll do there, what it will look like, what it will feel like and the difference it will make to your life to have that space. Then go about creating (adding in) that space.
Emotions: What's an emotion you'd like to be feeling more every day? What makes you feel that way? Add in activities, people, reading, entertainment options or creative activities that bring about that emotion in you.
Getting off the couch: If you fall into the "couch potato" category (and I certainly did for many years of my life), try to trade the "nothing" you're doing for a "something". In the beginning it could be as simple as adding in a half hour of window-shopping at your local mall. Hey, at least you're up and out!!
New Foods: Browse through recipes in the library or in magazines or newspapers or on the Internet and try a new vegetable or two. Try and eat a different coloured fruit every day for one week. Shift your way of eating and try brand new things instead of just trying to find substitutes for what you're used to eating. Low-fat or sugar-free substitutes never seem to taste as good as the "real thing", they sometimes contain harmful additives, they're expensive and they don't encourage any lasting change or the fundamental shifts that are needed to truly make self-care a priority.
Relationships: Think about the qualities you'd like to be receiving more from the people in your life, and then practice GIVING those qualities at every opportunity.
Instead of thinking about what you might need to give up in order to practice better self-care, think about what you get to add in! And with the many forms of illness and disease that are linked to poor self-care habits, self-care is a luxury you can't afford to ignore!
Linda Dessau, BFA, MTA, CPCC is a self-care expert, accredited music therapist and certified life coach. Learn more about using singing for stress management, personal growth and spiritual development at www.singoutyourstress.com, where you can download the FREE report, "Top 10 Ways to Sing Out Your Stress".
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