Category Archives: strategies for self-care

Personal Prescriptions

One of the questions I get asked most frequently by patients: What can I do, if I don’t want to or cannot take medication for anxiety or depression? I say: even if you’re taking medication, you need these. I actually write a prescription for the following recommendations.

* Sweat. Whatever exercise you love or can tolerate, do it most days of the week. Move.

* Sleep. Rest fiercely. We live a life with more obligations and responsibilities than one could imagine. The internet stole the rest. Sleep is the friend we take for granted, but forget that it needs tending. Constantly. For more info see Making Sleep Your Best Friend

* Sunlight/Earth. Get outside, every single day. Even when you cannot, bring nature inside. For more info see The Sun and Mental Health and The Psychology of House Plants.

* Bark/Purr. Spend as much time as possible with companion animals. It lowers your blood pressure, creates oxytocin, and beats loneliness. See also Mental Health and Companion Animals.

* Help. Innately, we need to help others. Whether it’s a neighbor, charity, volunteer opportunity, or community service, giving creates feel-good hormones.  See also The Mental Health Benefits of Random Acts of Kindness.

* Eat. Food is medicine. There is no diet that works for everybody, but figuring out what gives you maximum energy, nutrition, and satisfaction is key. Master cooking a few delicious dishes. See also Turmeric and Mental Health.

* Express. Dance, sing, write, draw, create. Give voice to your experience. Depression stifles our feelings. Anxiety makes it hard to even express them. See also Relaxation Place.

* Play. Watch your favorite shows. Read for pleasure, not work. Play your favorite game: board game, word game, video game. Work on a puzzle. Have regular chats or Zooms set up with your besties if you cannot see them in person. Our brains need downtime. It is essential, not a waste. See also Why It’s Hard to Say Goodbye to Our Favorite Shows.

*Breathe. Martial arts, meditation, yoga, breath work. These activities performed regularly drop tension and stress, empirically. See also Meditation For Troubled Times.

*Pray. Personal spirituality or prayer improves mental health, with robust findings for reductions in anxiety and depression. See also Personal Praying May Boost Mental Health.

*Forgive. Yourself and others. We collect wounds through our years. We often can’t let them go. As important as letting go of the aggression sent our way by others, we MUST let go of self hatred, self blame, and self denial. See also Why Self-Compassion is More Important Than Self-Esteem.

Six Paradigm shifts: mental tweaks that matter.

  • Other than your closest friends and the family that matter, you don’t owe anyone anything. Just because you’re good at (fill in the blank), you don’t have to help somebody else with it. If they value your skill, they will offer to compensate you for your time, help, and energy. You are under no obligation to give away your protocols, strategies, and knowledge without a clear consensual understanding on both sides.
  • Learn to ask for help. It will save you time and grief. Being able to rely on the skill sets of another is a great gift.  See How to Ask for Help Without Feeling Weird for tips.
  • Don’t over-explain but be gracious. Many years ago, I watched a male friend turn down an invitation to a major event. ”Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not going to be able to make it.” Another friend: “I am so sorry… I am just so busy… The kids and work deadlines… I feel awful, I would totally come if I could.” These are just examples, of course, but frequently we have a propensity to over explain and over apologize.
  • Don’t personalize hurts. Your friends might be busy with their work commitments, children and families, and hopefully self-care. If they are not readily available, it’s not because they don’t love you.
    Also see What to Do When You Don’t Feel Valuable.
  • Ask, don’t assume. Every single time. In my couples therapy sessions, one set of research I use in the work explores the ‘stories’ that everyone brings into their intimate and romantic lives. Universally, there are certain beliefs that people bring with them to most of their interactions that are left unspoken and yet are assumed.  Speaking them matters.
  • Do not put your values and standards on another person. We all need different amounts of rest, sleep, recreation, challenge, hustle, and social time. Differences are not hierarchical.

What are some mental shifts that helped you?

