Mental health, including self-care, have become widely accepted, even trending, topics. It’s somewhat a 180 degree shift since preconceived ideas, judgments or even associated stigma that may have existed a decade or more ago.
Organisations like Beyond Blue or Black Dog, or trends like R U Okay day along with many more, have all played a part. As has the challenges faced globally this past 18 months.
When ‘R U Okay’ day swung around recently it was refreshing to have clients request content this year that target the positive side of self care in addition to checking in with others. In a world of remote work and lockdown it’s important to create habits of continued connection—to recreate the water cooler conversations or the ‘walk between’ discussions that happen in office environments between meetings. It’s equally important we take care ourselves first in order to be present when we’re collaborating or checking in with others.
Value Your Mind
The human brain is a marvel of natural engineering. You have more neurons in your brain than stars in the universe. You have as many electrical impulses firing around your mind each day than all the phones in the world combined. Your cerebral cortex is no different to any other muscle in the body: the more you train it, the stronger it grows. It’s interesting to note the average human brain weighs roughly 1.4 – 1.6kg. Albert Einstein’s (a commonly accepted genius) weighed apparently 1.2 kg. Evidence that size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with your thinking that does.
We have literally thousands of thoughts every single day. Many mundane or even self-deflating. One of the longest journeys is the one ideas take from the head en route to the gut or heart. When you learn to surf the waves of your own mind, choosing which to give more energy, time or focus on, self care and wellness more assuredly follows. Mindset then is akin to a daily wardrobe. Endeavour to choose the thoughts you seriously engage with the same way you choose your daily clothes. I don’t know many folks, EAs or PAs especially, who’d turn up daily in random outfits with the first clothes that fell out of the cupboard.
Having goals (professional, personal, learning and fulfilment, not just KPI related), helps filter your thinking, choices and actions. Is it helping you get to where you want to arrive at in all facts of life? In the same way we don’t have to take part in every argument or political maneuver we’re invited to, we can choose which of those waves, constant in our mind, we choose to surf.
Value your body
There’s exceptional science to show the mind body connection. Studies among Olympians even highlight the power of visualisation. Efficiency and accuracy can bring improvement to reality purely through the power of focused thought. Your body is exceptional technology, too. Better than anything ‘vorsprung Deutsch technik’ or Swiss precision in design.
The human heart beats, on average, 100, 000 times a day and generates enough energy to drive an 18-wheeler truck over 32 kms. It’s estimated a single, healthy human hair might support 100g in weight. Put another way, your full healthy head might support the weight of two full grown elephants. If, like me, a charismatic well-earned recession has occurred, the remaining locks likely supporting two baby elephants, or at least one, is still pretty cool to crow about.
There’s enough iron in the blood to, if fused together, form a 3-inch sturdy tack. Perhaps where the expression ‘tough as nails’ comes from!
Our perceptions through sight, sound, smell, touch and taste are so phenomenal. I expand on each significantly in my latest book ‘Add Value’. Senses and sensory engagement are an important component of emotional value. One example being that with 20-20 vision, and if the earth were flat, you’d pick out a flickering candle almost 50km away. Or perhaps who’s taking, wasting or not returning assets from the stationary or meeting room supplies from the same distance.
So, even if you surf couches or binge any gustatory indulgences, you don’t necessarily need to hit the gym, weights or aerobics with obsession for hours each day in order to feel, holistically, better. Just ensure you’re taking time to exercise and be a little more mindful with nutrition that serves you well.
In the digital age, where we’re bombarded with tech, it’s also worth taking time away from all screens, perhaps on walks, to let those magnificent senses of yours work to their full capacity and be your entertainment.
Value your spirit
We all have off days. Even with daily habits, balanced perspective or clarity in goals. In fact when we feel down in spirit we may spiral into what feels, at times, like an uncontrolled decline.
As Abraham Hicks wonderfully describes, thinking patterns are like a car being tipped steadily from the top of a hill. If you can get out in front of it before the hefty vehicle commences rolling, you stand a chance to prevent disaster. But, once that car tips far enough over, it picks up velocity and you don’t want to be anywhere in front of its path!
Your thinking works the same way. If you have aspects of life that are feeling somewhat negative or out of control perhaps the best thing you can do is recognise it, then get off the subject. Focus on another area of life that is working well, or better.
Mindfulness and meditation have also gained airtime and popularity in recent years. For good reason. I’ll testify personally to the power of both. Meditation is a practice I’ve incorporated for close to two decades. Like many things in life, what feels counter intuitive is often the best way to go. Clarity comes from focusing on less: silencing the mind.
If you struggle with taking time out, perhaps try first thing in a morning coming out of sleep. Your thoughts have been somewhat suspended from the day before and it’s easier to embrace sitting still or being silent. If you must focus on something, let it be your breathing. Even for 15 minutes a day. It’s a great way to kick start each morning and the science is there to support the positive impact on mindset, self care and many other significant aspects of daily life.
In the same way that safety in flying means putting on your own oxygen mask first, we’re better for others when focusing on taking care of ourselves. EAs and PAs especially are often the empathetic ear navigating multiple divisions and stakeholders. Improved self care is achieved through energy and a refocus towards new or reinvigorated daily habits.
Mark Carter is an international keynote speaker, trainer and coach. His TEDxCasey talk ‘Paws and Effect: how teddy bears increase value perception was the movie trailer for his latest book Add Value. www.markcarter.com.au