You have a boss to please, children to appease, a partner to nurture and a house to clean. Is it any wonder that you—yes, you—get lost amid it all? Women aren’t just well-known for juggling a dozen things at once; they’re also notorious for putting others in front of themselves, whether it’s skimping on sleep to care for a sick child or feeding everyone else before they’ve even remembered to grab themselves a fork.
And while our Superwoman efforts are admirable, problems can arise when there’s nothing left of that TLC&T (that’s Tender Loving Care and Time) to bestow upon ourselves. Relationships can feel like chores, resentment can replace goodwill and our health can take a major nosedive.
What’s more, when stress peaks—hello, teenagers!—self-care goes out the window and self-sabotaging behaviors can take over. You know the sort: Subsisting on caffeine and sugary sweets, forgoing exercise,\ and convincing yourself that four hours of sleep per night is perfectly fine. (It’s not.) In turn, your welfare and self-esteem can plummet, sending you into a vicious cycle that’s challenging to recover from.
Given that October is Women’s Health Month, now is the time to address your health—and put habits into place to enhance compassion for yourself. Here are 5 ways to show yourself some love this month (and always):
1. Create time to flop
You schedule in dinners with your bestie and block off Thursday nights for laundry. But where on your Google calendar do you have some me-time keyed in? And I’m not talking about an hour for weightlifting on Wednesdays—I’m talking about genuinely free time, where nothing at all is planned.
I call this flop. Not because there’s a hidden meaning worked in as an acronym, but because it’s precisely what every woman needs for true healthy living—the time and self-permission to just flop and be. It can be on the couch, on the beach or in your backyard. Where it transpires is less important than what ought to transpire: Several moments to let your mind float and enjoy the moment.
2. Let go and go on
Say you snapped at your mother. Missed a critical deadline, or made a beeline for the bakery two days into your low-carb diet. Chances are, your “failure” has cranked up the volume on that critic inside of you.
Instead of succumbing to that negative, self-sabotaging talk, attempt a different tactic: Let go and go on. This doesn’t mean that you should blow off the mistake you made or the resolution you broke. Rather, it means acknowledging your disappointment and then halting those internal judgments, forgiving yourself and moving forward.
Think of it this way: “People who are more self-compassionate are actually more motivated and more likely to pick themselves up when they do fail,” says Kristin Neff, Ph.D., author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. In other words, dust yourself off and keep on keeping on.
3. Fuel the fun
True: Life isn’t always fun (surely you too are familiar with a dentist’s chair), but wouldn’t much more of it be if you felt fantastic?
The power and importance of a healthy diet cannot be overlooked. Deprive yourself of necessary calories to fit into your skinny dreams—or hit the drive-thru more often than you hit the produce aisle—and you’ll potentially feel the effects in every aspect of your life, from mood swings and lethargy to fuzzy thinking.
A healthy diet, on the other hand, nourishes every cell in your body. Organic, nutrient-dense foods like lean protein, whole grains, vegetables and low-glycemic fruits will provide your body with the fundamental nutrients it needs to function on the microscopic and macroscopic level. And the more vibrant you feel, the more vibrant life will look—and the more manageable stress becomes.
4. Land the good
Ever wonder why, at night, you obsess over what went wrong during the day rather than what went right? Why you can recall in excruciating detail the reprimand you received from your boss, but can’t for the life of you remember what it felt like to be praised by a client?
There’s a reason behind this. According to renowned psychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness Dr. Rick Hanson, we have a negativity bias —a built-in mechanism that makes our brains “like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.” Ultimately, this “creates an ongoing vulnerability to stress, anxiety, disappointment and hurt.”
The good news is that we have the ability to alter that bias and promote neural networks that support trust, well-being and happiness. How? Land the good. That is, immerse yourself in the lovelier aspects of life, whether it’s relishing your morning coffee or soaking in the warmth of your child’s smile. Absorb those moments that make life wonderful, and call upon the memory of them when times get touchy.
“The remedy is not to suppress negative experiences; when they happen, they happen,” Hanson explains. “Rather, it is to foster positive experiences—and in particular, to take them in so they become a permanent part of you.” And how good—no, great—is that?
5. Find your yin and yang
Exercise is as essential to whole-body health as eating right, getting restful sleep and practicing stress relief strategies. Strength, flexibility, fitness—all naturally support self-confidence, longevity and overall wellness.
The trick to maintaining a workout routine—and staying jazzed about it—is balance. What do I mean by that? Finding your yin and yang, and leveraging one with the other. Yang exercises—aerobics, weight training, Zumba—work beautifully when paired with yin exercises such as yoga, Pilates and tai chi.
Take it from the author of Athletic Body in Balance Gray Cook, who affirms that “the body responds best to a balance between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ types of activity…there’s a dance of opposites occurring in any natural system, and it’s to our advantage to get in step with it.”
The result? Equilibrium in mind, body and spirit. And if that’s not what happiness and wellness truly means, what is?