The Daily You

Your relationship with yourself is the most defining factor in shaping the kind of life you live, especially in interactions with your friends, colleagues, work, and family.

Think of the people in your life that you love and respect. How do you treat them? Do you want to protect them when they are hurting? Do you listen to their dreams and goals? Do you tell them that you appreciate them and they are cherished?Do you believe in them and what they want to accomplish?

Chances are, you are kind to them, patient with their thoughts and ideas, fierce when they are in pain, and you forgive them when they make a mistake. You give them space, time, and opportunity; you make sure they have the room to grow because you love them enough to believe in the potential of their growth.

Now think of how you treat yourself.

Do you give yourself the love and respect that you might give your closest friends/loved ones?

Do you take care of your body, your mind, and your goals?

Here are ways that you could be showing your body and mind self-love in your everyday life:

  • Sleeping properly
  • Eating well. This includes meal prepping, trying delicious new foods, and sitting down to eat in a mindful way
  • Giving yourself time and space when you’re having a bad day
  • Exercising regularly
  • Engaging in physical touch, affection, cuddles, intimacy
  • Thanking yourself and those around you
  • Spending time in nature
  • Playing when you need it
  • Praying when you need it, or other spiritual practices
  • Avoiding vices and toxic influences
  • Reflecting and meditating. Meditation does not have to be seated. You can lie down, walk, move while focusing on your breath.
  • Saying no

I’m starting a weekly accounting with clients. What has worked to support you this week, what was not so great? The daily you, 24/7, with edits.
Also see: Self-Care is Often a Very Un-Beautiful Thing.

Why Self-Compassion is more Important than Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is a positive evaluation of self and self-worth. While there is some overlap, self-compassion doesn’t require that we evaluate ourselves positively or that we see ourselves as “above average”. Instead, the positive emotions of self-compassion still kick in when self-esteem falls down; when we don’t meet our expectations, suffer a loss, fail in some way. It is a way of relating to yourself. This means that the sense of intrinsic self-worth inherent in self-compassion is highly stable. Self-compassion has been linked to higher resilience, better physical health, and increased life satisfaction.

External circumstances, skills, friendships, intimate relationships, even physical capabilities, may wax and wane. Self-compassion, as practice, is a constant. 

Also see The Neuropsychology of Self-Compassion.

What To Do When You Don’t Feel Valuable

It takes work to shift your thoughts, but what is most important that you start taking small actions that signify “I have value.”

Take Small Actions

What does that look like on a daily basis?

  • Offering your opinion.
  • Speaking up in a crowded room.
  • Sitting in the front row.
  • Sending your order back when it’s wrong.
  • Buying yourself a gift that you really wanted.
  • Sharing the artwork or writing you keep secret with a friend.
  • Saying “thank you” (and just “thank you”) when you get a compliment.
  • Saying “no” to things you don’t want to do.
  • Not buying friends. You don’t have to pay for stuff to be loved or valued.
  • Asking for what you need.
  • Asking for what you just want.
  • Giving yourself a day off, an hour off, or even a few minutes off. You don’t have to be on all the time.
  • Making a habit of exerting yourself. You can do this without being an a-hole.

Be Prepared for Pushback
Be aware that when you start practicing “I have value” in your daily life, it can upset the people who have benefited from you not valuing yourself. They’ve been getting a pretty good deal, and now you’re changing the rules! So be prepared for a little push-back, and gently keep pushing forward. Some people might even drift away from you if your value was predominantly for their good, not yours.

What’s ONE action that you can take TODAY that signifies “I have value”?

Deep breathing and anxiety

When you feel a wave of anxiety, these are tools that you can use wherever you are.

Your breath is your friend.

  • Acknowledge to yourself that anxiety is occurring.
  • Remember that you’ve dealt with this before, and you made it through.
  • EXHALE a long breath. Yes, exhale. You’re letting it out first.
  • Give yourself a self statement. I’ve done this before, and I will be OK.
  • Breathe in deeply.
  • Exhale. Repeat.
  • Place your hand on your belly. Feel the air going in and out. You are solidly being there for yourself.

