Friday, May 14, 2021

Thrive Over Time by Making Self-Care a Priority

One day, a hare was making fun of the tortoise for being so slow.

“Do you ever get anywhere?” he asked with a mocking laugh.

“Yes,” replied the tortoise, “and I get there sooner than you think. I’ll run you a race to prove it.”

With great amusement, the hare agreed. The hare took off like a shot and was soon out of sight. Meanwhile, the tortoise plugged away diligently. Soon, the hare grew distracted with the race and lay down for a nap. While he slept, the tortoise slowly passed him and plodded on. The hare woke with a start and ran swiftly to the finish line, but he could not overtake the tortoise in time.

The moral of the story? “Plain plodding people, we often shall find, will leave hasty confident people behind.”

The Strain of 2020

The nature of many people is to go fast and hard for as long as possible.

But this approach to life can (quite literally!) be a killer. As Aesop’s fable reminds us, enduring over the long haul brings fruitful, sometimes unexpected results. But approaching life as a distance race takes intentional self-care, often a busy person’s lowest priority.

The time to change this trend couldn’t be more important. Gallup recently found that 2020 was officially the most stressful year in recent history, with a record-high 40% of adults worldwide saying they experienced a lot of stress the previous day. This five-percentage-point jump from 2019 represents 190 million more people globally who experienced a lot of stress. Over 75% of U.S. adults report physical or emotional stress symptoms (such as headaches, tiredness, and changed sleeping patterns). And work-related stress costs $190 billion in annual U.S. healthcare costs!

Where Stress Meets Rest

Do you need to make time for “me” time?

Initially, this involves focused thought to define what you need. Do you desire more quality relationships? Better sleep? More time for worship or outdoor exercise? Perhaps music or meaningful hobbies need more space in your life.

Next, you must consciously push back on stressors and make time for self-care. Here are some practical examples:

-- Combine a workout and soul-care by setting up regular walks with a friend

-- Set a “get ready for bed alarm” to remind yourself sleep is a priority

-- Book tangible times for prayer, family, and stillness

-- Plan “paper plate days” or easy “mental health” meals to grab a break from kitchen duty

-- Detox frequently in the tub or sauna

-- Block one day each month to plan and reflect on your personal life and calendar

-- Next time you go out with friends, plan an experience (like a cooking class) to give yourself a shot of creativity and growth

The Blessing of Boundaries

One of the best ways to fight stress is to say NO.

Set boundaries on your time, on overspending, and even your commitments at work. If you continually receive last-minute work orders from co-workers and clients, outline your expectations for better communication. Re-negotiate deadlines when unforeseen circumstances make Plan A seem impossible. And when people make requests that set off an internal alarm signal, ask for time to think about the situation before responding. This can give you the wisdom to say no, rearrange your schedule, or possibly find a more workable solution.

Remember, every time you say yes to one thing, you say no to something else. Refuse to cheat on the things that matter most! Your health, your relationships, and your joy are things you should fight to protect; they’ll help you triumph against all odds.

Slow and steady wins the race!

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