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Published on July 20, 2020

How to Customize a Self-Care Plan That Works For You

How to Customize a Self-Care Plan That Works For You

With all that’s going on in the world right now, we have to take care of ourselves and those close to us more than ever. Most importantly, we have to learn proper self-care if we want to stay mentally and physically healthy.

What is Self-Care?

Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is self-care?

Really, it’s anything that we do that takes care of our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health. Because it is such a broad term, it gives us some liberty as to how we want to implement it into our life.

We can also think of it in terms of this question: “how do you take care of yourself?”

When asked this, we can start to think of how we tend to our most primal needs. In essence, self-care is a habitual, conscious routine that we do to take care of our wholesome self. It brings us back into balance with ourselves, as we ebb and flow with the ups and downs of life.

Our self-care plan acts as an anchor when things get too one-sided and reminds us that we have a routine in place that can bring us back to homeostasis.[1]

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What Are the Benefits of Self-Care?

Think back on a time when you really treated yourself. How did it feel? Did you feel lighter, more joyful, more present with the world?

These are some of those butterfly feelings that you can expect when you tune into your self-care plan. When we do good by our wholesome health, we feel good! Sticking to a self-care routine reduces our anxiety, curtails depression, and brings us back to present-moment awareness.

These mental and emotional improvements significantly affect our physical health: lower blood pressure, improved sleep, focused concentration, and a clearer path to exercise and proper nutrition.

A self-care plan also allows us to better take care of our immune system. To paint this in a clearer picture, imagine your immune system as the master dashboard screen on a highly-technical computer. It governs everything. When we take care of this dashboard system, we know everything that feeds off of it is running smoothly.

The same can be said of our physical immune system. When we take care of ourselves in every way, our immune system can be stronger to fight off pathogens and diseases, thus keeping us healthier for longer. In this day and age, that is more important than ever![2]

Customizing Your Plan

Now that you’re ready to get started creating your own routine, here are a few suggestions on how to begin.

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1. Observe What Is Out of Balance Today

It may be your physical health or your emotional state of being. Perhaps you’ve been under a lot of stress at work and your mind just needs a reset. Observe what feels out of alignment and where you tend to struggle. This will give you a clearer picture of where you need to prioritize your self-care.

2. Make a Clear Outline of Prioritizing Your Health

When you know what needs more care, you can create a roadmap for yourself. This may look like a simple outline on a piece of paper, or you may want to draw it out or use this template as a creative starting point.

This allows you to get all of your ideas out of your head and into something tangible that you can hold on to. For accountability, stick it on your fridge or your mirror![3]

3. Keep It Simple

Before you get into the nitty-gritty, remind yourself to keep it simple. There is so much information online and in self-help books that it can be overwhelming to take it all in.

Sometimes, it may feel as if we need to completely revamp our entire life to feel like we’re truly taking care of ourselves. In reality, when we come back to simplicity, this is where our health truly blossoms. When we can cut ties with too much work, involvement, stress, and over-doing, we can return to the basics of a happy life.

Keep this in mind as you attract what brings you peace and health and what (and who) keeps you from it.

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4. Choose Categories That You’d Like to Give More Attention To

These may be relationships, work, intimacy, money, exercise, or anything else that is important to you. Think back again on areas where you feel like you could use some more love and attention. From there, categories may naturally arise.

On the other hand, if it’s easier, feel free to simply list out categories that are broad and general, such as mental health, physical health, spiritual health, and emotional health.

5. Creatively Ask Yourself How You’d Like to Take Care of Yourself

For each of the categories above (or any that you created), think about ways that you’d like to take care of yourself. This question really gets into the marrow of self-care. It’s all about what you want.

If you’re a caretaker or someone who gives a lot to others, this may be a hard question to answer. Stick with it! It is teaching you how to prioritize yourself, perhaps for the first time! Some of your answers may be super simple, like taking more walks during lunch rather than sitting in your office. Perhaps they’re more complex and grandiose, like finally taking that dream vacation.

There are no right and wrong answers here; only what brings you joy!

6. Implement Your Answers

Make an appointment in your calendar or set an alarm to remind you to take that walk or drink more water. Plans without action just collect dust on pieces of paper. When you implement your ideas, they slowly begin to create your new healthful habits.

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Over time, this will become second-nature. For the time being, if it helps, think about an accountability buddy with whom you can share this experience. They can help you stick to your self-care plan and maybe even join in!

7. Give Yourself a Break

Life happens, and we don’t always stick to our self-care routine. Practice forgiveness! This is also just as much a part of your self-care plan as anything else. Forgiveness reminds us that we are human and that we have off days. It removes the guilt and grief that we carry when we’re subconsciously striving for perfection.

Final Thoughts

Self-care is any practice that brings us back to our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. When we align with what brings us joy, we take better care of ourselves! Not only do we directly benefit from this, but so do the people and the world around us.

While the overload of self-care information is available to us in large dosages, it’s helpful to know that our self-care plan is entirely up to us to create. There is great liberty in knowing that we can craft the kind of routine that speaks to us in simplicity and authenticity.

More Tips on Having a Self-Care Plan

Featured photo credit: Amanda Lins via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] PsychCentral: What Self-Care Is and What It Isn’t
[2] Community Partnerships: The Importance of Self-Care
[3] Social Work Tech: Making a Self-Care Plan

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful 15 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself (Especially When Feeling Down) How to Customize a Self-Care Plan That Works For You 7 Ways to Be Mindful Every Day 20 Health Affirmations to Stay Fit Physically and Mentally

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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