How do you engage your whole self in self-care?
Breathe…..in….hold…..out. Breathing is one of the easiest ways to calm your body, heart and mind, and yet many of us don’t take the conscious time or effort to do it! Crazy, hey?! Breathing is so natural, but we forget to be intentional with it when we’re stressed out! Better yet…as a daily routine practice! When I became overwhelmed and stressed out, I had the wisdom and awareness to talk to someone about it. One of the most impactful things she said to me was, “You need to stop and breathe.” At the time, I thought, ‘Is she crazy? I always breathe!” But, then I realized what she meant. I need to slow down, be present, and take time for deep breaths! My goal was 10 deep breaths. I’m still working on that! I get to seven before my mind starts to wander and think. So, instead of getting frustrated with myself, I take a strength based approach and say, “Hey! That’s better than five! Go me!” Intentional deep breathing can be done anytime, anywhere. However, I find I usually need more than this to kind my inner peace and create a peaceful and clam space inside me that I can access whenever I need. This is when I learned about the five dimensions/domains of self care: Intellectual, Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, and Social.
What I’ve found is not just one strategy works…I stress out over a variety of things and my stress levels change. So, I need multiple strategies. I sat down one day with my husband, as he’s my support team, and we came up with a list of ideas that can help me when I’m feeling overwhelmed, AND as a proactive measure. Yup! PROACTIVE! That means I try to do these things even when I’m not stressed. I try to follow a routine of self-care. Originally, I was ambitious and I thought five days a week! But, that wasn’t happening, so I changed my goal to 3 times a week I do at least one item on my ‘happy’ list. These strategies take anywhere from a couple minutes to a few hours, to make sure I have options to choose from that meets my needs for any given time. I also make sure I’m not choosing things from the same domain every time, so I get diversity – I never know how I’m going to be stressed, so better to take care of the whole self rather than just parts of me.
This is about keeping the mind engaged and not becoming a Netflix zombie. You know what I’m talking about. Where you just mindlessly sit in-front of the tv, switching between programs or looking at the screen as pretty pictures zoom by. This is challenging my brain with something that inspires me! Here’s my top three mental self-care practices:
- Learn a new language: Duolingo is great for this! MY German is slowly coming along….slowly, lol.
- Read a book: I toss between a book about child development and my fictional, fun reads. This is my go to for weekends and right before bed to help turn off my work brain (that’s when I take out the fun reads) and escape with my imagination until my eye lids literally cannot stay open.
- Woodworking: Considering my hubby is a woodworker, I though I’d join him in the garage and try out making some cool things for the classroom. So far, I have a lacing board and some wooden blocks. This summer I will add some new things to my woodworking list!
As I’m not a religious person, I had to research this one a bit to figure out what this entails. I realized that spirituality means how you discover yourself in terms of the greater world. How you feel a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose. Ok…I got this! How do I connect with myself, others and the land?
- I hug trees! Yup! I hug trees. This helps me feel connected to the earth. I listen to the sounds of the tree, feel the texture of the bark as I wrap my arms around it and feel the breeze on my skin (or whip my hair around). I feel the dew drops from the branches plop on my head. I feel connected. I feel alive. I feel grounded.
- Nighttime visualizations: I cant seem to clear my mind for meditations so I switched to visualizations where I allow my mind to formulate pictures that promote a sense of clam, serenity and peace. My visualizations usually take my to somewhere in nature, either in a crystal cave with warm hot springs, in the middle of a grove of trees, or in a warm cottage in the middle of the woods. The forest is my happy place, so it only seems natural that that’s where my minds goes when I want to relax and unwind.
- Acts of Kindness: To feel a part of the community and connect with other people, I love doing random acts of kindness. Whether it’s a Starbucks for the person behind me, helping a senior take their groceries to their car, bringing a friend a random tea, buying flowers for my husband, sending my bestie a surprise through Amazon (she lives in Quebec). Not only does it make someone else smile, but I gotta admit…I love how I feel too!
Ugh…this is a tough one for me! Especially in the winter! I’m soooo not a cold weather person. But, I know the importance of keeping our bodies moving and healthy so, I came up with a routine that I try to keep to (although lately…this has not been successful, lol).
- Activity everyday for at least 30 minutes, and a good 1 hour heart-rate-pumping, three times a week: I don’t like calling these ‘workouts’ because I find working out boring…no one wants to talk! So, I say I’m being active! Being at my desk a lot lately means I don’t move as much as I did when I was in the classroom 5 days a week. But even then, being active with children is not self care! That’s part of our job! This daily activity is intentionally doing something to keep your body healthy! I got myself a stationary bike and a step, and we converted one of our rooms into a workout room! Now, I must say, I did more of this when they were in the living room, staring at me as I sat on the couch, taunting me…but it’s nice having a space to workout in…I mean…be active in. We even put a tv in there! Even though I’d rather listen to the radio or call my friends and chat. If it’s nice out, my dogs get lots of walks! Even is it’s small 10 minute walks, 3 times a day…whatever fits into my schedule, I try to do this everyday. The three times a week…I extend those walks and biking times to 1 hour! Yeah me! That means, time to catch up on podcasts!
