The Proactive Path to Self-Care

 

“Self-care is really about taking care of you and focusing on feeling good about yourself - mind and body.

Franchesca Ramse

Do you only think about self-care when you’re already in trouble? You want to eat healthier because your doctor says you need to lower your cholesterol, or you decide to start meditating because job stress is keeping you up at night.

Self-care is more effective when it’s an ongoing part of your life. Otherwise, you’re stuck trying to catch up, and you may increase your risk for many serious health conditions. Almost 80 percent of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes could be prevented with positive lifestyle changes, according to the World Health Organization.

Start being more proactive about self-care. Adopt new habits that will enhance your physical, social, and psychological wellbeing.

Self-Care Habits for Your Physical Wellbeing:

1. Lose weight. Obesity puts a heavy strain on your heart and joints. Take off excess pounds by eating nutrient dense food and reducing your portion sizes. Preparing meals at home instead of dining out will give you more control over the ingredients.

2. Eat more produce. Plan your daily menu around vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods. Most plant foods provide fiber and important vitamins and minerals with relatively few calories.

3. Cut down on salt and sugar. The average American consumes 3 times the recommended amount of sugar, and almost 90% consume too much sodium. Avoiding most processed foods will help you to stay within safe limits.

4. Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or a combination of intense and moderate workouts. Train for strength and flexibility too.

5. Sleep well. Your body and mind need adequate sleep to function well. Darken your bedroom and block out background noise so you can get 7 to 8 hours of quality slumber each night.

6. Quit smoking. Tobacco causes cancer and damages your heart. Most smokers need five attempts or more to quit permanently so keep trying. Talk with your doctor about medication or other tools that may help.

Self-Care Habits for Your Social Wellbeing:

1. Eat family dinners. Eating together strengthens family connections. In addition to enjoying the conversation and shared experience, you’re also likely to eat a more balanced diet.

2. Cultivate friendships. Supportive friendships enrich your life by building your confidence and resilience. Schedule standing dates for coffee and lunch. Call a friend when you’re upset or when you want to share happy news.

3. Join a club. Some experts believe that loneliness can be just as hazardous to your health as smoking. If you’re searching for a sense of community, do volunteer work or join a club where you can find others who share your interests.

Self-Care Habits for Your Psychological Wellbeing:

1. Live mindfully. Meditate daily or engage in other practices that help you to focus on the here and now. Slow down and concentrate on one activity at a time.

2. Find a hobby. Fill your leisure hours with rewarding projects. Learn to play a musical instrument or study a foreign language. Cook gourmet dinners or build wooden furniture. There are many inexpensive hobbies or pastimes where you can earn some income to cover the costs.

3. Laugh it up. Find the courage to laugh at yourself. Brighten up a tough day by watching a funny video or listening to your coworker’s jokes.

4. Manage stress. Enjoy deep breathing or other relaxation methods that work for you. Take frequent breaks throughout the day to relieve tension and restore your energy before tackling your next task. Replace anger and sadness with forgiveness and gratitude.

Life is full of challenges. You’ll deal with them more successfully if you practice healthy lifestyle habits consistently. The proactive path to self-care will help you to look after yourself and keep enjoying the activities you love.

 

Here is a real life experience shared by my father about the importance of taking care of yourself.

The Miraculous Miss Olga

When I was promoted to be the Marketing Manager of my company in a foreign country many colleagues and a few  bosses did not believe I had the knowledge or expertise to lead the marketing people in my new country.  I was to lead 260 marketing employees in a huge foreign country and had to quickly learn to speak another language. Those were the two major challenges. Another:  Another country in the Region was in the lead re continental regional sales and my new country was 2nd, but lagged $10s of millions in sales behind the leader. 

When I arrived in country, I told the manager at our first meeting that my main goal was to do everything possible in marketing to reach #1 in the Regional sales. He smiled at that, but was impressed by my optimism.  I wanted to prove that we could be #1 if we all worked together to make it happen.  It took us five years to actually reach that goal, to our delight and the surprise of our main competitor.  Reaching the goal, however, caused me to develop serious physical problems.

I worked for 12 hours or more a day trying to improve sales and put all marketing jobs into high gear. However, all that stressful activity came with a painful toll — I began to feel ill with a very sore back and considerable stomach pain.  I worried that I might be coming down with a debilitating illness - stomach ulcers or worse. My back pain also increased and I was in daily pain, increasing to about 6-7 on the pain scale.  The pain threatened to put me in a hospital and out of the office for weeks.

I went to a doctor, an MD, and he said I had both sciatica and colitis at the same time - a painful combination of diseases to have at once.  His proposed treatment meant that I would soon have to be operated upon and hospitalized for an ulcer and suffer weeks of strong medication for the sciatica. He said I would have to be out of the office for several weeks and I had to avoid any stressful activities.  

