Let me tell you: I have been the queen of self-care lately. You already know what I do for a living. I'm a speaker, so I travel a lot to go to speaking engagements. During the pandemic, the majority of those were virtual, but everything is slowly going back to the way it was before, which brings me back to being on the road. However, my perception of things has changed during the pandemic...
I am very much aware that I can no longer do what I was doing before the pandemic. I would work on the road all the time, in the airport, go to my speaking engagements, and I would be checking emails in between seeing my clients or right before I'm about to get on the stage. Texting, getting in contact with a potential client... and come back home completely exhausted. But now, I am the queen of self-care. Yes, I'm on my computer at the airport. However, I am rehearsing, getting ready for the speaking engagement that I'm going to. And just so you know, the world of travel has changed. The airlines are not as reliable, so because flights get canceled, I need to leave two days early to have a little bit of a buffer. I get there a day early, and I don't work. I am solely focused on what I'm there to do and I rehearse, I practice, I have a very good night's sleep, I eat well... I self-care.
On the day of the speaking engagement, well, I'm 100% focused on what I'm about to do. Then, after, when I get back to my room, I do my follow-ups from the conference or the keynote I just gave. The day after, I'm on my way back home, and of course, I feel like a superhero. I just got a standing ovation! Hey, I'm not going to work, now! Look at me. I'm going to watch movies in the aircraft and take it easy! When I get home, well, I celebrate. I haven't seen my husband for three days, so we're going to go out...
...And then, I realize: "Oh, I've been gone for four days and now I'm only here for a couple days, and I'm leaving again on Tuesday, so when is my work going to get done?" Of course, now I start panicking. That is when you go to the other end of self-care and you do too much of it, right?
In the first part of this two-part series, let's go over why self-care is important, what it does to your brain and what areas of your brain are affected by self-care.
White Matter VS Gray Matter
That gray matter processes your sensations, your perceptions and your movements. It decides what you do. Everything cognitive takes place in the gray area of the brain, in the outskirts of the prefrontal cortex. The white matter is that connection between all the gray areas and your body. While the gray matter is actually cell bodies, like neurons, the white part is more axions. All the information that you have, that you capture, that you're able to learn, that you speak, all of that information gets transmitted through your white matter.
So, how is that connected? How does self-care impact these areas of the brain? Well, when you take care of yourself, when you listen to your body, when you're nice to yourself, and when you focus on being present, all that will result in a thicker gray matter. A thicker gray matter means you can be a better problem solver and be better at regulating your emotions. You are less likely to panic, to feel stressed or to let stress, or other things that are going on, affect you. Great news, isn't it?
The other area that is affected by self-care when you take care of yourself is the hippocampus. No, I am not talking about a hippo going to University on Campus. LOL! The hippocampus is a little area in your central cortex, and it's where information gets stored. It's where you go to access all that information, all of your memories.
When you self-care by spending time with friends and loved ones, your hippocampus thickens, and this leads to benefits regarding your memory. We're not creating new neurons, but we're creating better connections between all the neurons that already exist. This is called neuroplasticity. When I travel to Quebec for speaking engagements, I take advantage of it to see my family! Yes, I could go back to my room and manage my emails and catch up, but, I'd rather spend time with my family that I don’t see very often. This contributes to the thickening of my hippocampus and my grey matter.
Remember: Self-care has lots of benefits. In part two, we'll be looking at when self-care may not be a good thing, when there's too much of it, just like in the story I told you about earlier when I get back from my speaking engagements panicking about being so behind. See you there!
LIFE CAN BE A JUGGLING ACT.
Finding your balance may be hard. Book your FREE 15-Minute Virtual Coffee with me & let's see how I can help you navigate your challenges. Let's carve out some time to focus on YOU!
Check out some of my previous blog posts...
4 Signs to Know If You're Confident
How to Deal With a Coworker That Drives You Nuts
5 Strategies to Get Along