Deep breathing lowers your heart rate, reduces stress hormones, and lowers your blood pressure.
Your breath and you: Allies.

Also see: The Anxiety Toolkit.

Six tips to improve your resilience

RESILIENCE: The capacity to recover from difficulties; toughness. Elasticity.

(Photo: Halifax, Nova Scotia).

Six tips to improve your resilience:

  • ​Get connected
    Building strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends virtually can provide you with needed support and acceptance in both good times and bad. Establish other important connections by joining a faith or spiritual community online.
  • ​Make every day personally meaningful.
    Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day. Set goals to help you look toward the future with meaning.
  • ​Learn from experience.
    Think of how you’ve coped with hardships in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through rough times. You might even write about past experiences in a journal to help you identify positive and negative behavior patterns — and guide your future behavior.
  • Remain hopeful.
    You can’t change current events, but you can always look toward the future. Accepting and even anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.
  • ​Take care of yourself.
    Tend to your own needs and feelings. Participate in activities and hobbies you enjoy. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing or prayer.
  • Be proactive.
    Don’t ignore your problems. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan, and take action. Whether it’s job hunting, completing training or classes online, or networking, it can help set the future as we come out of this challenging situation.  Although it can take time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event or loss, know that your future situation can improve if you work at it a little bit daily in the here and now.

How to feel less alone: 10 Tips

Social media helps us feel less alone. When you click like on somebody’s post, it’s a tacit agreement that you are not alone. You are with somebody else and their statement of being in the world. The main distinguisher: Being alone is a physical description (meaning when we are alone, we are just not with people), while loneliness is a feeling that often is experienced as negative and painful, and can occur in a crowd.

For many of us, aloneness is a negative state of being. Society doesn’t help us with this notion either; being alone often carries a social stigma, implying isolation, being on the outside. This perceived sense of aloneness seems to imply that being by one’s self is not volitional, or a choice we make, but rather an imposed state where a person is not socially engaged in the way that is somehow expected. Even further, it may imply that there is something actually wrong or defective with a person who remains alone.

How to be alone and be mentally sound

Spending time alone with yourself increases productivity
How quickly do you get a job done when you have family and friends chatting away? Your goal may be to complete things around the house, run errands, finish a school assignment, or meet a deadline for work. Even a ping from your phone when a chat or mail comes in can make you lose concentration on a task. The brain is naturally programmed to be more productive when there are little to no distractions. So, if you desire to be more productive, spend time alone.

Deepen your relationships
The strength of your relationships can speak bounds to how secure you feel when spending time alone. A lack of depth and connection can make you feel less heard, understood, appreciated or secure. The quality of your connections goes well above the quantity.

Stop tolerating unhappy relationships
It is a cruel fact of life that people are so scared of loneliness that they often opt into a relationship with the wrong person. There is enormous pressure from peers, family and society in general to get married or coupled. When this happens, people start making wrong decisions, getting involved with unsuitable partners because of the fear of being alone or lonesome; accepting inappropriate behavior just because of loneliness; seeking a temporary fix.

Spend some time with nature
There’s nothing quite as soothing as bonding with nature. You can simply spend time in a garden, where you can watch the flowers bloom with your favorite book in hand. Or you can listen to the chirping of the birds, lie under the skies, spend cuddle time with your companion animals, nurture indoor plants, and watch the shapes of the clouds and the brightness of the stars, and fall in love with yourself all over again.

Ease into the pleasure of relaxation
The moment you go for a massage, treat yourself to a bubble bath with wine in hand, order your favorite meal, or stay home to watch Netflix with home made popcorn. These are pleasures that are you, with you. Date nights with yourself have to be prioritized every week.

