Self-care tips

As promised, eight more self-care tips for protecting your emotional health:

  • Decide that there is no real value in always putting yourself last. In fact, it is important to sometimes put yourself first, even if you are a parent.
  • Know it is okay to expect happiness in your daily life. Look for small pleasures you can be grateful for and relish throughout each day.
  • Rest your mind. Spend time regularly in meditation, prayer or silence. Commit to this practice even if your life is very busy or doing so feels strange. You may even be surprised to find that you feel calmer, more productive and focused. Start simply by taking three or four deep breaths each time you visit the bathroom. Or you might set your alarm clock ten minutes earlier every morning to pray or meditate.
  • Avoid people, places, media and situations that leave you feeling bad or drained. Protecting your time and space is one of the most important ways to practice self-care.
  • Set up and honor personal boundaries. Yes, you can say “no” sometimes without bringing the world to an end.
  • Be deliberate. Do things that don’t contradict what you say is important to you.
  • Give yourself a break. The next time that voice in your head starts bad-mouthing you or putting you down, tell it to STOP. Choose an affirmation and repeat it for calm and comfort.
  • Keep a journal, sing, color, dance, create…

Take Action Challenge: How will you practice self-care?

Tomorrow…the next building block for protecting your emotional health – support.

 

 

 

 

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Protecting your emotional health

We all understand the importance of protecting our physical health by eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and adequate rest. What we don’t think about as much is the importance of protecting our emotional health. Taking care of our emotional health is important because our attitudes, how and what we think, play a big part in shaping our experiences, our worldview and even our accomplishments.

Just like the food pyramid is designed to help us make the best dietary choices for our physical health, the personal care pyramid helps us make the best choices for our emotional health. The building blocks of the pyramid are self-care, support and self-help.

About self-care

Much as the words suggest, self-care is about finding ways to gentle, loving, affirming, nurturing, supportive and encouraging of ourselves. There are many ways to practice self-care.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Check in with yourself throughout the day. What thoughts and feelings have been coming up most for you? Can you identify their source? Is there anything you need or are ready to do about your feelings? Pay attention to how you are feeling and what you are saying to yourself.
  • Take regular, deep breaths. Sometimes this is all it takes to calm and refocus yourself. It is okay to do this several times a day. Know what works for you and when you need a time out.
  • Make your emotional well-being a priority – you are important enough and no matter how busy you are, you have the time. Decide to make time for things that nurture and restore you.

Check back tomorrow for eight more self-care tips and later in the week for more about support and self-help.

 

 

Sharing as an act of self-care

 

Comfort Words

Everything that matters is still true. I used to use these words as salve when some small thing, in the larger scheme of things, went wrong. This patch of perspective covered it all. I relied on my raft of words to keep me afloat when troubles, real and imagined, threatened to overtake me. A wildly expensive repair bill, minor irritation, major disappointment… uncomfortable feelings didn’t fester too long with my mantra as salve. Nothing else really mattered as long as dear ones were safe, healthy and well.

Then my brother died.

It happened in the wee hours of a September Saturday. Even before I arrived at the dawn darkened course or took my first step of the Singleton 10-miler, Brad was dead.

The weather was deceptively beautiful. It gave nothing away. Everything that mattered was not still true, but the gentle breeze carried no signs. I crossed off each race mile in blissful ignorance.

I have heard others talk about the sudden death of one beloved. They speak of signs. I knew something was wrong, they brag proudly, holding up their angst. It is evidence of their bond, unassailable and true, with the loved one, cruelly lost. I expected to know, too. But I didn’t. Me, the oldest sister who read Brad bedtime stories as boy, welcomed him for summer visits as a teen and admired his kindness as a man.

My brother died as I slept undisturbed then later toed the start line thinking only of the finish – not his life, already ended. I did not feel any shift or change. I did not dream or startle and bolt upright. I had no hint from my heart or bones. I did not know until the calls came.

They started in the check-out line at Sam’s club. Race participants had parked there before the store opened to the usual throngs eager to check Saturday chores off their lists. Until the calls came, I had counted myself among them – an ordinary person doing ordinary things on an ordinary day.

