Recently, I spoke with a medical doctor who told me she squeezed in her self-care between patient visits. Where and how did she do this? She figured it takes her about twenty steps to get from room to room in her hospital. In those twenty steps between patient visits, she focuses on deep breathing meditation. With each in-breath, she focuses on a trait, experience, or gift that she needs. With each out-breath, she focuses on what is weighing her down. For instance, on an in-breath she might focus on peace, comfort, hope, healing, energy, enthusiasm, optimism, etc. And on her out-breath she might focus on hopelessness, hurting, anger, frustration, bitterness, tiredness, mindlessness, etc.
Stop and consider the in-between places where you can practice self-care. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Brushing your teeth
- In the shower
- In the car on your way to work
- At lunch
- At your desk
- Cooking dinner
Exercise 1: Create your own list of in-between spaces where you can begin developing habits of self-care.
Exercise 2: Now practice them! Here are four practices that can help you in the in-between spaces:
1. Deep breathing
Focus on your breathing. Take a break from the stress, anxiety, and tasks of the day to breathe in slowly and exhale deeply. Taking five deep breaths can be a centering practice that enables individuals to be more present with themselves and others.
Pair breathing with imagery. Breathe in what you would like to replace your stress with (e.g. optimism). Breathe out, what is causing you stress and holding you down to begin with (e.g. fear).
2. Physical exercise
Find ways to exercise. A less common practice of exercise is stretching. Fifteen minutes of stretching can reduce stress, tension, and anxiety. Or, if you are looking for a more active exercise, take a 3-minute push-up break. Building an exercise break into your work day is a good way to stick to your self-care routine. For example, work for forty minutes and then take a 5-minute stretch/exercise break.
3. Drink water
Water is an overlooked essential resource that can renew our bodies and minds. The daily recommended water intake is eight 8oz glasses a day. You can combine mindfulness meditation with a glass of water. When you drink a glass of water, notice your senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Attend to the experiences that arise, the temperature of the water, the weight of the glass, condensation on the glass, etc.
4. Practice gratitude
Cognitive theory suggests that how people think and what people focus on can greatly influence their emotional state. Practicing moments of gratitude is a healthy self-care habit. By focusing on what we are grateful for, we take attention away from stress and recognize and remember what brings us joy. Setting a timer, one time per hour, can be a good way to start. Allow this to become an organic habit.
*Learn more about self-care, managing stress, and becoming an agent for healing by becoming an ICTG Affiliate. ICTG Affiliates have access to dozens of resources, including the 2016 General Ministry Resource Guide and assessments.