6 Ways You're Probably Not Taking Care of Yourself

It must be that kind of Friday. Two of my favorite blogs hit my inbox today with advice for taking care of yourself. From Merrilyn Astin Tarlton of Attorney at Work, there's Five Things to Add to Your To-Do-List, and from Michael Hyatt, there's 7 Sure-Fire Ways to Reduce Stress and Restore Your Sanity. The two lists have a lot in common, and both provide invaluable advice for taking care of yourself, whether you're dealing with the routine ins-and-outs of professional and home life, or going through something more acute like divorce or illness.

Here are the common themes in the two articles — 12 points distilled into 6 easy take-home lessons. Chances are you're not doing many — if any — of these as frequently as you deserve!

1. Rest Up

Tarlton calls this one "stop," and Hyatt cuts to the chase with "sleep." The bottom line is that our minds and bodies need time to recuperate, and they can't do that if we don't give them the opportunity. That means going to bed earlier, even if it means leaving the TiVo unattended for the evening. Taking a nap instead of flailing about unproductively at the computer for another 30 minutes. Taking a vacation. Meditating. Let yourself slow down and rest, and you will be rewarded with more energy, productivity, and creativity.

2. Get Social

Hyatt and Tarlton both call this one "connecting," and they mean in-person connection rather than another round of tweets. Even the most introverted of us are not designed to live in physical isolation, and there are people in our lives whose company provides peace, joy, insight, or reassurance. I'm reminded of the quip, "everybody eats." The next time you eat, make a point of doing it with one of those people. You won't regret it.

3. Get a Change of Perspective

You can also think of this as "backing up" or "refueling" (Tarlton) — taking a few steps away from your problems so your brain gets some room to breathe and take a fresh look at things. I put two of Hyatt's points in this same category: art and movies. All three of those recommendations involve shifting gears and changing your mindset. The invigoration you feel after reading a great book, watching your favorite romcom or seeing some amazing art is partly because you've been entertained, but also because you've gotten a break from those stressors you were ruminating about before. When you come back to them, chances are you'll have a whole new perspective and insight with which to move forward.

4. Exercise

Taunton lumps physical activity in with "refueling," but I think Hyatt rightly gives it its own treatment. Exercise isn't just good for our hearts; it's good for our brains, too. If it's not done to excess, exercise causes all sorts of physiological changes that elevate our moods and energize us. Depending on what kind of exercise you choose, it can also give you a much-needed break from your thoughts — you're much more likely to get that from indoor rock climbing than jogging on a treadmill, for example. Choose an exercise you actually enjoy, and give yourself a much-deserved jolt of energy.

5. Observe

We are self-centered creatures, and we can all benefit tremendously from occasionally giving others center stage. Hyatt extolls the benefits of "learning" (not just by reading, but also in social contexts), and Tarlton advises us to "listen." Whatever you call it, taking the time to learn about and from others is a fabulous way of deepening connections with the world around us and stepping outside the comparatively narrow confines of our own thoughts.

6. Be Grateful

Only Hyatt lists this one, but it's a big one. The research is piling up that gratitude is one of the most reliable paths to inner peace and happiness. At my kids' bedtime, I like to take a few moments to revisit three happy things from the day. Others keep more formal gratitude journals. However you go about it, the chances are that even a minimal commitment to practicing gratitude will have noticeable long-term benefits.

How about you? What gives you peace, energy, and happiness? What is your number one tip for others to take care of themselves?