The cashier looked giddy with surprise. Her pitch had landed a “yes.” Sure, I said. I’ll upgrade my membership to Advantage Plus. You’ll save four dollars on your paper towels today, she said, eager to assure me I had made a wise choice. The phone buzzed in my pocket. It stopped and started again immediately, insistently. I pulled it out, five missed calls, and knew… something was wrong. My sister doesn’t ever call on a Saturday morning, and never so many times in a row.

Filling the gas tank, usually a dreaded chore was a welcome task then. I needed time, just a few minutes more with the pretend comfort of willful ignorance. The tank filled too quickly. I had to call back. Stalling hadn’t helped though, my brother was dead.

Brad died on September 24, 2011. He would have been 36 on his birthday, just two days later. Instead of celebrating we mourned. No, we didn’t really. The shock was still so fresh. We didn’t fully understand yet how vacant the space he occupied in our lives would be. We could still torture ourselves by pretending it wasn’t true that he would be separated from us forever.

Now I need new comfort words.

I am without protection from life’s upsets. Something that mattered is no longer true. A dear one, my younger brother, is not safe or healthy or well. My brother is dead, and I am left without my mantra to steady myself on grief’s rocky path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meditation for challenging times

Listen on soundcloud

Disappointment is a normal part of every person’s life…including mine. When I am facing a problem I can take care of myself by remembering that I am not being punished. Even good people have bad times sometimes. I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am equal to the challenge.

I have the wisdom, the energy  and the strength to get through this. I know that I will be okay even though I may not know yet exactly how this situation will be resolved. I trust myself to look for and find each next best step.

I have within me the drive and determination to change what I can, and the courage to accept what I can’t. I stay focused on where I am going, reminding myself often that life is always changing. Where I am right now is not permanent.

Even though things are not as I want them to be, I am okay. I will not give up on myself, my life or my goals. All is well. And so it is. Have a good day.

It is okay to ask for help

“God helps those who help themselves”

  • This common phrase is not actually a bible verse
  • It is intended as a way of encouraging initiative, but often functions as a way of shaming instead

The real truth…if you don’t speak up for yourself, who will?

  • No one understands your needs better than you do
  • You are your own best advocate
  • Asking for help should not be understood as a sign of weakness
  • Strong, capable people need help just like everybody else
  • Having initiative does not mean you have to be completely self-reliant.
  • Identifying and advocating for your needs is one way of taking the initiative for getting those needs met.
  • Choosing not to remain silent about what you need and want is a way of practicing self care.

Morning Meditation

Today is a new day. I have never experienced this day before. I will meet this day with new purpose instead of old habits and stories that don’t support me or my goals.

I will approach this day with openness as I experience each moment. I willingly let go of yesterday and free myself to meet this day with curiosity and courage.

I choose to let go of the past and release the things I cannot change; and to use my emotional energy instead to create meaningful changes where I can.

Today I will be patient and gentle with myself. I will practice using an inner voice that is more kind and less critical.

I accept the person I am and the person I am becoming. I know that the self is not fixed or stagnant. I am always changing and growing.

I breathe deeply throughout the day to center and remind myself that I am good enough. I don’t have to be perfect to deserve love and care or to be valuable to myself and others. Like all people everywhere I deserve to be happy and free from suffering. And so it is.

This morning meditation is also available for listening on Sound Cloud. Have a good day.

Some warning signs of domestic violence

Isolation – In the beginning it may not be obvious that you are spending less time with family and friends because it feels like you have some choice in the matter. You may hear things like, don’t go out with them tonight, I haven’t seen you all week, I miss you. Your partner’s behavior may also appear initially as chivalrous as in – you don’t need a car or to learn your way around, I don’t mind taking you where you want to go.

Criticism – You may begin to feel that you can’t do anything right. Suddenly there is something lacking in your shape, size, parenting, housekeeping, education, conversation, abilities, etc.

Blaming – Abusers often fail to take responsibility for their feelings or circumstances. They insist their intimate partner makes them angry and causes them to be hurtful and mean, or they complain that the partner is responsible for everything from a bad day to the promotion they did not get.