I rejected his suggestion and went on trying to minimize the pain with aspirin. But to reduce my constant pain I had to assume a bent-over position while seated at my desk. It worked, but only temporarily, and I knew I had to do something and soon or perhaps collapse and die at my desk.  I told no one how badly I was feeling, not even my wife, although she knew I was stressed.  

One day, Joe, a supervisor who reported to me, saw me bent over my desk and asked me what was wrong.  I told him about the pain in my back and stomach and hinted that I was quite ill.  Joe said that he had the perfect, natural way to quickly cure my maladies.  It was to use local, non-medical cures administered by “healers" and their natural ancient remedies. 

Dubious, I did not believe him at all, but my pain was becoming unbearable.  I did not tell Joe about the doctor’s prognosis, but asked him to prove to me that his non-medical practitioners might help me.  I was ready to try anything, including  curanderos and weird meds made from who-knows-what elements. I knew that many Many locals depend upon curanderos and “natural” meds to cure their health problems. They do not trust MDs and avoid hospitals.

Joe drove me several miles across the city to an area I had never seen.  It was in a low-rent residential area with a few small businesses.  We came to a building  that had a clinic sign above the door. We entered and climbed stairs to the 2nd floor. The clinic at least looked like one—white tile floors and walls and bright lighting, plus a massage table for patients.  There were small tables with unidentifiable, scary instruments on them. No one was in the waiting room, but Joe located the healer and introduced her to me. 

She was a diminutive lady about 50+ years old,  5 ft 2 inches tall and weighing less than 110 pounds—not a very convincing image of a “healer” so far.  Her name was Miss Olga. She smiled at me and asked me to sit down. Joe said he was leaving but would be back to pick me up in four hours. What?  Before I could react to his four-hour prediction for the visit, he ran down the stairs and drove away. I knew I was trapped there until he returned.

Dona Olga did not ask me what my medical problems were, but she took my right hand in hers and studied it carefully (I smiled, thinking I had been truly duped, but since I was already there, I decided I had no choice but to stay with her).  

She suddenly pressed her thumb very hard in the area between my thumb and my first finger.  Her thumb was super strong and I looked down to see if she might be using a steel instrument.   She located a round, hard swelling just below the surface of my skin and began to strongly massage the swelling.  I came close to screaming from the pain, but seconds later realized that the pain was going away as she kept pressing down on the spot. The pain quickly went away.  I was amazed. 

I looked at her with great surprise when she calmly said that I had a serious stomach problem and my back pain came from an inflamed sciatic nerve.  How could she have possibly made the same prognosis the university-trained doctors had found after several tests, by just pressing my hand?  It made no sense to me at all and I was baffled.

Miss Olga looked at me and asked me if I wanted to continue the treatment and warned me it was going to be quite painful.  I agreed, only to see her fill a syringe with an unknown yellow liquid.  I was stunned at the size of the dose she was going to inject into my backside, but she said it was Vitamin B12 and it would reduce the pain level. Pain level?! It was too late to stop at this juncture and the injection did not hurt much. Jose would not return for four hours so I was trapped anyway.

“Now we will begin your treatment.” she announced.  I was laid out face down on the massage table, undressed to my skivvies, with a towel over my head. I didn’t want to watch.  She picked up my left leg and began to massage the bottom of my foot.  The pain was extreme as she located more swellings under the surface of my skin and pressed down very hard on them, rotating her thumb until the swellings and the pain melted away. 

I began to sweat from the pain, but did not cry out, just a groan or two as she found more hot spots as she moved upward on my leg. It was behind my knee when I felt the worst pain yet. I cried out as a large spot was massaged away under her steel-like fingers.  Each time she massaged each area, the pain soon went away and I was very relieved.

She proceeded with the same treatment on my right leg—with the same pain and the same results.  Then she massaged my back.  Yikes!  She found numerous hot spots and drove them away with her strong fingers.  By this time I was weakened by the pain and the inevitable muscle tension, but I realized that the miserable sciatica pain had gone away in my lower back, particularly in the area where I had suffered so much pain for months. At last, my lower back was pain-free. I was so relieved and delighted, a few tears fell.  

She turned me over and massaged my chest, neck, face, both arms, shoulders and the top of my head.  She found and eliminated several hot spots in each area.  The pain stopped every time and I did not scream once.

Not yet finished, she began sticking small needles in various locations in my face, back, arms, neck, shoulders and chest.  I was taken aback by the needles, but they didn’t hurt at all. It was my first experience with acupuncture.  

