As a native New Yorker, I find we are often challenged to adopt a “more” mentality. Do more. Make more. Invent more. Explore more. BE more. When I hear people talk about New York, the famous Frank Sinatra lyric—“If I can make it here, I’ll make it anywhere; it’s up to you, New York, New York”—inevitably finds its way into conversation. Just the other day, I heard this advice being given: “If you’re going to be here, you’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to have a thick skin. New York will eat you up.” Despite the warning in some sentiments, the lure of “making it in New York” continues to drive professionals from every field, students from every state, and aspiring dreamers from every country to each of the five boroughs that constitute New York City.
A certain pace of lifestyle also seems to come with those sentiments. We are busy with a capital “B” and productive with a capital “P.” However, in all of our scurrying around, we may find we lose sight of a few key things. During our morning subway commute, how many of us are thinking about which value will define our day? As we grab a large morning coffee and cream cheese bagel from the street vendor, are we checking in on how our choices will support our physical health? When we get to our place of employment, have we plotted out how to use our lunch break to support our emotional and mental health? And as we prepare to spend another late night answering emails long after the office has closed, are we tuning into how we are connecting with friends, family, and loved ones?
As a society, we talk more about self-care than ever before. An important question to ask yourself as you consider your own self-care is this: What elements of my lifestyle are working for me or against me?
Below is a quick checklist you can hold up against your lifestyle to help you determine if it’s working for you or if it’s creating barriers that are holding you back from living the life you want.
Think about a few values you hold dear. You may have as few as three or as many as 15. Write them down somewhere so you can refresh your memory whenever you get off-track. Now ask how your lifestyle supports those values.
An example might be that you have the values of freedom, creativity, flexibility, cooperation, and trust. Does your workplace allow you to honor those values? How often? Do you have hobbies that allow you to fulfill those values? When do you engage in those?
While not every situation or environment in your life may allow you to engage in your values at 100%, if you find many of your values are not being met in major areas of your life, you may want to consider a lifestyle change.
Having trouble identifying your values or figuring out how to make changes that support valued living? Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) helps individuals identify what matters most to them and to explore decisions that help them live a values-based life.
Getting caught in the hamster wheel of life can lead many of us to start doing what we think we should be doing rather than making intentional choices that put our vitality, health, and happiness at the foundational core.
2. Physical Health
Does your lifestyle support your physical health? Is it making it harder or easier for you to do the things you want to do to take care of yourself? Are you able to sleep? Eat? Handle basic care like going for annual wellness visits?
If you find your lifestyle prevents you from engaging in activities that help you address your physical health—or, worse, if you find your lifestyle is creating physical health issues—you may want to identify areas you can alter to help you better support your physical wellness.
3. Mental and Emotional Health
Does your lifestyle support your mental and emotional health? Are your days leaving you feeling stressed, anxious, underappreciated, or disempowered? Do you imagine life could feel better than it feels?
Attending to mental and emotional health is as important as attending to physical health. The two are intertwined; a healthy mind can contribute to a healthy body. If you find many parts of your lifestyle are leaving you in poor mental and emotional health, talking to a counselor may help you identify ways to create a lifestyle that better supports psychological wellness.
Does your lifestyle support building the kinds of relationships you want to have? Do you have time to spend with friends and family? Do your relationships suffer or are they supported by your lifestyle? Do you have time to have a relationship with yourself?
Finding time to connect with yourself and others can have a significant impact on overall wellness. If you find you are not able to give any time to yourself or to others, you may want to explore how you might build in more for meaningful engagement.
Getting caught in the hamster wheel of life can lead many of us to start doing what we think we should be doing rather than making intentional choices that put our vitality, health, and happiness at the foundational core. However, making lifestyle changes to address any of the four areas above is no easy feat. Some changes may be small and easily implemented, while others might require much more reflection, contemplation, and planning. Speaking to a mental health professional can help you navigate the harder choices and changes.
© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Deanna Richards, LMHC, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert
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