Ever speed down the driveway to go to work and discover – from a THUNK and deluge of brown liquid running down the windshield – that the traveler cup of coffee you couldn’t find as you raced out of the house was right where you left it… on the roof of your car?
(I have… more than once)
Ever rise in the pre-dawn hours, dress by flashlight so as not to wake a sleeping spouse and not realize until you get to the office that you’re wearing two similar – but clearly different – shoes?
(I have… but in my defense, in the dark they looked exactly alike)
Ever have those days when you’re so busy you FORGET TO EAT?
(Um, no, I haven’t… but I have heard this is a problem for some people…)
We race from one meeting to the next, one task to the other, work to home and home to work…
A hustle that is better described as a tizzy, all those crazy busy days.
And then we “chill” on the couch by binge-watching while binge-eating and enjoying the calming effects of a glass of wine. Or two. Heck, once the bottle is open, might as well just finish it…
And then we get up and do it all over again.
It’s exhausting, isn’t it?
All of this busyness and tizzy-ness and stress is taxing our bodies and our physical and mental well-being.
But how does a Super Busy, Super Stressed-Out woman have time to take care of herself?
She doesn’t. But she should. Because “being stressed out all the time, eating out of vending machines,” is no way to live.
So says Caryn Sullivan, health and wellness expert, motivational speaker, and owner of Pretty Wellness. She spent years in the corporate world – that was her description of the environment: “eating out of vending machines” – and, like many of us, struggled with too much to do in too little time.
Unlike many of us, Caryn was and still is fighting a bigger battle – stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She was first diagnosed in 2004 and found her cancer returned in 2013. Always positive, Caryn used the diagnosis to commit to a healthy and full life. She now motivates audiences with her healthy living expertise and also speaks and writes about cancer resources. Her book, “Happiness through Hardship – A Guide for Cancer Patients, Their Caregivers and Friends During an Initial Cancer Diagnosis” can be ordered HERE.
Caryn is living – well, actively, and joyfully – through cancer. She wants to help others live well, active and joyful lives too, and says it shouldn’t take a health crisis to make us take care of ourselves.
“We know we’re not taking care of ourselves when we’re running ourselves ragged,” Caryn says. “When you don’t take good care of yourself, your immunity could be at risk, and with lower immunity, you’re more likely to get sick.”
And that’s not all. We’re not as productive at work either.
“From a professional perspective,” she continues. “Your thought leadership isn’t as sharp. You’re moving so fast, you feel really hazy.”
That all sounds familiar to me, this blur of our busy days.
“The opportunity presents itself not just to prevent disease and illness but to feel great,” Caryn insists. “You will be a better leader with a clearer head, more energy, and creativity if you take better care of yourself.”
How do we do that when we struggle with creating and maintaining boundaries?
Seriously… how do we make time for self-care when we can’t even find time in between meetings to pee?
“There are some days you have to prioritize and sometimes it’s not to yourself,” she says. “You have to ask, ‘What small effort can I change to help me to take better care of myself?’ It’s different for each person.”
Caryn says we need to determine where our resistance lies. Do we truly not have the time? Or does change – even positive change – make us uncomfortable? Are we willing to stray from our couch-sitting, Malbec-sipping comfort zone?
“Most people think you have to be drastic to get the results you want,” Caryn notes. “But most people don’t have time to overhaul their lives, so you have to keep it simple.”
She recommends 3 ways to get started:
- Just Do Something!
Caryn suggests starting the day with a cup of warm water with lemon, an easy step towards eating clean. Lemon water helps rehydrate us after waking up and the acidic fruit alkalizes and detoxes our system.
“You’re going to feel good,” Caryn says. ” You’ll have a sense of accomplishment while doing something good for yourself.”
She’s right. I tried it. I didn’t mind it. I didn’t give up my morning cup of coffee (when I don’t leave it on the roof of my car) but I now precede the caffeine with lemon water. And after a week, I started noticing my body anticipated it, even craved it.
When life gives you lemons, squeeze one into a cup of warm water…
2. Short-Interval Stress Reduction
Caryn recommends short breaks throughout the day to manage stress through a simple breathing technique – in through the nose and out through the mouth for 10 beats.
For stressful transitions – work to home and home to work – she suggests using a readily available meditation app. The brief pause of as little as 3-5 minutes helps hit the reset button.
This one was hard for me. I’m sometimes so keyed up, I have a hard time sitting quietly, minding my breath. Even the breath feels like it gets stuck in my chest. But here’s the thing – it works. And it gets easier, even enjoyable, as you become accustomed to doing it.
3. Eat to Nourish Yourself
This one seems obvious, right? Then why don’t we do it? Because ricotta stuffed shells are just so good!
“When changing your diet, think about adding things rather than taking them away,” says Caryn. “People get caught up in thinking ‘I can’t get rid of this or that’ and it feels like deprivation. So think instead about what you can add to your life.”
She recommends fruits and veggies for nutrients and fiber and batch-making smoothies over the weekend to keep in the freezer and defrost overnight.
I tried it. What I Learned from Photographing my Food helped me to “see” what I was putting in my body.
Ready for more? Caryn offers these 50 Clean Eating Tips on her website, simple things individuals can do to immediately improve their health and well-being.
In order to improve our personal efforts, Caryn encourages companies to get to play a role in promoting employee wellness.
“The investment is a win-win,” Caryn says. “Companies see the benefit of helping employees care for themselves. It’s cost-effective to keep people at work, not sick or stressed out at home. Investing in preventative care means insurance costs go down. And morale is improved.”
Sounds good to me. I’m making my new habits habitual.
I’m just hoping I don’t drive away with my lemon water on the roof of my car…
How about you? What are your biggest self-care challenges? For more healthy living tips, follow Caryn Sullivan @PrettyWellness.
Valerie Gordon is a lifelong storyteller, author, and founder of The Storytelling Strategist. She speaks at conferences and works with corporations, helping high-achievers harness the power of story to create successful and satisfying careers. Read more from the blog HERE.