- Eating breakfast within 90 minutes of getting up: This is a hard one for me as I’ve never been a morning person or a breakfast person. But, I can honestly say, I’m finally at about 4-5 times a week of doing this! I’ll take it! And you know what?! I find I’m less hungry when I do this and I have more energy throughout the day. I know they said this would happen…but…ok, they are right. Next.
- More water – Less tea: I love my London fogs! I can drink those all day! I don’t mind water, but I find it’s boring. So, I bought some Mio and add a squirt to my water bottle and I’m at 3 water bottles a day (that’s about 3.5-3L a day). Now, I crave water just as much as I do my London fog teas! Cut down that caffeine!
This is what we tend to hear about the most with self-care. The mindfulness and breathing strategies. Let’s add to what I’ve already shared with you.
- Name it to Tame it! Love, love, love this! Coined by the ever so wonder, Fr. Dan Siegel, get those feelings out! Don’t keep them in and suppress the , We’re not helping anyone, especially ourself, when we do that. If I’m angry…I say I’m angry. If I’m frustrated…I say I’m frustrated. I literally say it out loud. .Even if no one is in the room or listening. Just saying, out loud, my feelings helps. Now, I tend to fluctuate easily on the emotional scale, so my husband gets very confused someday, lol. But, he does say, “It’s easy to make me happy, so it’s not so bad.” I’m not one to hide my feelings either. Never have been. Never will be. Now, I am more comfortable simply stating my feelings though and moving on. I love the simplicity of this. And it works!
- My Happy Word: Puppy. That’s it. Puppy. I cant’ even think the word without being happy nd smiling. For those ‘on the spot’ moments, when I’m super busy with the children, and I need a pick-me-up, I repeat over and over, in my head or out loud, this word and I start smiling. What’s your happy word?
- Chick flicks: This is my go-to strategy at night, when I’m too stressed to stop thinking at night. I watch a romantic comedy I’ve seen a hundred times, that I don’t need to keep my eyes open, but I know exactly what’s happening. This is not “zombie movie watching” as I am intentionally selecting movies that reflect my mood and help me find my calm. For example, if I’m stressed and can’t stop thinking of work at 2am…I’ll put on a quieter movie that I generally am able to fall asleep within 20 minutes. If I’m stressed out from emotions (mood swings are awful) then I’ll put on a romantic comedy…nothing that causes extreme crying outbursts. I need to laugh! This helps me find my balance emotionally.
This is my jam! I’m an extrovert and love socializing. The pandemic hit me hard here, so I had to find my balance with my social well-being. Here’s what I do:
- My sister: My sister, her husband, my husband and myself have gotten to know each other very well over the past couple years. They were our cohort. Our peeps. Our sanity during insanity. Thank goodness we all like each other! Honestly though, my sister is my rock. Whether I’m frustrated with work, my husband or life in general, my sister has been there for me. I honestly can’t imagine what I’d do without her. Even now, I’m tearing up thinking of it…seriously…I don’t know what I’d do without her. She is part of my support system that helps me find my calm in the chaos…and my Boggle partner!
- Join a new group: I am not a social media person. I honestly don’t really like it. But I try. So, I joined (and formed) a couple online groups to meet new people. My virtual peeps! Yes, I come and go in the online world, and I don’t respond instantly usually (you’re talking to a Gen X’er here…I prefer talking to people on the phone or in person). Work puts me on the social media ‘thingy’ more, but personally…I try. And…I’ve met some wonderful people!
- Outdoor Social Meets: I keep in touch with friends by meeting up in the wonderful outdoors (especially during the pandemic). And when we could, tea and luncheons were a big thing for me. I love meeting people in-person. Having those face-to-face conversations. I tried the ‘zoom’ thing, but I do that for work, so I don’t want to do it in my personal time too! Too much online time for this lady. Even if I get to see one person every couple weeks…it’s a big part of my self-care routine. Finding the balance of socializing and community safety was a big thing for me. I’m so glad I found a balance that works for me!
So, there you have it. My routines for self-care. As you can see, it’s not about being reactive and only taking care of yourself after you realize you’re stressed out, it’s about creating a routine that works for you. Make it a habit to find time for you everyday. Yes…EVERYDAY!!! 5 minutes or 30 minutes or 2 hours…whatever you can fit in. Remember, you are worth it. You deserve it. You have the time. You need it.
What’s your self-care routine? How are you balancing the 5 domains? Share your ideas and inspire us!
With love and laughter,