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7 Secrets to Self-Care

By Lisa Brick

YOU are the kingpin of your life, the main axle, the engine, the foundation…not a significant other, not your kids, not your parents, not your relatives, and not your friends. YOU are the most important person in your life and therefore the primary person to maintain yourself well.  The 7 Secrets of Self-Care can be seen as seven practices which will support you in creating the life you’ve identified and  desire for yourself.

If you have a significant other, kids, parents, relatives, and friends congratulations!  It is important that you take care of you well for them too.  You can only be there for them sustainably if you are here for yourself first.  This is not selfishness.  This is self awareness.  This is assuming personal responsibility for yourself and your life so you have the clarity, grounding, and vitality to create a life that not only you will enjoy but one that will also enhance the lives of those you care about and the world which you inhabit.

In Brainstorm: the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain author and physician Daniel Seigel shares the ABC’s of self-care as seven practices to include every day of your life.  These practices  create and sustain a healthy mind and body:  Sleep Time, Physical Time, Focus Time, Time-In, Downtime, Playtime, and Connecting Time.  A few of these practices require an investment of many hours, like sleep, while others may be an investment of 5 – 10 minutes. Here’s a brief introduction to each practice so you can maintain the great personal work you’ve been engaged in for months…

1.  Sleep Time
 is necessary to allow your brain to recover from the demands of being control center in your waking hours.  Research shows that 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night are necessary for optimal brain integration, memory consolidation, insulin production and metabolism, and immune function.  If you have been told that sleep is a waste of time it is time to see the opportunity wasted when you engage in excessive wakefulness.  There is a body of evidence indicating that weight gain is more likely with insufficient rest.  In order to increase your sleep time consider turning off your digital tools at least an hour prior to bedtime.  While you will ‘lose’ that worktime your increased energy, clarity, and recall the next day may make up for it in spades. Read the article

2. Physical Time
 is not only necessary for your heart, lungs, and muscles it is necessary to keep your brain growing and working effectively!  Getting your heart rate up doing some kind of movement for 35 minutes a day will not only make you feel better, every part of you including your brain will function better!  It can be different activities, a brisk walk one day, an hour at the gym, a swim at the Y, a bike ride, dancing, fencing, basketball, tennis, climbing the stairs in your building…build up to it, vary it up, and enjoy experiencing the changes. Read the article

Gardener landscaping a garden

3. Focus Time 
is paying attention to one thing in a continuous way free of frequent distractions.  When you create the space to focus intensely without interruptions it does three things for your brain: the brain secretes acetylcholine, specific brain circuits are activated, and the acetylcholine bathing those activated circuits allows for the secretion of yet another chemical, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which optimizes the strength of the connections among your firing neurons leading to a more efficient brain.  By paying close attention to something over time you optimize your ability to learn. Consistent multitasking decreases your cognitive abilities.  It is not healthy for your brain or your life.   As little as an hour of uninterrupted focused attention (reading, cooking, crossword puzzles, etc.)  per day will  stimulate your brain to be more effective and efficient, at any age. Read the article 

4. Time-In
 is the time you give yourself to reflect on the inner nature of your inner landscape.  Time-In is tuning in to your feelings, thoughts, memories, intentions, hopes, dreams, attitudes, and desires. Apparently there has been research showing that Time-In practiced on a regular basis stimulates the growth of fibers in the brain, especially those that support concentration and focus, emotion, and cognitive ability.  It improves your ability for loving kindness towards yourself and others.  Time-In can be accomplished through meditation and journaling.  Time-In is tuning in to how you tick and allowing some distance so you have choice. Read the article

5. Downtime
 is the opposite of focused, active, reflective time.  Downtime is allocated time with no objective, no plans, nothing you are trying to accomplish.  This gives your brain time to recharge while you are awake. It is the ‘refresh’ button for your mind.  Giving yourself even five minutes between tasks to be completely non-productive will support your well-being all day.  This is not ‘goofing off’ while you are engaged in something.  Downtime is an intentional and  conscious choice to provide necessary time out for your brain to refresh and renew. Read the article 

6. Playtime
 is also vital to your overall well being.  Playtime is the spontaneous exploration of life by yourself or with others in engaging, pleasurable, and non-judgemental ways.  Laughing and enjoying yourself allows for brain growth.  Giving yourself the time and permission to to engage in activities creating new and creative ways of thinking, doing, and being supports the brain to grow and solidify new connections.  Whether you choose to take an improvisational acting class, take a cooking class, keep a jigsaw puzzle around the house to have fun putting together over time, or any other activity that is new and enjoyable you will be supporting your own and your brains flexibility and having fun doing so! Read the article

7. Connecting Time
 is allowing time to feel your gratitude for the planet that sustains you and the adventure of being alive. It includes giving back to people, places, and things through actions that incorporate appreciation, thoughtfulness, creativity and loving kindness.  Connecting Time is reflecting actively that you are so much more than an isolate ‘I’.  You are an ‘I-we’ made up of both self and nonself aspects. Connecting Time is a conscious acknowledgement that you are interconnected and interdependent on all that is, and celebrating that! Read the article

You’ve been doing great work in becoming more conscious, kinder, and assuming responsibility for your life with less and less blame and fault.  You are learning to  focus on what you desire, pick up new communication skills, and ‘skip the complaint’ and ‘get to the request’ for yourself and others.  Creating a life you love and sustainable enjoyable relationships is strenuous work.  Use these practices to keep on keeping on navigating to fairer shores while finding surprises, challenges, and pleasures on your journey.

Be your own best friend and support.  You are the only one that is always there. You can always and in all ways be a stand for yourself and your wellness!  GTG, time to fit in my Physical Time and get to work on time! 

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