I am so excited to introduce all of you to my lovely friend, Lani Kwon. She is my classmate and real life friend. Thanks to Facebook we have re-connected again and I am so grateful. She is a constant encouragement and inspiration.
She is mom to Noa who is only several months older than my baby Hayden who just turned 2yrs old.
I have asked her if I could share this write up of hers which talks about the importance of self-care, important especially to moms.
Lani Kwon, MA
Creating Co-Powerment® Founder & CEO,
Transitions and Transformations Coach
and Workshop Facilitator
and Workshop Facilitator
Because You’re Important, Too! Five Things You Can Do in Just a Few Minutes Each Day for Self-Care and Empowerment
This article was originally published in the August 2011 issue of the National Association of Social Workers' (NASW) Hawai'i Chapter Newsletter:
Too often, we in the care-giving professions self-sacrifice to the point of burnout. We find ourselves stretched to the breaking point, putting our clients, families and work ahead of our own basic needs and wellbeing in a misguided, though altruistic, effort to be of service in the world.
However, you can prevent overload by taking good care of yourself in just a few minutes each day and, thus, actually be in a better position to serve others. Try some or all of the following, and see how much better you will feel:
Breathe: This is a surprising quick and easy fix for stress and anxiety. Have you ever noticed how you’re breathing? When we feel stressed or anxious, often unconsciously we will hold our breath or hyperventilate. A simple way to change this is to breathe more slowly with attention and care. Inhale for a slow count of 5, pause for 1 count, and then exhale for an equal amount of time. Do this for at least a minute, and notice how much calmer and more balanced you feel. You can do this any time you need to feel more in control and centered.
Make time for yourself: Far from being selfish, taking even a few minutes each day to get in touch with your own thoughts and feelings can yield extremely positive results. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, best-selling author of Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life and one of the early leaders in mind-body-spirit awareness, “Dwelling in stillness and looking inward for some part of each day, we touch what is most real and reliable in ourselves and most easily overlooked and undeveloped. When we can be centered in ourselves, even for brief periods of time in the face of the pull of the outer world, not having to look elsewhere for something to fill us up or make us happy, we can be at home wherever we find ourselves, at peace with things as they are, moment by moment” (96-97). It is possible to become more aware and, thus, empowered in even a few minutes a day.
Start by setting aside the amount of time you want to practice without interruption; unplug the phone, close the office or bedroom door, and go inward–first thing in the morning, during a break at work or in the evening, any time that you can set aside a moment for yourself. Sit or lie down, and then close your eyes and notice the thoughts, sensations and feelings that arise, without trying to change them. Anytime you find yourself being swept away by worries or planning or by past or future thinking, simply come back to the present moment by noticing your breathing, inhaling and exhaling, and the pauses in between. You can do this in private, with a meditation CD or as part of a meditation class or group. Listening to your internal dialogue, physical sensations and feelings will allow you to face any situation with equanimity, strength and grace.
Take care of the basics: Eat, drink and exercise moderately and get at least eight hours of sleep. Countless research has shown these basics benefit us, but it can seem challenging to break old habits and implement positive changes. I often find that my clients envision these basics as more daunting tasks than they actually are. The key is to systematically replace an undesirable habit with a healthier one. For example eat and drink smaller portions by using a smaller plate and cup and leaving your desk for meals.
Moderate cardiovascular exercise such as walking for at least 30 minutes on even just 1 or 2 days a week increased people’s emotional well-being and physical fitness, while decreasing their chances of becoming obese or depressed. According to an online article by Brett W. Pelham about the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index conducted in 2009, “One encouraging aspect of these findings is that they show a boost in wellbeing that may come from as little as one to two days of weekly exercise. That is, the wellbeing gap between a sedentary lifestyle and lifestyle of occasional exercise is much greater than the wellbeing gap between moderate and heavy exercisers. The findings not only support the notion that exercise may boost wellbeing, but they also suggest that it is not necessary to exercise every day of the week to reap meaningful physical or psychological benefits of exercise.”
