I think that it is a very fundamental piece of this whole reinvention process and that there are many layers to think about this topic beyond just the typical self-help things like treat yourself nicely, light candles, take a bubble bath and all that other typical stuff.When we use the term self-care, I want to look at this from the perspective of performance. By performance, I mean not just how well we show up for work but really how well we show up for our world. This is about being engaged with our world at the highest possible level that we can.
Self-care is a very fundamental piece of what we would call peak performance. We need to think of ourselves as life athletes. We’re here on this Earth. We have a limited amount of time. We’ve been given bodies to show up and do what we’re meant to do in this world, interact in the way that we’re meant to interact and create the things that only we can create.
All of that requires us to expend energy. In doing so, we need to manage that process so that we can deliver at whatever our highest and best level of performance is.
We’re looking at this whole topic of self-care from the perspective of what’s it going to take for me to be able to show up in the best possible way in my world?
There are a couple of books that I just love and infuse into what I do and how I manage things. One of them is called The Power of Full Engagement. The lovely principle behind this book is that it’s about managing energy, not time, that really is the secret to having a powerful and full presence in your world.
The fourth piece of the principle of full engagement is positive energy rituals. They define rituals as highly specific routines for managing energy that are the key to full engagement and high performance.
A positive ritual is a behavior that becomes automatic over time. As we said, they’re highly structured and carefully defined. It’s behavior. When that behavior is structured, it’s defined. You do it over time because it’s ritual. It starts to move out of the prefrontal cortex and into the basal ganglia.
It starts to become less energy intensive. We’re actually able to manage our energy because we’re moving it out of willpower and discipline, which draw on the pre-frontal cortex, have a high-energy requirement and deplete our metabolic energy levels.
We move it into rituals, which draw on the basal ganglia, have a low-energy requirement and are energy-sustaining. They maintain our energy level. That’s why we can drive, get home, and feel the same.
The idea is to create these rituals that can be moved into our basal ganglia and then save that energy level for those real tasks that are the critical ones that we need to be creative, think through problems, make decisions, and solve things.
The key is to set up physical rituals in the four areas of our lives that become these habits. We’ve talked about some of these. Now we’re getting into the basic self-care things.
Understanding what’s happening biologically and in our brains, now we can start to customize these rituals at a much deeper level than just saying, “We have to take care of ourselves.”
What physical rituals can you have that will help you manage your energy stores? In the past, we’ve talked about getting enough sleep. Again, structure a ritual around it, as opposed to having it be willpower and thinking, “I have to do it.”
Have a ritual where your body starts to be trained. It’s just the way you go brush your teeth before you go to bed. You don’t even think about it. It’s just a ritual. You train your body to go to sleep at a regular hour, or have these rituals that help you wind down and go to bed at a particular time. Going to sleep is a ritual that can help you physically.
Another is strategic eating. This just depends on each person. There’s a really interesting book that I read years ago called Managing Your Mind and Mood Through Food. It talks about how you manage your moods and energy levels through what you eat.
You want to pay attention to what you’re eating and use that strategically to balance your physical energy. Certain kinds of foods really help you have some staid energy. Other foods are actually very draining to your energy because they require a lot of metabolic processing in your body.
Sugar is one of those things that people use to keep their energy up. Actually, sugar is a very temporary high. Then it crashes you out. Many times, people get into a cycle where they’re eating sugar all of the time. They find that they’re up and then crash, and they really are putting a lot of energy drain on your body.
These are the kinds of things that you want to take a look at. What are you doing strategically around your food to help balance your physical energy so that you have optimum energy and enough balance going on in there?
What kind of rituals do you have from an emotional level? By emotional I mean relationships. Those are the real things that help us sustain ourselves emotionally. What are you doing in your relationships? What kinds of rituals do you have that connect you emotionally so you can be at that energy level?
If you don’t have that, that’s where it becomes you saying, “I have to do this. I have to call my friends. I have to spend more times with my partner or husband.”
All of those things can be a big drain, instead of having the rituals that go along with it and then having it move into the basal ganglia so that we have more energy for other mental demands.
Speaking of mental, that’s the third area for rituals. They’re rituals around creativity, focus and mental optimism. We’ve talked about some of those. Having affirmations is a mental ritual that can help balance creativity.
Set up rituals where you actually tap into your creativity, whether it is having time to read, going to the museum or whatever it is. Have rituals that help you build your energy bank back up so that you have more to draw for those bursts of energy when you need to put it out there.
From a spiritual perspective, have rituals that you can set up that are aligned with your purpose and help you connect to a higher power. What kinds of rituals can you do around all of that?
Those rituals are the true essence of self-care. They’re much more structured and in alignment with managing our energy than just the typical list of self-care things that we’re doing.
What this month is going to be all about is learning to pay attention to those energy stores and looking at what kinds of rituals or automatic behaviors we can set in those four key areas that will help balance our energy so that we have more energy available for those limited, intensive tasks.
We’re not drawing ourselves down on things that we don’t need to. We learn how to balance before we can be fully engaged in our