After I sighed with relief when she completed the needle treatment, she surprised me by putting little 2-inch high stacks of what appeared to be dry weeds in various spots on my back and chest and then put a match to them, one at a time. Each one quickly began to burn downwards towards my skin, but she snatched the flame away with her fingers just before I would have been burned. All I felt was the warm, smoldering weeds and I smelled a pleasant aroma rising from them. I have no idea what the weeds were.  She didn’t explain, but I felt even better.

I glanced at my watch and was surprised that she had been steadily working for four hours Joe had predicted. She then massaged my neck and back, but did not find any more hot spots. I felt completely exhausted when she covered me with a blanket and told me to rest. I fell asleep instantly, feeling wonderfully relaxed and happy.  

I awakened sometime later to find that Jose had arrived to take me home.  I was delighted that I felt no pain at all neither from my stomach nor my lower back.  I realized that whatever magic she had used, I believed I was fully cured of my two painful maladies and I had a sense of wonderful relief for the first time in two years.

The most extraordinary and overwhelming feeling I had, however, was a sense of extreme euphoria, and felt more joyful than ever before.  I felt that all was right in the world, and that my many problems were not really serious, but easy to resolve and best of all - I was pain-free and had been completely cured of colitis and sciatica. I felt quite tired after the treatments, but very relaxed, and was so delighted I had a smile on my face that stayed there. I finally learned what complete well-being or euphoria meant and I loved the sensation. 

Before we left her clinic, I asked how much I owed her for her amazing work.  She shyly said it would be expensive, two hundred pesos I looked at her in amazement. She had cured me and left me feeling better than I had for years for less than $16 dollars for four hours of hard work—or four dollars an hour!  I told her that she should charge much more and handed her  $500 pesos ($50 US), and promised that I would come back every week for repeat treatments.  What I wanted, above all, was to experience more wonderful euphoria as often as I possibly could.   

The feeling of euphoria lasted more than a week after every visit. The smile on my face seemed to be permanently fixed in place.  Neither the colitis nor the sciatic pain ever came back.  I was determined never to let stress take control and make me ill ever again.

After my treatments by Miss Olga, my wife and my boss immediately noticed the positive change in my behavior and my new, high level of happiness. My employees also noticed that I was much calmer at work and best of all, I was much friendlier and forgiving towards them. Happily, our sales improved exponentially in each year of the five years I spent in the company. I do not take credit for this record, but I knew that our whole team had made it happen. Miss Olga helped it come about.

During my last visit, Miss Olga told me that she had a favor to ask of me.  She said that she had a grown daughter who was a college grad with a major in English.  Miss OIga wondered if her daughter might be allowed to apply for a job at our company.  She did so, was accepted and began helping our advertising department in translating English to Portuguese. She did her job very well and could have had a long career at our company if she wished. 

Her daughter was an attractive, natural blond with blue eyes, very unusual in the country.  Soon, she was popular with men at work. I tried to avoid her as I didn’t want anyone to think that she got the job because of me.  She quit the company job later and immigrated to the U.S.   

My secretary, Leila, had an incurable blood disease and had tried all known treatments to no avail.  In desperation, and after learning about how Miss Olga had helped me, she soon visited her clinic. After a number of treatments, Leila was miraculously cured.  She later took lessons from Miss Olga and her Japanese mentor.  She left her job in our company and became a successful masseuse.

I am forever grateful to Miss Olga for curing my maladies and for helping me feel so much better, calmer and more optimistic.   In fact, my euphoria made me appreciate life and my fellow men and guided me to search for joy in life.  I’m also grateful to Joe, my friend who took me to see Miss Olga.  I apologized to him for being so dubious about her and her unusual, but effective regimen.

Miss Olga’s training in Japanese massage methods and her expertise in applying them were crucial to my survival and happiness while in the country and afterwards as well.  I’ll never forget her!  She cured my maladies, saved me from a serious operation and reliance upon the use of never-ending drugs. Had I never met her and been cured, I might have lost my job due to long hospital stays and a lengthy recovery.  I may have been demoted and sent back to the US.  My illness could have resulted in the end of my career.  Without a doubt, she helped me avoid a life-time of painful, ever-worsening health. 

Miss Olga was responsible for the excellent treatment I had received and the results proved to me that her treatments had resulted in a true miracle cure.  I am filled with gratitude towards her to this day!

My greatly-improved health caused many other good things to happen to me and my family and positively influenced my work output and eventual success. It is rare to be able to review your past and pinpoint something very beneficial that occurred, one that completely changed your life for the better.Miss Olga’s extraordinary treatment greatly improved my physical and mental health and certainly changed and lengthened my life.  God bless her!

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