New York Times best-selling author, Gretchen Rubin, writes in her book The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun: “Millions of people fail to get the recommended seven to eight hours sleep a night, and one study revealed that along with tight work deadlines, a bad night’s sleep was one of the top two factors that upset people’s daily moods…Sleep deprivation impairs memory, weakens the immune system, slows metabolism, and might, some studies suggest, foster weight gain” (19). However, there are several practical and simple steps you can take to get better quality and quantity sleep based upon several scientific studies that Rubin cites in her research: “Near your bedtime, don’t do any work that requires alert thinking. Keep your bedroom slightly chilly. Do a few prebed stretches.Also—this is important—because light confuses the body’s circadian clock, keep the lights low around bedtime…also, make sure your bedroom is very dark when the lights are out” (20). These simple steps can increase the amount and quality of the sleep you get each night and, thereby, increase your productivity and improve your mood during the day.
By taking care of the basic human needs we have for nutrition, exercise and rest, you will become healthier and perform better in your service work.
Follow the advice you would give your best friend: Often clients will ask me what the next step should be in whatever life transition they are experiencing, be it divorce or recovery or career change, and I always ask them, “What would you tell a good friend going through the exact same experience?” Most people know in their heart and soul what the answers are to the questions they have. By treating ourselves as we would our best friends, we provide better self-care and empower ourselves in a way that enhances our personal and professional relationships.
Show some aloha for yourself: According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Go Easy On Yourself, A New Wave of Research Urges,” “People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding of others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests.”Dr. Kristin Neff, associate professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind says, “I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be...Self-compassion is really conducive to motivation.” By treating ourselves with the same kindness and consideration we show others, instead of beating ourselves up or continually putting ourselves down, we actually become more productive and more effective.
Note that this type of self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant. In fact a simple thing like treating oneself to a movie or lunch out or even buying a small treat like a new bottle of nail polish or new app for your smartphone can go a long way. In fact, there’s no need to spend any money at all. A short walk around the block, playing with children or a visit to an art museum or a beach or state park can offer a quick pick-me-up during the day that will keep you upbeat, creative and resilient.
As a caregiver or social worker, it’s even more important to take good care of yourself to avoid burnout and to increase long-term fulfillment in your goals of serving others and making the world a better place. Self-care and empowerment doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant, and it is not selfish. It can be simple and quick and take just minutes each day and, yet, it will yield tremendous results in keeping you motivated, focused and connected to the communities you serve.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon. (1994). Wherever You Go There You Are: MindfulnessMeditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion.
Parker-Pope, Tara. (February 28, 2011). “Go Easy On Yourself, A New Wave of Research Urges.” New York Times. Retrieved August 2, 2011, from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/go-easy-on-yourself-a-new-wave-of-research-urges/?pagemode=print
Pellham, Brett W. (November 3, 2009). Exercise and Wellbeing: A Little Goes a Long Way. Retrieved August 2, 2011, fromhttp://www.gallup.com/poll/124073/exercise-little-goes-long.aspx
Rubin, Gretchen. (2009). The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. New York: Harper.
Lani Kwon, MA has over two decades of experience in crisis counseling, teaching, public speaking and writing, and she combined these interests into a successful coaching practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2005. Now back home in Honolulu, Hawaii, she opened the Creating Co-Powerment® Center LLC http://www.creatingcopowerment.com in order to serve and support people going through many different types of life transitions: graduation, career change, identity crisis, coming out, moving, divorce, recovery, retirement, etc…. Lani offers small group workshops and one-on-one coaching consultations, which incorporate step-by-step written explorations, visualization exercises and other fun activities in order to assist you to envision, discover and transform your life. She is a member of the International Coach Federation and is currently working on a workbook related to her coaching practice, entitledThe Creating Co-Powerment Workbook: Stories of Transition, Transformation and Transcendence to Support You in Creating the Life You Want ©2011.