Take Care of Yourself

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By: Carter Williams, Director of Xperience Growth Coaching

In full disclosure, I’m writing this Monday evening, March 23rd. Depending on when you’re reading this, the outside world and the restrictions might look different than they do as I write this. Yet, I imagine that a phrase that you’ll be hearing from loved ones and strangers alike is “take care of yourself.”

This is certainly well meaning. With the backdrop of COVID-19, the intention behind the statement is mostly of staying healthy and virus free. And, that is important and worth our diligence to take necessary precautions around.

So I, too, will tell you “take care of yourself.” I do mean in the virus-free sense, I also implore you to take care of yourself – your whole self.

How do we take care of ourselves in a time of great uncertainty? I believe it’s taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally.

Physically, we can take care of ourselves in two main ways… you probably guessed it… diet and exercise. I’ll focus here on exercise. As many of us face quarantine on some level, it’s easy to stay inside and not intentionally get outside and exercise. In her book, the Joy of Movement, Kelly McGonigal shares that the human body actually produces something called neuro-steroids. If you’ve ever experienced a “runner’s high,” that’s it. Your brain releases endorphins which is a buzz that helps you feel calm, relaxed and even hopeful.

Movement leads to peak joy. When you’re in movement your muscles secrete chemicals into your body that act as antidepressants and help you cope with stress. They are produced only in your muscles and you have to contract your muscles to get those chemicals out of your muscles and into your bloodstream. Our muscles are natural pharmacies. The chemicals from your muscles act not only as an antidepressant, also to increase motivation and help you learn from experience.

Whether you’re a runner or someone that counts 12 oz curls as exercise, getting out and moving is a key to taking care of yourself.

Your mental state is crucial to taking care yourself. Anxiety is fear of the unknown that you think is negative. When faced with uncertainty, it’s rather easy to become anxious. When we are anxious, we get more fatigued and stressed and thus the cycle continues. The farther into the spiral we get, the less we allow ourselves to regenerate. We need ample rest to provide a foundation of positive mental state. Yet again, the cycle of fatigue, stress, anxiety actively combat the rest we all need. how to break it?

Meditation is an outlet to relieve some tension created by anxiety. In his book Anxiety, Joesph LeDoux says mediation “helps…relieve us from self-inflicted trains of thought.” Specifically the breath work common in most forms of mediation is huge in helping us cope with the stress and allows us a respite to, well, rest. LeDoux also says that it’s a free and easy way to deal with anxiety and the “everyone should learn how to do this.”

Meditation can take many forms, yet the seven most popular ways are: mindfulness meditation, spiritual meditation (or prayer), focused meditation, movement meditation, mantra meditation, transcendental meditation and guided meditation.

Recently, I’ve been practicing focused meditation for going to sleep. Kristen and I have a newborn (Grace, born 3/13!!), so whatever sleep I get is a premium. The challenge for me is that I historically have been slow to fall asleep. Now, with sleep coming in 2-3 hour increments, I cannot afford to lay in bed for 30 minutes before I fall asleep. Before each chunk of sleep, I lay on my back and focus on deep breathing and falling asleep. That has helped me fall asleep quickly, even when I’ve gotten into bed with a swirling mind.

Find a mediation-type that works best for you and increase or simply start your practice to help you melt away stress, increase rest and solidify your mental state,

Finally, we need positive emotions for us to take care of ourselves. How do we maintain positive emotions when the world is an uncertain and potentially scary place? Simply put, we choose to.

That probably sounds over simplistic. And it is to some extent. We can’t really just say “now i choose happiness” and then bam… unicorns and rainbows.

Yet we do get to choose what we believe. And we can believe in ourselves to get through whatever storm we find ourselves in now or at any time. And we prove our beliefs to ourselves by our actions. What actions can you consistently take to prove you are successful? Again, you get to choose actions that are productive and that productivity leads to self confidence.

Here’s some examples that you can do in a quarantine-type environment:

⁃ Practice your normal morning routine. If you find yourself without having to be somewhere, still rise at your normal time. Get ready as if you were going somewhere. That will provide confidence and a sense of accomplishment very first thing in the morning, which you can carry throughout the day.

⁃ Eat healthy. Many of us – like me – are comfort eaters. We find comfort in food… and I’m not talking celery sticks and kale smoothies. We want the good stuff… the more fatty, salty, sugary the better. And, when we have those things in the house, good decisions are tough. When you go to the grocery store, set yourself up for success. Buy healthy foods at the grocery store so that we can’t be tempted by the chips & ice cream. And if all your restaurants are closed, it’s even harder for you to make poor food choices in the weak moments.

⁃ Continue working. Most of us reading this are in real estate or are some other entrepreneur that makes our living working with other people – clients. Lean into those relationships. Even if you cannot make money from those relationships today, you can make good will. You will feel so good about yourself when you add value to other people. And, when you do add value, you’ll find business opportunities.

These are all choices that we get to make. When we choose productivity, we think in terms of possibility and that will lead into positive emotions.

So, wherever you find yourself today, take care of yourself! Stay healthy, safe and choose to move beyond surviving into thriving – regardless of the world outside our window.