We are all feeling busier and more stressed out than ever before. Not only are our jobs demanding, but we also place additional expectations ourselves by crafting New Year’s resolutions and self-care goals with hopes of increasing our well-being and leading a happier life. We sat down with Diana Austin, our VP and asked her for some advice on how to approach this time of the year strategically and how to prioritize our self-care. Diana is currently completing a Positive Psychology Certificate at Wilfrid Laurier University and is motivated to understand what makes humans flourish and apply those learnings in her current role with her team.
Q: Hi Diana, let’s begin by defining self-care?
D: I am not sure about you, but when I first heard the term self-care, my mind immediately went to thoughts of self-indulgence and just something that I do not have time to engage in or if I did, I would feel guilty about it. Our lives are so busy and the one things that ends up getting the least amount of attention is ourselves. It is important to realize that self-care is a preventative measure and a personal responsibility. Self-care has several domains and all of them are of equal importance: physical, psychological and spiritual.
Q: That is very interesting. Could you tell us a little bit more about those domains?
D: Yes, I was hoping you would ask that. I am confident that we can all guess what constitutes physical self-care; things such as eating well, exercising, sleeping more. What I would like to discuss a bit further is psychological self-care. This tends to be an area that most often gets neglected and to be honest, there isn’t enough conversation or education about it. We teach our children to brush their teeth, their hair, and overall how to independently take care of their bodies, but do we teach them about emotional hygiene. Do we teach them how to deal with loneliness and isolation, rejection and other emotional ‘injuries’, especially before they occur? Psychological self-care means taking care of yourself by doing anything that helps you decompress, relax and enjoy life. It can be as simple as connecting with someone socially.
Q: Emotional injuries? That’s a novel concept. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle these emotional injuries?
D: Emotional injuries can occur anywhere, especially in the workplace. I have given a couple of examples earlier. Let’s discuss rejection. For example, the company you have worked at your entire life suddenly decided that they no longer need you. This is a deep injury to your psyche and how you handle it will have a huge impact on the rest of your life. The key to psychological well-being is self-compassion. Most people would likely feel betrayed and engage in inner dialogue that would look something like this: “You will never find another job; nobody wants you”, “You are worthless” or “You must have done something really wrong to deserve this”. This is a life-changing situation and a severe injury, but the following applies to any emotional injury. The most important thing to remember is to “TREAT YOURSELF WITH THE SAME KINDNESS AND COMPASSION THAT YOU WOULD SHOW A GOOD FRIEND” (if they were experiencing this situation).
Q: Wow! I would never speak with my good friend in that way.
D: Exactly! Show yourself the same compassion, kindness and concern that you would show a good friend. Additionally, remind yourself that there were many others in the same situation before you and there will be many others after you. People lose jobs all the time; it is a part of life. Life is imperfect. Everybody struggles. This is an important point to remember. Often when we are experiencing difficult times we tend to feel alone and isolated and it is at times like these when it is most important to reach out to others. Lastly, it is crucial not to ruminate. Allow yourself to acknowledge and feel your negative feelings and then it is important to practice mindfulness and move on and redirect our thoughts to more productive matters. Getting into a rumination cycle can be incredibly dangerous.
Q: Those are some great tips. We are almost out of time. Do you have any tips for how to keep our new years resolutions?
D: Oh, we will need to do this again! If you want (laughs). We did not even touch upon spiritual self-care. I would challenge everyone to take a piece of paper and write the words physical, psychological and spiritual on it and try to list things that you currently do to take care of yourself in all of those areas and reflect on what additional things would be beneficial to add. With regards to your New Year’s resolutions, the first thing to understand is that set backs will occur. And when they do, it is not the time to give up. This is the time to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves the exact same pep-talk that we would to a good friend and ultimately treat our bodies and souls with kindness and respect. If we adopted this mindset, I think keeping our resolutions would be much more attainable. We need to let go of the notion of “PERFECTION”. To be human is to be imperfect.