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How To Take the Leap Into Radical Self-Care

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If you want to do your best for future generations of humanity, for your friends and family, you must begin by taking good care of yourself.                                                                                                                          ~Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche

Last Wednesday I sat with a friend during lunch describing how I once again found myself entirely stressed out.  I listed all the “have-to’s” in a flood, realizing as I gushed that I was being ruled by imagined, external forces.  Later I recalled a phrase I had come across in my research the previous week—radical self-care—and decided to delve into what that means for me.

Below is a list I came up with to change my relationship with the “have-to’s” and my mounting stress.

1.     Honor your inner tempo.

Many of us are struggling with the breakneck speed at which our modern industrialized society moves.  Taking on too much will compromise not only our health, but also our ability to enjoy our relationships and engage in pleasurable activities.  It requires a deliberate and conscious effort to say no when our plate begins to tilt and to admit we can’t do everything.  Stepping off the speeding train may initially feel as though we’ve gotten off at the wrong station, but the more we practice honoring the pace that is unique to us, the more comfortable it will become.

2.     Give yourself priority in your “have-to’s” list.

The reality is that when we are stressed out, our capacity to think clearly, to behave non-reactively and to give our best to what truly matters to us becomes compromised.  American culture encourages ceaseless giving to our jobs, our families and to society while giving to ourselves is readily judged as selfish or lazy.   Yet when we give to ourselves at the front end, we have more energy available to give to the demands of our life.  Making healthy choices with our diet, exercise and unscheduled time become a priority when we acknowledge that we matter as much as our families, jobs and the society we live in.  Prioritizing our own needs can feel as though we’re going against the grain, and we are, and the resulting benefit is a more balanced, happier life.

3.     Take time to daydream.

Our society is obsessed with productivity, activity and the relentless pursuing of goals to keep ourselves “on top of it,” and we tend to undervalue the benefit of resting our minds and bodies through daydreaming.  Even our public educational system encourages hyper-focus, which has been shown through scientific studies to exhaust and bore the mind.  When we allow ourselves to daydream, the mind relaxes and shifts into a non-spatial, creative mode.  Albert Einstein is said to have conceived his theory of relativity while imagining he was running alongside a beam of sunlight!  Allowing ourselves to wander aimlessly can deliver us into unknown territory and essentially reinvigorate areas of our lives that have become mundane or tiresome.

When you’re feeling stressed out, set an intention to slow down and tune in to see where you’re out of step with yourself.  Remind yourself what matters to you.  Re-orient and refuse to be pushed beyond your own capacity.  Let go of self-judgment and get real instead.  When you can prioritize yourself in the long list of priorities, you’ll actually get more done and with increased joy and satisfaction.


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