Baby Steps to Self-Renewal

Posted on September 24th, 2013 by in Life Lessons

renewalA few years ago I had my dream job.  I was the host and executive producer of a national television talk show about natural health, wellness, and alternative ways to heal the body and mind. But I was a total hypocrite: Here I was interviewing well-regarded experts from a plethora of disciplines about the importance of diet, fitness, and stress reduction, but I was eating poorly, not exercising, and had almost no down time. Self-care had become a foreign concept—a luxury I was convinced I had no time for in the midst of single-handedly creating a new series for a start-up network, working 90 hours a week for months at a time, until I crashed and burned in an exhausted heap when shooting wrapped.

According to Renee Peterson Trudeau, a speaker, life balance coach, and author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate, and Re-Balance Your Life, the mistake I made while spearheading my show was one that many people—especially women—make. I thought there simply weren’t enough hours in the day to practice self-care or self-renewal, which Renee defines as “attuning and responding to our needs and desires moment to moment.”

When our plates are overloaded with work and family responsibilities, when we’re in a professional, financial, or relationship crisis, self-care tends to fly out the window. “We think we lack the time or the money for self-care,” says Renee, “but self-care doesn’t always involve taking action. Sometimes it means slowing down, not overscheduling, or just saying no.”

Cultivating an allegiance to renewing ourselves is what’s important. “Self-care is like oxygen,” Renee says. “It’s our birthright. It’s how we nurture our souls.”

I’m not nearly as busy as I was in my talk show days, but I still have difficulty feeling entitled to a battery recharge when there are so many other tasks on my to-do list. If I’m ever going to create the life I dream of living, though, better self-care habits are a must.

Renee suggests these baby steps:

  • Do a body scan from head to toe first thing upon awakening.  Ask yourself, “Physically, emotionally, or spiritually, what do I need today?” “Maybe you need to call a girlfriend,” Renee notes, “or maybe you need to eat some kale or do some journaling.” When I woke up this morning, I felt like I needed to move—and so off to the gym I went.
  • Be willing to slow down. “Pause,” says Renee.  “So much can happen in the pause. Tune in to your feelings.” When I slow down, I sometimes find myself feeling fidgety, antsy, or anxious, which makes me wonder how often I stay busy to keep from tapping into the source of those uncomfortable feelings. On other occasions, I like the way I feel when I slow down. I’m not meant to be running at full speed all day long.
  • See yourself as a young child. Renee advocates putting a picture of yourself as a young child in a place where you’ll see it regularly. “Would you deny that child healthy food or sleep or playtime?” Renee asks. Of course not—“So why would you deny yourself that?” she asks. When I look at a picture of myself at four years old, I want to look out for that little being. I always make sure that she’s rested and fed, but I have to make sure she has some fun, too.
  • Find your tribe. “Build your support network,” Renee explains. “Be around other women looking to make self-care a part of their day, too.” When women gather together to “tend and befriend,” Renee says they release the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin. I know for certain that a meaningful heart-to-heart with a close friend is food for my soul, and I schedule those get-togethers whenever possible.

If you’re the type who’s convinced that self-care is selfish, however, maybe this ancillary self-care benefit will inspire you to draw a warm bath for yourself tonight: the upside of self-nurturing is that we become better partners, parents, colleagues, and friends. “We’re able to be more generous,” Renee points out, “when we’ve slowed down and connected with our own desires.”

I finally get it. The aromatherapy candles on my coffee table aren’t just meant to be decorative. They’re meant to be lit.



About Portland Helmich

Portland is the creator, host, and producer of the Kripalu Perspectives podcast series. She's also is the creator, host, and executive producer of What’s the Alternative?, a series of 52 half-hour talk shows about natural and alternative forms of healing the body-mind that aired on Veria Living TV, a natural health channel on DISH, FiOS, and Frontier. For more than 15 years, Portland’s been investigating natural health and healing as a host, reporter, writer, and producer. She's been an alternative medicine correspondent for Oxygen, a health reporter for The American Consumer on PBS, and was the creator, host, and executive producer of Journeys Into Healing on Wisdom Television. She produced for HealthWeek and Healing Quest on PBS, has done natural-health reporting for WGBH-TV, and was a medical producer for WCVB-TV (Boston’s ABC News affiliate). She’s also covered the subject as a freelance writer for Body + Soul, Alternative Medicine, and Spa magazines. Portland currently lives in Boston, where she produces documentaries and also works as an actor and voice-over talent.

8 Responses to “Baby Steps to Self-Renewal”

  1. Daniela September 24, 2013 10:47 am #

    I especially love ‘See yourself as a young child’ so simple and true and really works when you put into action. Thank you!

  2. Daniela Belmondo September 24, 2013 10:48 am #

    I especially love ‘See yourself as a young child’ so simple and true and really works when you put into action. Thank you!

    • KripaluEditor September 24, 2013 11:01 am #

      Thanks, Daniela! You are most welcome.

  3. Sarina September 24, 2013 9:53 pm #

    Seven years ago I attended my first retreat with Renee and she talked about taking 5 minutes to check-in with oneself every morning. I have done this ever since that retreat and can’t speak enough about how it has made an impact on my life. Even with kids, snuggling up around me at 5:30 I still ask myself, “What do you need today?”

    • Portland Helmich
      Portland September 25, 2013 8:45 am #

      Thank you, Sarina, for your message. It’s morning and I’ve gotten up, but haven’t checked in with myself and asked that all-important question. Maybe I need to lie back down and start the day over!

  4. Nic September 25, 2013 8:11 am #

    I have tears! Thank you for this beautiful piece. I never thought self-care was selfish. I just adopted the idea at an early age that all my “work” needed to be done BEFORE I could engage in nourishing myself (crazy concept, huh). We all know how that goes, the “work” is NEVER done. Joining a women’s based Self-Care group has helped me realize that women (just like me) really need to be supported by other women on this Self-Care Path. Being in a room of other ladies who know exactly what I am experiencing is so comforting. This website is how I found my group. Hope this helps–

    • Portland Helmich
      Portland September 25, 2013 8:37 am #

      Thank you for your thoughtful message, Nic. I have behaved similarly — getting all my work done before feeling entitled to tend to myself. And yet when I take care of myself, I’m in a better mood and have more energy to give. I’m sure you know what I mean. :-)

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