Fit Your Own Mask



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Bring Back Your Joy For Life!


Fit Your Own Mask First.


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Another busy week; that big project at work needs to be finalised and you really want to put a little extra time into it, the kids have exams, the pantry is looking a little bare, the car is due for a rego check, it’s been raining and the washing is piling up. You have a cold but there’s no time to stop. Sound familiar?

Our coping strategies for these scenarios usually involve taking a few short cuts and prioritising things in terms of urgency. Pop a cold tablet, miss a few lunch breaks, buy a bit of take-away, skip a few hours sleep and bam – you’ve found the extra time to fit it all in.


Problem is our short term coping strategies become our long term habits often with some pretty serious health and wellness outcomes.

Ironically the word disease is made up of two parts and reflects our Dis-Ease with our situation. People suffering from long-term stress and lack of self-care manifest signs such as chronic fatigue, back pain, hair loss, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and a whole range of other illnesses. Our immune system becomes depleted and we are physically, mentally and emotionally unable to manage on a daily basis. Life ceases to be a joy and instead becomes a struggle.


Yet culturally, the concept of self-care is still as a ‘luxury’ item and is often viewed as an act of selfishness. Certainly when the going gets tough self-care is the very first item to go on the back burner.


Sometimes wisdom comes from strange places and one of the most profound lessons I have learned came from watching the safety demonstration when travelling by air. It doesn’t matter which airline you fly the message is always the same – Fit Your Own Mask First. The basic premise behind this procedure is that you cannot help others if you are in need yourself.


The single most important thing you can do is ditch the guilt and make self-care a top priority!
When the week / month / year ahead is looking busy, the very first think to work into your schedule are these important elements of self-care:


Fatigue contributes to poor concentration, lack of judgement, inability to make decisions, lack of tolerance, irritability and impaired hand eye coordination among others. Make sure you understand your sleep needs and create a regular bed-time pattern. Remove the television and other technology from your bedroom and make it a place for sleep only. Avoid coffee, alcohol and heavy meals before bed. If you have trouble quieting your mind then check out the Mindfulness step below and consider meditation as a tool to help out.


Don’t be tempted to skip meals or opt for a quick but unhealthy take-away. Stick to a healthy eating routine with lots of whole unprocessed foods. Watch your portion control and allow yourself a few treats now and then. Cook healthy meals in bulk and freeze for lunches or dinner later in the week. Get the whole family involved in cooking, it’s a great way to double up and spend some quality time together.


Exercise / movement
Get your body moving! This is one thing really worth getting up a little early for. Just half an hour a day and you will definitely feel the difference. Get outside at lunch time, park the car a few blocks away from work and walk. Do something new, learn Qi-gong or Tai Chi. If you’re a gym person book in a favourite class or get busy with a zumba class. The numbers of ways you can get moving are almost limitless. The key is to find something that you enjoy and do it regularly. Not only does it keep you fit and contribute to weight management but exercise is also a key stress buster, builds your immune system and helps you sleep better.


Time for Reflection
A busy schedule often doesn’t leave much time for reflection and planning yet this important activity can change the way your week runs. Note down your recent wins and achievements no matter how small and take a moment to give yourself a high-five! Now, notice what you did to make it happen? What skills and strategies did you put in place? Some things may not have gone to plan – take a moment to consider what happened and how you might be able to prevent or handle such a situation if it occurs again. Next, map out what you want to achieve in the next period and put a plan in place to make it happen. Planners are more successful at getting things done than those who just move from one crisis to the next! Having a plan calms your mind, while celebrating your wins builds your confidence and self-esteem.


Yes, breathe! When we are rushed and busy we tend to breathe at a rather shallow level only filling the top of our chest with short breaths. Here is an exercise you can do at any time (it’s especially good when standing in line at the supermarket or bank!) Stand with your feet hip width apart and find a stable centre of balance. Plant those feet deep into the ground and feel really rooted like a great tree. Roll your hips up at the front and down at the back. Straighten and lift your spine as if someone were drawing up on a silken threat that runs up your spine and out the top of your head. Feel your rib cage open up and roll your shoulders back and down. Finally, reach down with your arms toward the ground. Now use your belly to take a deep breath drawing down on your diaphragm and fill from the bottom up, with your chest expanding last. When you breathe out push every last bit of air out with your belly. Breathe in for a count of four and breathe out for a count of six.


Be Mindful
Our busy mind chatters to us all day…and sometimes all night! Our mind worries about things that have not yet happened and chews on things that happened long ago. It’s exhausting! Mindfulness is a technique of paying attention in a particular way to the present moment, without judgement. A common mindfulness technique can be practiced in the shower. Where does your mind go when you are in the shower? To be mindful, bring your attention to the present moment in the shower. Note what sounds you can hear. What can you smell? How does the water feel against your skin? See if you can pay attention in this way for your entire shower. If other thoughts intrude just notice them drifting by like clouds and go back to your mindful shower. You can practice mindfulness anywhere you have a moment; in line at the supermarket, at your desk, in the car or while you are cooking. Tai Chi, Yoga and Qi-gong are forms of moving mindfulness that allow you to focus just on the simplicity of the present moment and nothing else. Mindfulness provides many benefits including stress reduction, strengthened immune system, clarity of thought and relaxation.


A Little Pampering
Oh yes, this is the really good bit! Haven't you always wished your doctor would prescribe you a massage and a shopping trip? Or how about a regular holiday? Everyone needs a little bit of something special now and then. Even the simple act of taking the time for a self pedicure, listening to a piece of fine music or catching a movie. These are the things that give us the relaxation factor and make our world feel balanced. If you don't schedule these things in there just never seems to be the time to make them happen. Once they are in your schedule, everything else will fit in around them.


Self-Care is something we needn't feel guilty about - it's a necessity! Success comes not at the end of an extended period of deprivation, but through the little things you can do each day, week and month to lead a balanced and happy lifestyle. No need to make huge disruptive changes, just build a little self-care into your routine and it will make all the difference!


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