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The cost of neglect (DW#665)

Here’s the thing: life rarely gets simpler or less stressful. While we may not always be able to control our circumstances and situation in life, there are steps that we can take to build our resilience so that we can cope better with whatever situation we find ourselves in.

Failure to care for and nurture ourselves can result in burnout if we keep going without stopping to "fill our tanks" so to speak.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when we feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet the constant demands (or perceived demands) placed on us. In other words, we feel that we do not have the personal resources to face the challenges in front of us.

Burnout reduces productivity, saps our energy and can leave us feeling helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. We may feel like we have nothing more to give – that we are running on empty, depleted.

The...

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The truth about self-care (DW#664)

Eating right, moving, resting, sleeping. No one else - not the most well-meaning spouse, parent, friend or co-worker can take this off our plate.

While we can hire others to do many tasks for us and delegate some of our to-do lists, self care is something we cannot delegate. Either we do it for ourselves or it does not get done.

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Sharpen your saw (DW#663)

A woodcutter was exhausted as he labored and strained to saw down a tree. A young man who was watching asked "What are you doing?"

"Are you blind?" the woodcutter replied irritably. "I’m cutting down this tree."

"Sir, you look exhausted!"

"I am exhausted and frustrated! I have been at this for hours already and not making much progress."

"Why don’t you take a break and sharpen your saw?"

"Because then I would have to stop sawing and I don’t have time to stop right now".

"Well", said the young man. "Consider this: If you sharpen the saw, you would cut down the tree much faster. . ."

Steven Covey uses this story in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to present the case for self care and self renewal. While it seems obvious to us when we see others labouring on without sharpening their saws, it is much more challenging to notice and attend to the blunt saws in our own lives!

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Self-Care is not a reward (DW#662)

For those of us who are achievement junkies (or workaholics), it may help to remind ourselves that caring for ourselves cannot be a reward for finishing our to-do list.

Firstly, we know that task lists and to do lists are never ending. Our inboxes never remain empty. And if we wait until we have accomplished everything to take care of ourselves, we will be waiting forever . . .

Secondly, it is actually counterproductive to keep pushing ourselves to do more before we take a break. Just like a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym, we work much more efficiently if we intersperse moments of rest and self care during our work day. Working without a break is counterproductive. Our abilities become worn. Our skills aren’t as sharp. We lose focus.

According to experts, the ideal amount of time before we need a short break is about 90 minutes. If we pause after 90 minutes, the second 90-minute block of work will be a lot more...

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You cannot pour water from an empty jug (DW#661)

You cannot pour water from an empty jug. Seems obvious doesn’t it? That you cannot give what you do not have. You cannot take care of others if you are depleted and running on empty yourself.

And yet, how many of us do this on a continuous basis? Women in particular (but not exclusively) are notorious for caring for everyone around them except themselves. We seem to be hitting every ball that life throws our way, juggling all the various roles that we play and making sure that everything and everyone is okay. The constant pumping of adrenaline in response to stress and striving helps maintain the illusion that we are okay and are managing fine.

 
But here’s the thing: we can run on empty for only so long. We can ignore ourselves and our needs for only so long.

So let us wake up before we have to. Before self neglect initiates a crisis. Before the burnout or the breakdown.

As Audre Lorde says: self-care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.

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Mental subtraction of relationships (DW#660)

All of us have relationships in our lives that are a blessing and also perhaps a relationship or two that can feel like quite a challenge at times.

It is easy for the challenging relationship to take up more than its fair share of space in our mental and emotional bandwidth. Today’s practice can help redress this balance.

The next time you are with a group of friends and/or family, try this:

1. Pause for a moment and consider a single person.
2. Think back to where and how you met this person. If they are a family member, recall your first memories with them.
3. Think about all of the possible events and decisions—large and small—that could have prevented you from meeting this person, or kept him or her from your life.
4. Imagine what your life would be like now if events had unfolded differently and you had never met this person, or if they had left your life at some earlier point. Bring to mind some of the joys and benefits you have enjoyed as a result of this...

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Mental subtraction (DW#659)

The practice of mental subtraction grew out of a series of experiments designed by UC Berkeley Professor Dr. Laura Kray and her colleagues. She asked people to imagine how their lives would look if a critical past turning point had never happened (e.g., meeting their spouse, getting accepted into college/university, getting a big promotion, meeting a dear friend or mentor). When the people in the experiment "mentally subtracted" this important event from their lives, it led to an increased sense of meaning and appreciation for what they had in their lives at the present time.

The practice of mental subtraction helps us pause for a moment, it bolsters feelings that life has been meaningful, and it creates a deep sense of appreciation. Rather than succumbing to the pitfall of comparing our blessings to someone who (seemingly) has more than us, the practice compares our current state with an imagined version of ourselves who has less.

So: Imagine what would your life be like without...

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Using the gratitude jar for good causes (DW#658)

Yesterday we discussed the gratitude jar activity for families. Today let us explore another way to use a gratitude jar which involves sharing our blessings with others.
Here is the practice:

Next to the gratitude jar in which you are depositing your daily gratitudes, also place another jar to be used as a sort of a piggy bank.

Develop a habit of depositing small amounts of money in this jar whenever you are writing out your daily gratitudes and feel called to share your good fortune with others.
Once the jar is filled up you can decide as a family where to donate the contents.

Using our gratitude to show kindness to a charity we are passionate about encourages us to show gratitude in action. It can be a very important learning for children as they begin to recognize that the blessings and gifts that we have been given also create a responsibility to pay these blessings forward and to use them to promote good in the world.

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The gratitude jar (DW#657)

Today’s practice can become a meaningful family ritual and has the potential of transforming the home environment from one of complaining to one of gratitude.

1. Find a glass jar or a box.

2. You can decorate it with your family as you wish.

3. Keep the jar in a prominent place in a busy zone of your house such as the kitchen or front hall way. Keep a stack of notes and pens next to the jar.

4. Make it a ritual for each family member to write three notes of gratitude a day and put it in the jar.

The notes can be about mundane things (a hot cup of coffee, spare toilet paper) or important things (doing well on a test, hearing from an old friend)

5. At the end of the week, you may take out the contents of the jar and have people read out the slips of paper and share what family members were grateful for during the past week.

Over time, you may find that the atmosphere of the family subtly shifts and that an attitude of gratitude becomes the norm, especially as family members are...

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A teacup full of gratitude (DW#656)

This week we are continuing exploring various gratitude practices.

Today, I am sharing one of my favourite and simplest practices.

For many of us, the morning cup of tea or coffee is quite precious. It is a ritual we engage in every single day, perhaps with not much thought to what is involved in getting that cup of caffeine to us.

Today’s practice involves becoming mindful of this blessing and feeling gratitude for it.

While you are having your first cup in the morning, pause for a moment and become mindful of cup you are holding:
Notice …
The comforting warmth that fills your hands
The aroma that gently drifts up towards your nose
The quiet time before the hustle of the day begins
How many people and resources it has taken to get this cup to you .

. . . people who planted the tea or coffee,
. . . those who harvested it, processed it and brought it to market
. . . those who took care of the cow that gave the mil
. . . those who worked in the factory that made the tea cup,...

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