Step out alone
Perhaps you thought that to learn to be alone means camping at home and shutting the world out. However, that’s not the case. You can indeed have beautiful time with yourself by going out to town to do activities like reading outdoors, grabbing a coffee, having an appetizer and drink at a bar, and going to the seaside where you can feel the wind on your face, watch the sea waves come and go, or just gather your thoughts.

Be weird
Adulting does not stop you from playing your favorite song at home and dancing to it in your underwear, joking with friends and family, lor bingeing on your favorite ice-cream or meal. Nothing stops you from doing crazy activities like sky diving, traveling alone, we’re talking to people you don’t know – that will send some adrenaline shooting through your body.

Carve out ‘You’ Time
Experiment by setting a timer for 5 minutes. That is all.

Five minutes with no:

Get outdoors
Fifty minutes or more a week spent in nature can improve symptoms of depression and lower blood pressure.

Minimize conflict
Reducing sources of daily conflict or arguments will help you feel less alone. Your peace of mind is more important than winning a point, on social media, or IRL.

13 Ways to Fight Loneliness

A client recently said to me- loneliness is like being underwater while everyone around you is breathing. You can feel lonely by yourself or in a group. Loneliness is usually temporary, but it feels like forever when you are in the middle of it.

Acknowledge how you feel
You’re not alone in feeling alone. Loneliness is a common experience for most people at some time in their lives. The first step in combating loneliness, as in all challenges, is to acknowledge your feelings.

Talk to strangers
A growing body of research suggests that even seemingly trivial interactions with stranger, like chatting with a barista or server, may be able to keep loneliness at bay by helping us feel more socially connected. So reach out to other human beings to say hello, or ask them how they are. These small acts can make a big difference and help you reduce feelings of loneliness.

Join a community of practice
Finding or creating a community of practice is a great way to not only combat loneliness, but also continue to grow professionally and personally. Peer-to-peer learning is so powerful. In Buddhist thought, your Sangha, or like-minded community, helps you stay focused and on track with personal and spiritual goals.

Seek out an accountability partner
One way to manage loneliness is to seek out an accountability partners so that you can meet, talk regularly, share your goals and hold each other accountable for achieving results- personal, professional, or fitness and health. One colleague goes over the wins and losses of the week every Friday with an accountability buddy. Discussing Ws and Ls can be a  powerful connection and motivator.

Volunteer remotely or in real life
Working on an important problem with others can help you decrease loneliness. Volunteering for a cause or activity that is meaningful to you also puts you in touch with others who share your values and interests.

Set aside one hour per week to learn something new
Taking an online course or training often includes a social component of discussion and interaction. Learning something new or obtaining a certification makes us feel like we are part of a like-minded community.

Read a new book
Books are a great companion. You can immerse yourself in whatever format you prefer, digital, audio, or print, and you are transported to something that interests or intrigues you.

Take care of something
Putting energy towards taking care of something will help alleviate feelings of loneliness. Be that a pet or a plant, the responsibility of maintaining life is inspiring and motivating. Companion animals are also great emotional comforters and cuddle buddies.

Get extra hours of sleep
Getting enough sleep is very beneficial to your health, so spend some down time resting.

Take on art projects
Whether you like to paint, sculpt, draw, compose, write, or color, do things that allow you to be creative. Lots of adults tell me they can’t express their creativity at work. Art is a very positive outlet, and finding a craft that you love can lead you to a whole community of others who also enjoys it.

Work on your personal spirituality
Regardless of what religion you practice, alone time is a great opportunity to work on your spirituality. That looks different for everyone. If you don’t practice a religion but want to get in touch with yourself, it’s the perfect time for self-discovery and growth.

Try new recipes
Cooking a nourishing meal or even doing meal prep for the work weekis a healthy way of giving a gift to yourself.

Call your loved ones
Try to call or FaceTime at least one close friend or family member every day, and text others regularly. That sense of daily connection can keep loneliness at bay,  even if you are home by yourself.

For more tips see Eight Tips to Fight Loneliness During Holidays.

Embolden Psychology

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

Thank you for contacting us.