I have spent the past 2 days in Asheville, NC with an amazing group of women (and a few progressive men) learning to build heart-centered businesses.
Collectively, this group is changing the world, leading businesses based in their passion while creating a life of meaning and purpose.
And yet, a common theme emerged as we celebrated our successes and shared our challenges. We are giving so much, to so many, that we often forget to give to ourselves.
Wow! What a powerful realization.
The majority of women, myself included, are giving to and caring for others on a daily basis. Whether at home or at work and everywhere in between, we seem to be hard-wired to serve and nurture those around us.
But, what about you? Who takes care of you?
When do we take the time to give to ourselves what we so freely give to others?
We willingly come to someone else's aid but, so often we suffer alone in silence. And, because we appear to be the “strong one”, “the helper”, people don’t often think that we need help too.
We feel like a child sometimes – we’ve lost our way home and we don’t know how or who to ask for help.
There is power in community and we draw strength from each other and from ourselves.
What is required is courage. Derived from Latin, the root of the word means heart. We need to move from our heads (thinking) to our hearts (feeling) to better understand what we really need.
It takes courage to ask for what you really need.
It takes courage to ask for what you really want.
So where do you start?
Self-compassion. Be gentle with yourself during times of challenge and chaos. Set an intention to speak kindly to yourself. Send loving thoughts to yourself, even when your inner critic shows up. Love is a proven way to silence fear.
Appreciation. The body has a miraculous capacity for healing when we get out of the way. Take a moment to appreciate your body today – your vision, your mobility, your heart beat. Notice what may be calling for your attention today and honor your body by giving it what it needs.
Breathe. When stressed we tend to take shallow, quick breaths. Simply being present with the natural rhythm of your breathing and feeling the breath is enough to activate the relaxation response. Each day plan to take 5 minutes out of your day to just “breathe”.
Clarity. When we are unclear about what is important in our lives, we make decisions that are not always in our best interest. What nurtures you? What gives rise to happiness? What allows you to feel a sense of meaning and belonging? Getting clear on the answers to these questions will help you set priorities based on what you need to regularly be your best self.
So while you’re out changing the world with the wonderful work that you do, remember to take care of you.
Let each breath remind you that you are supported, you are whole, you deserve to be nurtured, and you deserve to be free of suffering.
How did you find the courage to take care of yourself today? This week?
If you found some value in this post, please share with others.
And if you'd like a little guidance on taking care of you, download the 5 PEACE strategies workbook to reduce stress and find more peace in daily life, http://www.drmichellebailey.com/5-peace-strategies.html.
Many people set goals, especially at the start of a new year. Think about the goals you set for yourself in January. Have you accomplished what you set out to do? Do you remember what they were?
Unfortunately, the majority of people abandon the goals within 30 days.
Creating new habits requires an intention to do the work AND taking consistent action. Many times there is a failure to set up systems and structure that keep your goals front of mind.
Wishing and hoping that things will be different doesn’t make things happen. Change results when things are done differently. And, it takes time to develop a new habit. Some experts say anywhere from 21 days to 6 weeks.
Planning increases the likelihood of success. Investing the time up front to consider what is needed to make meaningful changes in your life will pay off, delivering the results you desire.
To increase your odds of success, set SMART-R goals:
Specific: Your goal needs to be clear, focused and concise. “I want to eat better” is a vague goal. “I will eat breakfast every day” is a specific goal. Consider the following questions to develop your goals:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Why do you want to do this?
- What do you need to support you in meeting your goal?
- How will achieving this goal make a difference in your life?
Measurable: When your goal has metrics that you can chart, you are better able to track your progress along the way.
Action-oriented: Your goal needs to be focused on the results you want to achieve.
Realistic: Make sure that your goal is within reach. Many failed attempts with accomplishing goals involves things that are beyond your control. Set a goal that is within your control, in other words, change on your part can bring about results and is not dependent on someone else changing their behavior.
Timely: decide upon a timeline for meeting your goal. If you don’t currently exercise, saying you will exercise for 20 minutes per day, 4 days a week for 4 weeks may sound more doable than promising to do this new behavior forever.
Reward: incentives are great motivators for taking action. Think about how you will reward yourself when you reach your goal. Make it something that is meaningful to you (Note: I don’t suggest you use food as a reward).
Tips for increasing success:
- Get clear. Focus on one or two goals at a time. It takes time to change habits. Taking on too much at one time can lead to overwhelm. You can add more goals as you accomplish the initial ones.
- Commit to a tracking system. Decide how you will track your progress. Tracking is a valuable activity to provide you real-time information on what’s working well and what’s getting in the way of moving you towards achieving your goal.
- Define your goal period. Set a start date and a completion date. Having a deadline tends to move people towards action compared to an open-ended goal period.
- Create gentle reminders. Keep your goals in a place where they are visible. This will remind you of what you are working on regularly. Goals that are out of sight are generally out of mind.
- Be flexible. Life happens. Be prepared to modify goals and timelines if needed depending on the situation. Give yourself permission to “re-decide” if needed.
- Find accountability. Knowing that someone will check in with you keeps you more focused. This may be a trusted friend, coach, or mentor. Determine how often you will check-in and what method you will use (i.e. phone, email).
