Make deliberate choices in caring for yourself

Features Columnist

With so much going on in our lives, it is so important that we take time to take care of ourselves. So often we think that we are doing this at an optimal level when we exercise regularly, watch our caloric intake, get massages when we are stressed, and maintain our social lives. And, we are taking care of ourselves in doing these things, but we are much more than our external physical selves. What are we doing to take care of the emotional, mental, and spiritual parts of ourselves?

I have learned that to truly take care of myself, I must live my life in balance. Not that there is some perfect measurement of this status I choose to call balance, rather I conclude that it is a state of being that varies from person to person where we one is operating wholly at her/his best. This can be confusing when we associate accomplishing achievements and acquiring material gain with being at our best. It is entirely possible to achieve a lot of success, however one defines it, and not be in balance or at one’s best. Truly taking care of ourselves goes beyond the external shell and requires us to attend to our emotional experience, mental well-being, and spiritual connectedness.

What kinds of things are we doing to honor our feelings, listen to our bodies, and connect to our Higher Power? What are we doing to slow down and appreciate the subtle joys and simple pleasures that exist all around us? We might count calories to avoid weight gain, but are we being mindful about what foods we put into our bodies? We might do a lot for others and work harder than most at our jobs, but how are we replenishing and refueling from these withdrawals and depletions? Do we wait for burnout or some other glaring sign that we are experiencing chronic stress before we move into action and begin making changes to take care of ourselves?

Truly taking care of ourselves begins from the inside. Living in balance is attending to ourselves from the inside out. Finding what brings you peace and incorporating those things into your daily life is key to achieving balance. Also, taking an inventory of your life and discovering areas where changes are needed and then making the changes can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

A personal example from my own life is that a couple of years ago I had noticed that I always felt like I was rushing and behind. I had absolutely no peace to start my days. It seemed like although I had good intentions to be early, I’d always find that I was rushing to just make it on time. Eventually, I found that making small changes in preparing better the night before helped tremendously, but also allotting myself more time in the mornings to express gratitude and connect spiritually created a different start to my day. My focus shifted from not being late, to being connected to the present moment with gratitude. So while I made small behavioral changes initially, what happened was that there was a shift in my thinking about and relationship to my mornings and my time. As a result, I gained peace in that part of my day which was an added benefit to the rest of my day.

Operating in balance is an active and ongoing process where we must be deliberate in our choices and decisions about how to treat ourselves on a daily basis. Ultimately, we want to live in ways not preoccupied with how to avoid burnout, chronic stress, or emotional breakdowns, rather we want to practice living well.

Be encouraged.

Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at ln_dunn@yahoo.com.