Jealousy – Women in abusive relationships are sometimes accused of being unfaithful. The batterer scrutinizes every aspect of her behavior and sees infidelity where it does not exist. For example, if a woman casually greets a neighbor or changes her hairstyle, “she must be having an affair.” Gradually, many women will self-isolate, limiting where they go and whom they talk to in order to avoid a potential confrontation.

Past Abuse – There is no reason to assume that a person who has battered will not continue doing so. Change can happen, but not without hard work. That means the person using violence to control their intimate partner must accept responsibility for their behavior and actively work on adopting new behaviors. Just saying you are going to be different does not make it so.

Intimidation – This may take the form of breaking or slamming things and other shows of physical strength or prowess designed to incite fear.

Tension – Women at risk of or experiencing domestic violence often describe a tense atmosphere in which they “walk on eggshells,” constantly worried about doing or saying anything that will “set their partner off.”

This list is not exhaustive. The most important warning sign of domestic violence is your instinct. It is okay to trust your gut when it tells you something is not right. Help is available. Contact the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or ncadv.org for confidential, free resources and support in your area.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 women will experience some form of domestic violence in her lifetime. You are not alone.

Living with domestic violence

There is a saying that goes, do not allow yourself to be led away from the truth by what you would like to believe.

Domestic violence can be particularly difficult to come to terms with because of the complexity of emotions, values and hopes involved. Letting go of the hope that everything will be okay happens over a period of time, rather than in a day or a single moment. Some women leave and go back several times. If that describes you – never give up on yourself. You deserve a relationship free from physical and emotional violence. If that describes someone you know – never give up on her or assume “she likes it.” All people want and deserve to be happy and free from suffering.

Check back tomorrow for some of the warning signs of domestic violence

Start by setting small exercise goals

You don’t have to be a size two to cut your risk of diabetes or to be healthier. According to John Hopkins Medicine losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58% . That is only 10 to 20 pounds if you weigh 200. Go ahead and get started on your fitness plan. Exercise is a great way to practice self care because it feels good and it is good for you.

Start by setting small goals

You have probably heard the expression – a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Why not make fitness a part of your journey toward wellness? Think of health changes such as losing weight and inches or committing to a self care fitness plan as points along the journey. Establish mile markers along the way to keep yourself feeling encouraged. Here are some examples:

  • I will start my exercise program on August 1 and exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes for the next four weeks.
  • I will lose five pounds in the next four weeks.
  • I will lose three inches in the next four weeks.
  • I will be able to run for 30 seconds without stopping by September 1

Although your overall goal may be to lose twenty pounds you are more likely to be successful if you set smaller goals along the way. Setting incremental goals keeps you encouraged because you give yourself the opportunity to see results and experience success quickly. You are also more likely to stick with your plan, which means you develop trust in yourself about doing what you say you will do. Use the feeling of being successful to motivate yourself to keep going or push even more. Before you know it your doctor will say you are safely out of the danger zone.

Planning for self-care

Women are often urged to look everywhere except within for comfort, centering, love and self-care thus reinforcing the idea that we don’t have what it takes to restore, heal or encourage ourselves. We do. We just have to find the strategies and connections that work for us. Consider combining community services and support with your own internal resources for a self care plan that you can build, direct and own. Here are a couple of strategies to try.

  • Cognitively Based Compassion Training (CBCT), Mindfulness and Meditation Practice – learning to observe your feelings as they come up can make not identifying with them or not letting them lead you astray feel easier.
  • Exercise and yoga (can be as effective as antidepressants) are good ways of claiming and using “me” time.
  • Sister Circles – join with other women to harness the power of community caring, concern, accountability and support. Choose women that are emotionally healthy enough to support you in ways that are meaningful, and meet at least once monthly. Be sure to establish important group rules, for example – you may agree that members must observe confidentiality and agree to disagree respectfully.
  • Journaling – Use the pages to explore your truths, values, fears and hopes.
  • Counseling – Regard your therapist as a partner. You can choose the right one for you and fire therapists that are not a good fit. You don’t have to accept just anyone