The year of 2016 brought challenges and rewards as well as setbacks and growth. In the midst of it all, I found myself busier than ever. My professional and personal lives had become consumed, and I found myself having given nearly every moment of my "free" time to another obligation -- all worthy causes and things I enjoyed -- but the truth was that I really needed a break.
I recalled a meditation instructor once telling me about how as a society, we have lost those moments when we just wait in bank or grocery lines, for example, allowing ourselves to relax, observe, and breathe. Nowadays, the tendency is go, go, go, and rush, rush, rush. The cultural shift is even ingrained into our children, which shows up in filling their schedules with extracurricular and social activities -- in addition to the homework that they already have to do.
After learning more about mindfulness and meditation this past year, I have grown to be more in tune with my mind, body, and spirit. I reached a point where I had to say no because my body couldn't keep up with the overwhelming demands I had placed on myself. But, how did I do it?
Start with what you have to do -- work, family obligations, school, etc. From there, what are the things you can do without? What are the things that drain you instead of give you energy? What are the things you feel you should do, but don't really want to do? What are the things you really want to do, but don't really have time to add them to your plate? Once you answer these questions, you may find yourself with a list of obligations that you just might be able to begin cancelling or minimizing.
Personal example: I love personal training. I love helping other women feel better about themselves physically and emotionally, and I love teaching them how to master exercises that they were once afraid of. When the opportunity arose this fall to add more personal training clients, I had to take a hard look at my schedule. My default response was "yes, of course I can fit you in!" But inside, I knew that I had simply no free time left in my schedule to fit in another appointment. This is a hard example because it falls into the "I really should do this, and I think I would really enjoy it, but can I?" category. I realized after careful consideration that, although I really wanted to take on additional clients, it wouldn't be fair to either them or myself because I did not have time (or energy) left in my schedule.
My self-care advice for the new year is to practice saying "no" to help you determine what's truly important to keeping in or adding to your life. Pick one obligation you currently have, and try to evaluate it through this lens. In addition, pay attention to how your body responds to the situation when you are in it or think about it. Do you feel yourself growing anxious? Do your shoulders hunch over, or does your breathing get shallower? These may be physical signs and your body's way of telling you that you need to reassess what is truly energy-giving to you. On the other hand, do you find yourself in a natural flow when you are working through a particular situation? Does it give you energy to continue or otherwise inspire you? These may be signs to pursue more of this activity. And be aware that you may need to say "no" to some things because you value other things more or want to try them instead.
The other part of the equation is being okay with the decision once you have determined that "no" is best for you. While shame or guilt may be naturally resulting feelings, keep in mind that you are trying your best to establish boundaries to take care of you -- and that is the best new year's gift that you could possibly give to anyone.
© 2016 Melanie Glover. All rights reserved.
First image above: Shutterstock.