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Permission to Feel Good: Why Self-Care Is Essential Fuel for What Matters Most

Posted on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 by UVM Health Network - CVMC

Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, MS, motivation scientist, is author of critically acclaimed “No Sweat! How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.”

For most of us, the hardest part of sustaining physical movement is figuring out how to make time for it in schedules that are already crammed full with work responsibilities and family needs. We’re all pretty good of taking care of what needs to be done – but often at the expense of our own self-care.

How can we take care of ourselves when we have so many other commitments, and life just keeps throwing us curveballs?

It may seem selfish to talk about prioritizing your own self-care, but in fact it’s just the opposite: When we take care of ourselves, we have more energy and enthusiasm to devote to our daily roles and goals — and to those we value most.

The Amazing Paradox of Self-Care

We usually think that when we give something away, it’s gone. But, when it comes to our own self-care, the result is just the opposite: The more energy we give to caring for ourselves, the more energy we generate, and the more energy we can give to everything (and everybody) else.

Permission to care of ourselves – whether it’s allowing ourselves a few more minutes of sleep, walking a few extra steps, playing with the kids, going ballroom dancing, or simply walking away from the computer for a few minutes – creates an abundant energy resource we can share with the world.

Week 3. A New HOW: Giving Yourself Permission to Prioritize Your Own Self-Care

“Everything Counts” has helped you identify new Whys and new Ways for movement. Now, it’s time to consider HOW you prioritize your own self-care: Do you put it low or high on your daily “to do” list? Making self-care a high priority is a new How for exercise – giving yourself permission to put your own self-care at the top of your to-do list and thus making a physically active life – for life — a real possibility.

I can’t repeat this enough: Making sure your self-care needs are consistently met gives you the energy you need to take care of all that you value (and need to accomplish) in your busy life.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Listen to your body’s distress signals: Fulfilling our responsibilities to others while neglecting our own can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and even poor health. Many times, we are so busy and disconnected from our own bodies that we don’t hear the distress signals our bodies send. This week, listen for your body’s messages to you (they may be very subtle, so sit with it). Is your body asking for more movement? More sleep? More time with friends?
  • Identify your daily fundamental self-care needs. We all have a self-care need that keeps us going. Getting enough sleep, enough food, enough time by yourself to decompress, enough time to relax with friends . . . What’s your personal bottom line for feeling like your best self? Strategize ways to make sure you meet these needs every day. Let your family and friends know what you’re doing if it will involve their schedules. And be sure to tell them why you’re making these changes.
  • Ask yourself whether you feel comfortable consistently prioritizing your own self-care, and why you feel that way. You may feel that it’s “selfish,” or that you genuinely have no extra time. Please consider this: Prioritizing your own self-care helps you see your world – and your time – in a new light. When you don’t have that 30 minutes for the gym or walk you planned, permission opens your eyes to other possibilities: You find 10 minutes here, five minutes there. You do what you can today, and it all adds up.

This week, experiment with giving yourself permission to nurture your own self-care and energetic needs. Hint: When it comes to self-care, perfection is not our friend. Do what you can, when you can – and most of all, feel great about your self-care efforts.

Stay tuned: Next week’s post will explore easy and practical sustainability strategies you can use to ensure that enjoyable physical movement and self-care continue to be part of your daily life for a lifetime. Stay tuned!

Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, MS, motivation scientist, is author of critically acclaimed No Sweat! How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.” She is the Director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center (SHARP) at the University of Michigan, and Chair of the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan’s Communications Committee. No Sweat was chosen as the #1 book in Diet/Exercise in 2015 by the USA Best Book Awards, when released it achieved the #1 bestselling Exercise & Fitness book on Amazon, and it was featured in The New York Times. Segar lives with her husband and son in Ann Arbor, and she loves walking, speaking Spanish, eating great food, and hanging out with friends and family. She ran with the Olympic Torch at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

If the ideas in the Everything Counts Program and Giveaway resonate with you and you want more, get a free chapter of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness at:

Copyright © 2016 Michelle Segar.

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