Sometimes the biggest obstacle to getting where we want to go is our own thinking. When we allow ourselves to be driven by fear, stress, and worry, we inadvertently create roadblocks to the very success we desire. The easiest way to avoid this pattern of self-defeating action is to take time to take care of yourself. This is much simpler than many of us make it out to be.
The number one indicator that we have lost touch with our inspiration, and moved into unproductive action is a feeling of stress and anxiety. These feelings indicate that we have started working against ourselves and that it is time to take inventory of our personal needs. Although this is a simple process, many of us have been taught to do the opposite.
In our world there is a commonly held misconception that working harder is the solution when we feel stuck. We often berate ourselves for not being good enough and then try to force ourselves to move forward in spite of what we believe are our shortcomings. Once again, there is an easier, and more effective way of doing things. We have to learn to prioritize self-care, and let our stress be an indicator that it is time to be kind to ourselves, rather than adding more pressure.
It is the simple things, such as sleeping, eating, resting, and relaxing, that we often undervalue when we are engaged in something that seems important. I used to hold on to fantasies of the artist, teacher, or parent, who pushes himself past the breaking point for the betterment of others. While this scenario looks romantic in movies and on television, in reality it causes more harm than good.
It is often illness or some other unexpected event that comes along to slow us down when we have been pushing too hard against our own fatigue, or hunger, trying to achieve some external goal. We do not have to wait for these unpleasant outer indicators. We must consciously develop a new model for success. We must place ourselves at the top of the list of people that we are responsible for. Rather than being selfish, this turns out to be the method that gives us the most energy and joy, which we then share generously with the people around us. Our willingness to take care of our own needs first is something that benefits everyone.
I have many students who come to me with beliefs that they are not smart enough to do well in school. When we investigate these situations further, we often find out that these same students do not really give themselves a chance to be successful. They are so scared of failing, or being a failure, that they rush their work, and they do not really believe they can be successful. This discomfort can lead to eating poorly, and having difficulty sleeping at night. The stress mounts and manifests outwardly in disruptive behavior in an attempt to compensate for a clouded mind and a sense of unworthiness.
It is often the students who are not doing well that are the most stressed and worried about school. It does not seem this way because so much energy is being put into pretending to be secure and in control. Working with these students is a joy for me because I get to be a conduit for greater self-care and love. These two factors, when improved, always lead to amazing outer results.
I have many students in my lunch groups who simply need someone to look them in the eye and remind them that they are okay. They need to be reminded that there is nothing wrong with them and that they are worthy of their own respect. This same statement can be made about each one of us, when we are feeling stressed and unworthy. We must slow down and remind ourselves that we are okay. Instead of pressing on with that paper or report, slow down and eat, take a 20 minute nap, or reach out to a friend who can remind us of who we are.
The holiday season is the perfect time to slow down and reset. After all, the term holiday means holy day. During these sacred times, we have an opportunity to give ourselves the gift of nourishment in every way. As we learn to slow down and care for our selves, we will truly catch the holiday spirit. When we feel rested, fed, and loved, it is easy to see the best in others. It is also when we experience the best of who we are. Self-care allows us to enjoy our success. This is the ultimate achievement.
Photo (Top): Give yourself some love. The sky is the limit when we take the time to relax and reset. US Olympic sabre fencer, Daryl Homer, who recently dropped by Avant Garde Fencer’s Club for a demonstration, knows the value of self-care when training to be a champion
Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District. He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com.