How are you doing on the goals you set at the beginning of the year? Share your comment below and let us know what helped keep you on track or what got in the way.
Summer is here - a time of vacations and a slower pace of life. It's so easy to be present on vacation. Time pressures are relaxed, schedules are more flexible, and there is less sleep deprivation.
While vacationing in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, I was enjoying a brisk walk a block of the shore. The sky was a brilliant blue, soft white clouds were slowly drifting by, and the breeze was cool and comfortable.
I was appreciating my walk outdoors, catching glimpses of the ocean between houses. Suddenly, I was caught in sun shower. I felt a sense of immediate dread and a bit of panic.
What was happening? I wondered why I had gone from feeling calm and peaceful to being gripped with fear in a matter of moments. I didn't care if I got wet...the rain actually felt cool against my skin.
My eyes darted around quickly scanning the area for a temporary shelter. I urged my partner to walk faster so we could get out of the rain. As she lovingly and firmly grasped my hand she reassured me that all was well.
"All is well." I knew that to be true and a bit of the anxiety eased. With, curiosity, I explored what had just happened.
The rain was falling hard enough that between the water and the humidity, I couldn't see through my glasses. And, I couldn't see without them (I'm legally blind without corrective lenses).
I was in an unfamiliar environment and without my sense of sight, the sense I rely on most heavily, I felt vulnerable...unsafe.
That recognition allowed me to be gentle and kind to myself as I navigated what felt like a big challenge.
The rain passed soon enough and my heart returned to it's previous rate. What did I learn from this experience?
1. The fear and anxiety that gripped me so suddenly were not really due to a change in my external circumstances. It was triggered by a series of thoughts about the changing conditions (the rain is here, I can't see, if I can't see I'm not safe). I didn't need for the rain to stop to make me feel at ease. I was reminded that we can change our experience simply by shifting our thoughts. We can choose how to respond to life in each moment.
2. I don't need to be in South Florida walking along the beach to appreciate a beautiful blue sky or other natural elements all around me. Appreciation can occur wherever you are. Find the beauty in daily life.
3. An affirmation can provide a lifeline to hold onto as you find your way back to safety. In this case - all is well - reminded me that I was really okay in this moment. And while our mind may wander into the past or leap into the future, we can only ever be in the present moment. Life is richer when are mind and body come together in the present so we can be here now.
Happy Independence Day!
In addition to the cook-outs and fireworks celebrations, today is an opportunity to give thanks for the freedoms we have in this country and the men and women who keep us safe.
This year, I'm also taking time to pause and think about my personal freedom. The question that came up during this reflection time: How free do I feel to be myself?
I thought about the times when I feel most comfortable in my own skin. What allowed me to relax into who I am and show up as me - flaws and all? What things blocked my authenticity or caused me to shrink?
After spending some time with these questions, here is what I learned:
1) Remember that you are human. This may sound silly yet it is so easy to forget that we are only human. The times when I shrink and play small are the times when I think I need to be perfect and am not measuring up to an impossible standard. Reminding myself that I am human allows me to be kinder to myself and reset my expectations to something more realistic.
2) You are different on purpose. I grew up hearing people say, Michelle is different. I spent the first thirty years of my life thinking that something was wrong me so I worked hard to be more like everyone else. I now see the error in that way of thinking. What makes me different is now embraced and celebrated. What shifted? I now see and appreciate the value of my own uniqueness. I am the expert in my own experience and I get to share those gifts with the world.
3) See the beauty in yourself. So often we look in the mirror and automatically scan for what is wrong - hair out of place, unwelcome forehead pimple (don't you hate those), too many bulges in places that shouldn't bulge. What if instead, you look until you see the beauty in your eyes, in your smile, in the gentle curves of your body that frames the inner strength that has brought you to where you are today. Take a moment to really look into your own eyes, see the real you behind the veil, and say simply, I - love - you.
4) You have the right to choose. Fear of failing is one of the biggest obstacles to making choices that honor who we are. Falling down is a part of the process. The mis-steps we take sometimes shift the path we're on, leading us to incredible places we never could have predicted or imagined. You always have a choice in how you respond to life. If you don't like the results you're getting, you have the right to choose again - make a different choice. Remember this when you're feeling stuck; you get to re-decide. Knowing that you have choices gives you the freedom to try new things.
5) You are not alone and can ask for what you need. I really get into trouble when I forget this basic fact. Fear of being alone and feelings of isolation can impact the decisions we make. Feeling alone is a mindset. We often withdraw into an inner world, alone with our negative thoughts that convince us that no one cares and we don't matter. But, this is simply not true. The truth is at time we make a choice to be alone. What's the antidote? Reach out and ask for help and support. I've learned that it is unfair to expect people to read my mind. You may be really good at helping and supporting others. How good are you at accepting help? This takes practice. Identify a circle of support. Talk to friends and loved ones. Find a coach, counselor, or mentor. Practice, practice, practice asking for what you need and remember, you are not alone.
So today, I am celebrating feeling more free to be myself than at any other point in my life. How about you? What helps you feel free to be you? Leave a comment below.
Uplifting Women in Medicine