Category Archives: reaching goals

Practicing Self-Care

In his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life, Robert Maurer, Ph.D., writes “If you are trying to reach a specific goal, ask yourself every day: What is one small step I could take toward reaching my goal? Whether you ask your question aloud or in the privacy of your own thoughts, please take a kind tone with yourself, the same you’d use for a beloved friend.” 

How many times have you begun a project only to feel completely overwhelmed by the scope of it? Suddenly there are heart palpitations, stress sweat, tense muscles, confusion. You fidget. You’re frustrated and agitated. Your breathing quickens. Your imagination runs wild. Before you know it, you’re on the road to a full-blown anxiety attack. 
And you haven’t even started the project yet!  
During my years of teaching high school English, whenever I assigned the research paper, the biggest project of the year, my students complained, groaned, and even cried at the thought of it. Before I could review the project, they panicked. But as I broke down the process into daily steps, they felt more confident and mastered the skills needed to complete the project. 
To quell their nervous energy, I would have them voice their concerns about the project, so I could diffuse their fears. I would lead them in a guided meditation to calm them, and then assign affirmations for them to repeat or write out for homework. But more importantly, I would tell them to relax into the experience and to practice self-care whenever they felt overwhelmed.
When we get caught up in big projects or challenges, we forget to take the same kind tone with ourselves as we do with our loved ones. Instead, we allow fear to control us; we call ourselves names, put ourselves down, and yell at ourselves, when all we have to do is step back, breathe, and take one step at a time so we can break the project down in smaller, more manageable parts. 
Rather than eat Cheetos and curl up in a ball, the first small step we can take toward any project, goal, or challenge is practicing self-care. It’s also important to practice self-care during and after any big endeavor. Here are some things you can do to start.
1.  Affirm that all things are working out. Repeat as often as necessary until you feel calm.
2.  Listen to your favorite music. Sing it! 
3.  Do something creative. Engaging in a creative activity allows energy to flow more freely. 
4.  Meditate. Pray. Contemplate. Daydream. Visualize success.
5.  Drink a cup of tea. Sip it slowly.
6.  Take a lavender epsom salt bath (Dr. Teal’s is wonderful!). The scent of lavender calms the mind.
7.  Talk to someone you love and trust.
8.  Spend time with someone. Do quality things together.
9.  Spend time alone in nature. Observe what you see. Learn from it. Ask what it can teach you.
10. Get to bed at a reasonable hour. Sleep-deprivation will only zap your energy.
11. Keep a journal. Express yourself in any way that you want. Be daring! Write with fire!
12. Get a manicure, a pedicure, or a massage.
13. Do yoga. Stretch. Moving the body physically helps to remove unblocked energies.
14. B R E A T H E…
15. Read a couple of chapters of your favorite inspirational book.
16. Declutter your living or work environment. Energy gets trapped in clutter. Release it.
17. Turn off the news, and refrain from social media sites at least 30 minutes before bed.
18. Say no when you must. 
19. Eat healthy foods and snacks to give you energy. 
20. Choose your own method of self-care that is safe and healthy.
These are just some of the things that you can do to prepare for a big challenge or to calm yourself in the face of overwhelm. 
Be your own best friend. Treat yourself kindly. You wouldn’t beat down a loved one in this situation; you’d build him or her up with support and love, so why treat yourself otherwise? 
Be good to yourself. Practice self-care. And things will fall into place. 
How do you practice self-care? Please share. 

Kids, A Cause, and Catfish

I like to reward myself.

No. Let me take that back.

I love to reward myself.

It’s my way of patting myself on my back for accomplishing something.

Yesterday, I ran a 5K race along the beautiful Tennessee River in the Shoals area of Alabama to benefit St. Jude’s Hospital for children. Well-over 200 people showed for the race, not counting those who came to support us on the sidelines.

When I run, I don’t compete with others; I compete with myself. My goal was to knock off one to two minutes of my total run time. That may not seem like a lot, but when you are pounding the pavement on a hot, humid day, that’s a very challenging goal. When I crossed the finish line, I found that I had knocked off two minutes and three seconds from the last 5K. Yes! Mission accomplished, and then some (hey, three seconds is a lot to a runner!). I also placed third in my age group (an added bonus!).

But it wasn’t easy. To get me through, I thought about the kids in St. Jude’s…and catfish.

So, today I rewarded myself with what I consider the best catfish in the South at Hagy’s Catfish Hotel in Shiloh, Tennessee. Oh. My. God. Cat-fish-gasm.

If you are a catfish connoisseur like me, the fish must be crunchy on the outside and moist and flaky on the inside. It must be pond-raised and fresh, never frozen. And it’s got to be accompanied by hushpuppies, what I call the french fries of the South. If you’re not familiar with hushpuppies, they are deep-fried cornbread balls. Legend has it that hunters, fishermen, and cooks would fry this delectable cornmeal mixture and feed it to the dogs to “hush the puppies” during fish-fries. Legend also has it that Civil War soldiers used hushpuppies to quiet the barking of Confederate dogs.

But, I digress.

If given the choice of splurging on a rich, velvety, chocolate dessert or fresh catfish and savory hushpuppies, I’ll take catfish hands down (or fins down!). Along with some homemade tartar sauce and sweet tea, thank you.

I ate it all!

Rewarding yourself for accomplishing a goal or a mini-goal deserves celebration. But rewards must be done correctly. That means they must have extrinsic and/or intrinsic value; that is, a reward can come from outer things (like catfish!), or the reward is in how our accomplishment (cutting two minutes and three seconds from my previous run time) makes us feel inwardly (victorious and proud).

While rewards that change our inner life are more important in the long run, outer rewards serve as important pats-on-the-back along the way. And it’s important not to punish the slip-ups because they do happen on occasion.

Rewarding ourselves is about celebrating and loving the self. Rewards make us feel good about ourselves; they help build our self-esteem which gives us the courage and the motivation to keep moving forward. They are the fuel that keeps us going in the direction of our authentic self because they stimulate a positive cycle of change.

While fried catfish and hushpuppies aren’t the healthiest reward, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it from time to time.

How do you reward yourself for your accomplishments? What other tips or insight can you offer about rewards?