Getting in Touch With Your Very Own Part 1

Last year when I reached a significant birthday, I celebrated in a slightly offbeat way for me. Instead of one big blow-out party with friends and family, I decided to honor all the years of my life by doing something different — something I don’t often do. For a change, I thought, I’ll run the risk of pure selfishness and honor myself.

And how was I going to do that? By doing one nice thing for myself each day for a set period of time — about six weeks, I decided. Nothing big, mind you. Just one thing a day that was sweet, simple, nurturing or reminiscent of earlier days.

Man, what a task! Who would guess that squeezing in something nice on a daily basis would be so difficult? Or at least it was for me. But then a kind of rhythm kicked in and suddenly I was no longer pressuring myself to do these things. Instead I was doing them on automatic pilot as a normal part of the day.

The experience paved the way for me to connect with a wiser place in myself. A place that gives me a cleaner, truer direction. Little did I know that I was taking an important first step in learning how to function at my personal best. If you had asked me then, I would have told you the first step to doing that would be getting a more orderly work space, more money, more support from friends and family or a better work situation — and all these things are important, so we’ll be taking a look at them in upcoming columns.

But the first, most basic step, the experts say, is putting more into your relationship with “mission control,” the higher power inside yourself that they say is the best force to be running your whole show. How can you tell if you’re on the right path unless you step back, assess who you are, what you have now, and what feels true as you move forward?

That’s the question asked by Peter Brown, a personal life coach and author of “Take Time for Your Life.” With so many women feeling “lost, numb, disconnected,” she says, it’s critical to assess the life you already have before you start looking for new things to do. “Most of us have been trained to live from the neck up,” she writes. But tapping in to feelings brings about the richness of life so many of us feel we are missing — she calls it a “soul connection” — a connection that puts you in touch with your “wise self.”

To start doing that, you can do what I did: Carve out personal time, perhaps not every day if you can’t swing that, but at least once a week, so you can re-establish a relationship with yourself. It might take the form of journaling, enjoying nature, visiting a museum, meditating, joining a 12-step program or starting a therapy relationship.

And no, you don’t sneak these things onto the bottom of your “to do” list so that they get bumped to the next day, the next week, and finally the next century. They go right to the top of your list some days and end up being the bumpers instead of the bumpees. Start getting used to the term “self-care,” says Richardson. No — make that “extreme self-care.”

Ginger Burr, an image consultant and make-up artist from Somerville, Mass., learned that lesson from Richardson first-hand. Burr, who worked seven days a week, evenings included, came to her as a client feeling “frazzled and running in high gear.” Richardson assessed the situation and suggested she take off one day a week from seeing clients and use it instead to clear up paperwork and replenish her personal well. “I panicked, says Burr. Richardson heard her “stunned silence” and said, ‘Make that two days.’