Please, Be Good to Yourself
I love the holiday season. The lights, the hustle and bustle, spending time with family and friends, but there's a darker side that we don't often talk about.
If you were to follow the advice on TV and radio, it's pretty straightforward: Buy, buy, BUY!!
Even if I were to buy all those cars and SUVs I see on the commercials (you know--the ones with the perfect families with the big red bows on the vehicles) and all the jewelry and electronic devices, I'd still not be happy. Buying things might give me a rush for a bit, but I often need refocus my energy on where it truly matters.
This is one of the main reasons why I don't send out Black Friday emails asking you to buy my books. You get enough of that sort of thing. I expect you're overwhelmed from emails, TV, radio and print ads.
With the start of the holiday season upon us, I wanted to talk about self-care.
Let's take a moment to reflect: Are you taking care of yourself?
Really take the time to think on that. Are you getting the rest you need, have ways of dealing with stress and are eating healthy and carving out time to have fun and relax?
If I'm honest with myself, I'm not practicing good self-care. I've shared my story with you before: I work full-time at a day job, work hard with my wife in raising our two children, write books in the wee hours of the morning and run on average 16-20 miles a week.
But enough about me. What about you?
Are you working two jobs? Are you stressed because of all you're seeing on the news? There are thousands of ways you could be hurting right now or beating yourself up by burning the candle at both ends. What I want to share with you are some techniques I am working into my life to help better take care of myself.
I'm very bad with this. I'll volunteer at work to help others out, do the same outside of work, around the house and anywhere else. I take on too much and then deliver--that's the problem. I feel obligated to complete a task because I gave my word. And if I give you my word, then I'll do everything I can to help.
But saying no isn't a bad thing. Sometimes it's necessary to set a boundary and let people know that you can't be pushed too far. A simple one for me is staying up late. If friends want to go out and stay out late, if I have an early day the next morning, then I'm honest and say I can't do it.
If I were to take on all the projects and help everyone who I crossed paths with, I wouldn't have any time for my self.
Rest, Eat and Sleep
Making sure that I take care of my body is critical to my health. I work hard on exercising, eating as healthy as I can and going to bed (and waking up) at a fairly consistent time. If I push myself too far and try to stay up late, it never helps me. I crash later, get sick or become unproductive. Over the long term, when I do get good sleep, I realize that it's the best medicine that I can take. Sleep heals my hurt muscles after a long 8 mile run and also allows me to dream (sometimes I work my dreams into my books).
In today's world, it's easy to eat unhealthy or overindulge in alcohol, fast food and a whole list of other things that wreck havoc on our bodies.
Sometimes we can't always get what we want and we need to cut corners if we're out or have a deadline (or a sick child or spouse). But carving out time later in the week for rejuvenation is critical.
Yoga and Meditation
I'm separating out these two out because I've added them to my weekly routine within the last month. I'm working really hard on creating new healthy habits that will help me deal with stress. I've been working in yoga three times a week to help me with a back injury. About a month ago I did something stupid: I was rushing to get something done and tried to move an entire bookcase (filled with books!) several inches. I threw myself at it, moved the bookcase and then was in pain due to lower back issues for two weeks after that. Very stupid of me.
A coworker of mine shared with me Adriene's yoga channel on YouTube and it's been fantastic for my back. I'm very new to yoga but her video for lower back pain just plain works. It takes about 15 minutes to do the practice and I always feel better after I'm done.
I've also been making time to close my eyes and mediate (just for a few minutes) when I'm on the train headed to and from work. People might think I'm sleeping, but I'm working on breathing and relaxing.
It's been a really difficult year for me. One minute we're on the brink of possible nuclear war with North Korea, or white supremacists are marching in the streets or 58 people dying in Las Vegas from a shooter to fears about bills, job stresses and handling the multiple responsibilities along with hours of volunteer work I have put into my local community to help promote progressive values. Sometimes I'm running on empty and need to rest.
I've found that yoga and meditation have been a great help to me with my stress. What I didn't know is that there are some really simple visualization techniques that you can do in your chair. It's all about closing your eyes, breathing and focusing. With yoga, if you're physically able to give it a try, I would highly recommend it. There are videos online for the most advanced practices to the fundamentals. I'm having challenges with the fundamentals--so that gives you an idea of where I'm at but am still reaping the rewards of trying.
Get Off Facebook
A coworker of mine told me earlier this week: "I stopped going on Facebook and felt a lot better." I've been trying an experiment as well. I'm going on there a lot less and I do feel better. I'm not being pulled into seeing everyone's amazing vacation pictures or how great everyone's life is and comparing that to my own. Now I use that extra time to read, meditate or write.
I love social media, but sometimes it's important to pull back and take care of one's self. And if wasting time on Facebook can be a means for me to get some time back in my day, well, it's a great way for me to shift time from one thing to another.
Social media in general went from a means to connect with people and be genuine (around 10 years ago) to some scary and dark places. Granted, many people are just sharing pictures of their kids, meals and vacations, but there's also a lot of hate, fear and misinformation out there.
At this time in my life, I'm easing up from using Facebook and Twitter so that I can make more time for my self.
Music Is a Balm for My Soul
This one's really easy. I just need to fire up some music and I'm instantly in a good mood. If I want to be more on the contemplative side, there's Peter Gabriel's Passion soundtrack. Not familiar with it? Check out the "A Different Drum" track. It'll get your body moving and has always helped me get my mind reset in a way that allows me to focus on relaxing.
Too often, I'm running (literally) from place to place and I'm trying my best to be a good father, husband, son, friend, coworker, author and all the other hats I wear.
What roles are you in and what stress is affecting you?
Find some music that will help lift your spirits and then take time to listen. Maybe find a room of your own to dance in, blast that music and enjoy. It's easy to do and a lot of fun. Or if dancing isn't your thing and you're more introverted (like me), put on some headphones, find a quiet place and just listen.
Nurture Your Self
The self and its importance is a really important theme to me. No matter what book I've written, you'll see this theme in it. Cinderella gives for others but gets lost in the fray and doesn't take care of herself. She falls in love with being in love and nearly loses herself. Morgan in Ahab's Daughter goes to find her brother, but hides who she is and what she really wants out of life. And Sabrina in my Witch's Coven novels is afraid of who she really is and has denied an important part of herself for too long. All of these women struggle with making time for their selves.
I know in growing up that I saw my mom doing everything for others but herself. As a single mom, she sacrificed a lot to make certain that my brother and I had a good shot at life. Without her and all that she gave to us, I wouldn't be where I am today.
And still even though I know all that and see it in the lives of others, I still find it hard to make time to heal and help myself.
With this holiday season, I wanted to share with you a different thought and not another message of buy this or buy that.
Like you, I've a family, friends and a lot on my mind these days. I want to make certain that I can find ways to stay healthy and happy with those I love.
What tips you have for self-care. Reply to this email and let me know. Maybe you have one that I hadn't thought of.
Ron Vitale is a fantasy, science fiction and nonfiction author. He's written the Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries series, the Witch's Coven series, book one in the Jovian Gate Chronicles, and now the first book, Ahab's Daughter, in the Werewhale Saga.