Take care of yourself mindfully in short bursts together with your loved ones.
Many adults have an important role: they are caregivers. They care for their children and perhaps their parents too. They may even do it professionally. They are the pillars on which those who cannot fully care for themselves lean. Caregivers are a constant expression of love.
While spending much of our time caring for others can give us joy and purpose, it can also take its toll. Many caregivers don’t have enough time or energy to care for themselves. And if they are taking care of someone with a serious illness, they may feel depressed about the nature or course of their loved one’s disease. Caregivers may also feel guilty about their limitations or just worn out.
Regardless of the joy or pain we experience while taking care of others, we all need self-care. To balance the needs of others with our own, I would suggest focusing on the basics. We all know we need to eat and digest well, sleep well, drink enough water, and exercise regularly. I would also add that we need to breathe well—slowly and deeply from our abdomen.
Yes, this is easier said than done. How can we take care of all of this with limited time and energy? How about doing them mindfully in short bursts and together with our loved ones as much as possible.
1. Do everything mindfully.
By mindfully, I mean continuously focusing on ourselves, specifically, on our core. Keep about 40 percent of your awareness on the inner part of your abdomen below your naval. This area houses an important energy center, the one that fuels your physical power and well-being. By keeping part of your mind there, you can stay centered and grounded. Doing this also helps you maintain what’s called Water Up, Fire Down energy circulation, which is the basic energy flow in the body. We need this cycle of energy to be flowing smoothly for our overall wellness.
To help you feel your core and keep your awareness there, you can activate and strengthen it. Simple exercises such as tapping your abdomen with your palms or fists (Abdominal Tapping), pulling your lower abdominal muscles in and out (Intestinal Exercise), repeatedly pressing your belly button (Belly Button Healing), and abdominal breathing work effectively and don’t require you to be physically fit. Even Longevity Walking, though it doesn’t target the abdomen directly, is helpful because it strengthens the lower body and engages the core muscles.
These exercises not only pour more energy into your abdominal energy center, but they also make your belly warm and soft. Having a warm and soft belly helps the blood, lymph, and food in your gut circulate throughout the body better. It also relaxes your shoulders, hips, and back so you are less prone to pain or injury.
2. Do them in short bursts.
Particularly with exercise, if you feel like you don’t have time to do a lot of it, squeezing in just a minute here and there can make a difference. You can also do opportunistic exercise and combine exercises with other tasks and behaviors. For instance, you can do Intestinal Exercise while you’re doing the dishes, riding in a car, watching TV, or waiting in line. Practice Longevity Walking instead of walking unconsciously wherever you go. Stretch your arms as you walk through a doorway in your house, move your hips as you clean to keep your joints relaxed, do push-ups against a table when you pass it, or practice Toe Tapping and abdominal breathing before you fall asleep.Taking a one-minute mindful exercise break every hour helps you schedule in short bursts of High Intensity Integral Training (#HIIT) types of exercise. Click To Tweet
This works even better if you do a strong exercise like jumping jacks or push-ups (if you are physically able), because one study conducted at McMaster University in Canada saw that 60 seconds of strenuous exertion has the same benefits on the body as 45 minutes of moderate exercise. These minutes also give you the opportunity to stop your stressful routine and concentrate on yourself. Pay attention to what’s going on inside you as you exercise for added effectiveness and TLC.
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3. Do them together.
The same exercises and habits that are good for ourselves are good for the people we care for, whether young or old. Making a one-minute exercise habit with your loved ones (adjusting the exercises to their abilities) helps them be healthier and helps reduce the conflict among your various responsibilities. Let one-minute exercise breaks be a normal part of your everyday family life.
Discover the ways applying these three tips works best for you. By filling up our own energy cup until it overflows to the people around us, we can keep going for the long haul without burning out.
Editor’s Note: For instruction in using Ilchi Lee’s methods of self-care, you can go to a Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi center. Located around the United States as well as several countries around the world, these centers have individual and group classes and workshops that help you be empowered and resilient in any situation. Find a center near you at BodynBrain.com.
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