So often, I hear from my friends that they feel either selfish or guilty or both for taking five minutes to themselves. Some of my friends don't even know what self-care is or allow themselves to even think about it. While stress is normal, chronic stress is not. In fact, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death. I feel chronic stress played a role when I was diagnosed, at the age of 40, with breast cancer in 2004. I've learned to live entirely different without making others feel less cared for, less loved, or less important.
Once upon a time, I was that stressed-out, overwhelmed, frazzled woman. I gained weight because I didn't pay attention to what I ate. I had tired skin and dark circles under my eyes because I didn't get enough sleep. I didn't think I was important enough to be on my own priority list. The thought of being by myself scared me, and I often felt that I was at the whim of everyone else's important doings. Most of the time, I was waiting for life to give me an engraved invitation to participate... until I learned that no invitation was ever necessary. I turned my life around with seven simple self-care strategies and you can, too.
- Eat a healthy 350-400 calorie breakfast every morning. A cup of coffee and a donut doesn't count as breakfast. Try something more substantial that is full of vitamins and nutrients so your body feels satisfied and ready to start the day. As an extra bonus to eating a healthy breakfast, you may just lose a few unwanted pounds.
- Get your beauty sleep. Nothing will make you feel rundown and make you look older than you are than chronic lack of sleep. Most people require 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. We make better decisions and we're less likely to make mistakes when we're fully charged and ready to go.
- Be Confident in who you are. The words you state after "I Am" create your reality. Choose your words wisely and with great care. You are who you believe you are.
- Take five-minute silence breaks. De-stress from your distractions and surrender to the sacred silence of your soul. This will help you create an impenetrable inner peace that will serve you as you go about your daily doings. It's OK to lock yourself in the bathroom while you take this break.
- Practice deep belly breathing. No one thinks to practice breathing, since the human body takes care of that for us. In stressful situations, we tend to hold our breath or breathe very shallow. Deep belly breathing reduces tension, relaxes muscles and gives you a second or two to think things through. Deep belly breathing can make the difference between reacting (bad) or responding (good) to a stressful situation.
- Become grounded. Too often, women who do too much don't feel grounded. When you feel grounded and connected, you invariably have a stronger sense of self and belonging. When you have a stronger sense of self, you are better able to make decisions, choices and agreements that are right for you. And when you make decisions that are right for you, they have a way of turning out right for those you love as well.
- Release your expectations. As William Shakespeare once wrote, "expectations are the root of all heartache." Self-care isn't about becoming the walking wounded. When you release others from your expectations and how you think things *should* be, you end up releasing your heart from all the achiness of anger and frustration. You'll also lose a lot of emotional weight as you untie the strings that come with expectations.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.