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Self-care is treating yourself with kindness everyday, every chance you get — beginning with your home office. Just a reminder, it is not selfish to want to grow toward a better version of yourself. Pursue your positive change. Achieve your goals, nurture your relationships, find balance, and have lasting fulfillment.
Beginning with our inward practice of self-care, we will draw valuable lessons on combating stress, anxiety, and burnout from the book, Wisdom from a Humble Jellyfish: And Other Self-Care Rituals from Nature. This book, written by Rani Shah, takes inspiration from the wonderful world around us.
#1 Save Your Energy by Pausing
Do you know what the most energy-efficient creature on Earth is? The jellyfish.
It would not hurt to review how they are and learn from their technique. Jellyfish propel themselves using a distinct suction method. This means that they have to contract their bodies and relax for them to initiate the second wave of motion. Like the jellyfish’s contraction period, taking a break or a moment is necessary. The brain is making as much as 35,000 decisions each day, let it rest — let yourself rest.
There will always be noise. You cannot wait for the noise to dissipate before you take a break. Otherwise, you might never find that window. Do not let all that noise distract you from trying to have a moment—your own moment.
Taking it even further from the momentary pausing, you may also consider plain stopping. It can sound like a broken disc, a cliche, even, but time and time again, we have to remind ourselves of this simple act. Many of us do not stop working even when work hours are over. This results in burnout, fatigue, and psychological strain—which most people know—but continue to do so anyway.
A good example of this would be the wood frogs. In nature, the wood frog finds a secluded place where it freezes itself before winter. Since amphibians cannot produce their own body heat, and adopt the temperature of the air, the wood frog freezes to death in the winter and comes back to life in the spring.
What does that have to do with anything? You can ask. Well, for wood frogs, freezing their work functions or organs during their resting time gives them much advantage when winter is over.
One of the things that might be weighing on your shoulders at this very moment is the worry that taking a break could backfire—that it could create setbacks. As early as today, allow yourself to understand that setbacks always happen. Life will always be embedded with them. The best thing to do is anticipate. Prepare for setbacks.
See, setbacks hurt. It is painful to go through different life things, especially a series of unfortunate events that aren’t just limited to career. A breakup, demotion, and getting sick are not even the bulk of the things that could happen to you and feel harrowing. It is inevitable to get hurt at some point — actually, make that multiple points — but not giving yourself your own time is counterproductive.
#2 Embrace the Unpredictable Nature of Things
Dragonflies can predict and intercept their target’s paths and movements. For us, that would prove to be quite difficult to do. There are a plethora of things that happen externally which are out of our control. In a way, a lesson that can be taken from that difference is to account for the unexpected.
When setting a deadline for yourself, add a few extra days to manage the mundane--to let yourself keep up with anything unplanned, without throwing you off course.
It matters to cut yourself some level of slack. It is important to constantly be generous with the amount of kindness you give yourself.
Another good example would be the vervet monkey. Vervet monkeys actually have their own distinction between adult speech and juvenile speech. Young vervets accidentally switch up their warning signals. Although, here is the amazing part—instead of punishing the young vervets, adult vervets understand that mistakes are part of the learning process. They have a system that manages mistakes in a sustainable way—adult vervets will verify whether the message given by the younger vervets were true. This allows the vervet family to thrive.
Every vervet gets to practice their warning signals and danger communication schemes. We can learn from them. We can learn to be like vervet monkeys that empathize when mistakes are committed.
It is crucial in self-care that your inner dialogue is not harsh. It is high time you stop mentally criticizing or insulting yourself. Free your mind from thoughts like “I am so useless” or “I never get it right.”
This leads us to our third principle.
#3 Have a Growth Mindset
We often hear about the concept of embracing a growth mindset, but have we actually come to really digest what it means. It has sort of become a buzzword in this generation, but today, we’ll break it down.
Having a growth mindset means believing that your traits and abilities, talents and skills, can be acquired through effort and persistence. You start viewing the lack of knowledge or skill not as a weakness but as learning prompts.
To provide contrast, a fixed mindset, on the other hand, is the belief that we have but natural talents — that our traits and abilities cannot change or are innate. You come up with excuses like “I’m just not a diligent person. I won’t be able to do this.”
Practicing self-care means allowing yourself to accept your weaknesses. It entails giving yourself space to be better; instead of accepting your weaknesses with the mindset that they cannot be changed.
After today, learn to adopt the phrase, “I am not there… yet”
Have faith in yourself. Acknowledge that even if you are not quite there yet at the moment, someday you will be.
#4 Build a Routine That’s Uniquely Yours
Some people are not keen on following a routine—claiming that it removes the spontaneity of life, and makes life boring. One thing to note is that a routine should not work against you. The sequence of events and the manner in which you approach them should certainly not feel unexciting. A routine is flexible. It helps to relieve yourself of the burden of thinking that there is just one way to live a productive life.
Anyway, there is no one, single way to go about your day. If there was a right way, surely someone would have figured it out. Focus on what lets you thrive, regardless of how it looks compared to others. There is beauty in letting go of conformity.
Once again, learning from nature, we can take flowers as an example. Flowers evolved to have a blooming routine that works best for them. Cereus flowers open their petals at nightfall—some even bloom just once in a year. These flowers have adapted to not needing sunlight. In the same way, a routine does not require you to be up at five in the morning or exercise on a given time. It is something that you get to build. It is unique to you and will let you bloom.
Being wary about doing something different than the norm is absolutely normal. Acknowledge your feelings of doubt, and at the end of the day, take heart in knowing that you are bigger than your doubts. If you need an extra boost, it can be fun to remember that Steve Jobs said, “Everything around you was made up by people that were no smarter than you.” We are all the same. It’s great! Go and do you.
#5: Create an Environment That Lifts Your Mood
Since self-care is the practice of taking an active role in your own well-being, it is essential to complement your routine with an environment that does not cause stress. The lives we lead and the environment we are placed in cause us stress—especially right now as we become more socially isolated and sedentary.
Practical examples would be to start with your work desk. Your physical condition can affect your mental and emotional well-being. If you have yourself remain seated for hours on end, your back and shoulders start hurting. Replacing your current desk with an adjustable sit-to-stand desk can make a huge difference in your mood. Standing desks allow you to continue working from a sitting height to a standing height with easily adjustable buttons or cranks.
Next, you can consider using an ergonomic high-back office chair. Ergonomic chairs actually reduce the negative effects that sitting can have on your health. They also provide a better sense of comfort and support. More than that, ergonomic chairs have fully adjustable elements that allow you to customize your seat based entirely on what feels great and comfortable for you. These chairs aim to support your back, head, and arms. Moreover, the mesh backrest facilitates a cooler feel to your experience.
Nowadays, since most work is done through a computer, the use of mice has become more of a necessity. It can also be recommended to switch to an ergonomic vertical mouse. Vertical mouses are said to cause less strain on your wrist and arms. This is for the reason that our arms were not meant to be distorted or twisted in a horizontal position.
Little tweaks in our home office may spell the difference between a bad mood and a good mood, as well as a good mood and a better mood.
We acknowledge that we are the gatekeeper of our lives.
At the end of the day, self-care really is learning to prioritize your mental, physical, and emotional well-being, no matter how that manifests for you. The amazing paradox of self-care is essentially, giving to yourself means giving more to others. The more energy you give to caring for yourself, the more energy you have for everything else. It is a positive feedback loop. Self-care is no longer a goal competing with other daily responsibilities. Instead, it’s the power source, an autonomous facilitator of everything we want to accomplish. When a self-care behavior becomes a daily need, we sustain it. Practicing self-care in the comforts of your own home or home office is a great way to start.