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By Jenny Aiello

With our busy lives, taking care of ourselves is more important than ever – yet it’s often the last thing on our minds. We have to meet that deadline, use break time to run errands, and accomplish all the items on our lists. We all know the negative impact stress can have on our health so let’s find some balance. Take this self-quiz to see how well you are taking care of yourself.

T/F When I’m upset and/or feeling hopeless, I talk about the situation with a friend, family member or therapist. And if I need help, I ask for it.
T/F I let go of the way things used to be. I accept the way things are.
T/F Every day I do something physical even if it’s just a walk around the block or a 15-minute workout.
T/F I eat healthy foods and take time to enjoy each one of my meals. I don’t work, drive or multi-task while I eat.
T/F I think positively. I view problems as opportunities and obstacles as an invitation to grow and build my stamina.
T/F I can say ‘no’ when I need or want to.
T/F I remember to breathe.
T/F If I’m experiencing physical symptoms, I go to the appropriate health care professional. I don’t panic about the symptoms, and I don’t deny them either.
T/F I can settle for “good enough.” I don’t demand perfection in everything that I do.
T/F I recognize the value of working in different gears. Some tasks require less effort. That saves energy for those times when I need to push myself.
T/F I get plenty of rest each night.
T/F I value my personal relationships and give them the time and energy they deserve.
T/F I choose healthy ways to relieve stress. I don’t rely on crutches such as smoking, drinking and overeating.
T/F I recognize the importance of breaks during the day, as well as vacations throughout the year.
T/F I listen to, and respect, my feelings.

If you answered false to any of these, you may want to take an honest look at the impact your choices may be having on your overall well-being.  Go back and read the answers that were False and become mindful of those times when you compromise your health and well-being. Focus on changing some thoughts and behaviors that are no longer serving you.

Self-care became a lot more important to me a few years ago.  I had been taking my health for granted. But then I began to notice some subtle warning signs that I knew would lead to bigger issues if I didn’t address them. I noticed that I felt guilty putting my needs before others, especially my family. I realized that the resentment was building and my exhaustion was increasing each and every day and I wasn’t giving those I loved most the BEST parts of me. With good self-care, I replenished my energy and had more to give to others.

FruitsBelow is a list of my TOP FIVE SELF-CARE PRACTICES:

Healthy, organic, whole foods. Sadly, eating well is not an inexpensive choice. I used to skip the good wholesome, organic foods because of the price. I felt guilty spending money on expensive vegetables and healthy foods. Now, I recognize that investing in my health by eating whole, healthy foods is a good investment, and I’m worth it! So is my family.

SleepingRest. I remember a day when my kids were still in elementary school and I was either running to do laundry or running to make dinner or running to pick someone up… running, running, running. And one day, I decided to lie down on the couch for 15 minutes and read a magazine. My kids all thought I was sick! They had never seen me do that before! I thought about the message I was giving my children by never stopping to rest. So now, I make sure I indulge myself in a nice afternoon nap now and then, and each night… I make sure I get 7-8 hours of peaceful slumber. We demand a lot from our bodies each day, let’s nurture them with just a little bit more rest!

HikingFind a way to exercise that is fun. I am not a fan of exercise. I have never found it fun or rewarding to be inside of a gym. Exercise to me is like turning up the volume on all those negative, self-deprecating chatterboxes in my mind. But I do love to have fun and my adventurous spirit loves a challenge. So as often as I possibly can, I get outside and do something to move my body that I enjoy, and then it doesn’t feel like exercise. Lately, I’ve been biking with my husband. We love it! I lose my breath and my legs feel weak and tired after a ride – so it must be working! Also, during certain times of the year, we hike… especially in the mountains. I’m usually so enamored with the beauty along the trail I don’t notice that I’m huffing and puffing my way to the top of the mountain. That’s my kind of exercise! Next year, I think I’ll try kayaking! And yoga… always a good staple, but I’ve yet to make it a part of self-care routine. And its kind of silly because I know that yoga would embrace the level of self-acceptance and self-care that I need most! For now, I’m happy finding adventure and fun as a way to get my exercise! What do you do for exercise?

Bubble BathRelaxation Baths. Submerging into a hot tub of water that is filled with the scent of lavender, watching the steam rise up from the water and flirt with the candlelight around my tub, hearing nothing but the soft music in the background… ahhhhh. I am a big believer in the art of relaxation baths! I use aromatherapy, music and ambience to create the most amazing experience you can imagine. When a friend was staying with me, I suggested she go upstairs and take a relaxation bath and she didn’t know what that was. So I said I would prepare her bath if she were willing to partake in the experience. She was. When she came back downstairs wrapped in a white fluffy bathrobe, she said she was more relaxed than after having a full-body massage. I use Himalayan Sea Salts in the bath water… they detox your body while nourishing your skin. I use aromatherapy (lavender is my favorite) and candles. Try it! Close the door, shut out the world, quiet your mind, and submerge into the warm water. Repeat this 30 minute ritual once/week and you will let go of so much stress you won’t recognize yourself!

Be CreativeBe Creative. Tapping into our creativity brings great joy and relaxation to everyone! Learn how to knit. Practice the art of journaling. Learn to paint. Make a scrapbook. Take up photography. Find something that allows you to express yourself in a creative way. I recently began playing with paints and incorporating creativity into my journals. It’s an amazing new experience and I find myself craving more time for writing. Choose something that taps into your creativity and do more of that!

Self-care doesn’t have to be serious and fall into the category of getting your teeth cleaned or having annual health exams. Self-care is about nourishing your heart and soul too, right alongside of your body. Self-care adds JOY to your life and turns on your inner Light! Find something that lights you up, and do more of that! That’s what kind of self-care I’m talking about!

Action: Choose one of my favorites and add it to your weekly self-care routine! Identify several more self-care rituals that you are willing to incorporate into your life and begin doing that today. Leave a comment or send me an email. I’d love to hear from you!

Here’s to feeling more of that good ‘ol self-love!

Love and Blessings,