Practice yoga, down a kale juice, frolic in a flower field, meditate, kick-box, etc – these are just a few low-cost ways to demonstrate self-care that will enhance and prolong our lives.
Now, more than ever, we are struggling with the need to reduce stress and anxiety induced by world chaos. We conduct routine “maintenance” to keep ourselves going, approaching our daily lives in the same way we approach our careers…constructing crisis communications plans, building upon best practices, analyzing weekly data reports, hosting client meetings on Zoom as if it’s business as usual, But in this upside down Pandemic-driven life, we continue to lose sleep over our jobs which is essentially the equivalent of driving drunk to the office. I ask myself, ‘why the hell don’t we apply the very same career-elevating techniques to our lives outside of the office? Why don’t we prioritize taking care of ourselves? Instead, we work retroactively to damage control the mess we’ve made by neglecting our overall well-being. We are missing the key strategy that most of us need the most and love the least – building self-awareness through introspection and exploring our vulnerability.
I’m Rachael, a 27-year-old Digital Content & Marketing Strategy Manager working across a few different surf/lifestyle brands in Southern California in addition to some freelance work. Prior to assuming this role, I worked on documentary feature films at Red Bull Media House. For the past 6 years, I’ve been working a big girl j-o-b in tandem with being an active facilitator of yoga, meditation, and other forms of mindful movement practices. I’m driven, a super-achiever. When I look at the overall big picture of my career path thus far–a gal muscling her way up the corporate ladder is what displays on canvas, but not without a little blood, sweat, and tears—I’m astounded at the amount of stress I produce and absorb.
For much of my life, the residual side effects of stress have been taking their toll – a teeth-clenching habit, loss of appetite, sub-par sleep, light anxiety, burnout. There have been moments when I’ve felt like someone poured hot coffee all over my brain. Since working cross functionally is my bread and butter, thank goodness that I have always been able to apply learnings from work into teachings in the yoga studio and vice versa. I believe my unique experiences within both realms contributes to how I optimize my own life, which in turn, sharpens my performance overall.
Studying the intersection of yoga and corporate America brought me to delve more deeply into the physical stress-response cycle. The most important thing I’ve learned in this is that when we endure stress, we’re often left holding onto it in the form of increased cortisol. Our bodies store stress-induced cortisol in unique places much the way we store fat or carbs as an energy source. The way we process stress (completing the physical stress-response cycle) is typically through what many would call “self-care” tactics. If we take out the perceived woo-woo and look at the science of it all, our business-centric minds can focus on the importance of this process.
Now, I can guess what you’re thinking – the phrase “self-care” is a bit worn. Perhaps, but I believe we focus more on how to take care of our creature comforts, when we should really be shifting focus to our inner selves and cultivating a deeper sense of self-awareness. Hangry? Eat. Exhausted? Sleep. Thirsty? Drink water…or a glass of wine if that’s what’s calling. The answer lies in listening to your inner voice. If you can’t give yourself what you need because you don’t know what you need, then how will you leverage any proposed tactics to better serve you?
If you try to fix a dead battery with a rubber band – watch out for repercussions!
Having the ability to mentally self-medicate to prevent breakdown is essential for planning ahead, maintaining equilibrium, and doing damage control. However, active self-awareness, introspection, healthy boundary-setting and self-care are often easier said than done, and thus, can cause some foggy prescriptions. To be quite honest, a good portion of my year has been spent in a fog due to a multitude of life changes that had me feeling detached from myself, so I prescribed the works. I meditated with the Calm App, tried Hal Elrod’s “Miracle Morning,” went on long beach walks, kicked and screamed, journaled excessively, took up watercolor painting, spent a lot of time surfing, practiced yoga daily, took a course of acupuncture, went kick-boxing, and more. After it all, I found myself scratching my head wondering why nothing I could do was bringing me back to neutral. I didn’t recognize myself.
Anyone who knows me would describe me as a ray of sunshine who has it together, could get along with a cardboard box, and moves like a sea lion when jumping into the ocean with a longboard. But wait, somehow I lost myself in a sea of heavy panic attacks. I hide from my friends, and found myself sleeping far beyond the necessary amount each night. Two months ago, after a series of painful events, I realized that I am not a board-certified doctor, and it was time to seek professional help to heal myself.
If I may share my newly-honed insight, it isn’t “DRINK YOUR KALE,” that’s not the message. Instead, I encourage you to be honest with yourself. Listen to your heart, your inner voice/intuition and those who love you. Surrender a little, or a lot. Slow dance with your vulnerability to get to know yourself better. If you’re clinging to a life raft, find your Wilson and doggy paddle to land. You don’t have to suffer alone or in silence with the hardships of living through a pandemic, working a stressful job, everything else on your plate. You have the “self-care” tools at your disposal. Google and anyone else can display your options…it’s up to you to take what you need to regain your equilibrium, to love yourself and your life.
*To those who extended the life raft while I was drowning, thank you for letting me trust fall. I love you to pieces.”