Tag Archives: self-care

Me, Myself, and I: Self-Care as Daily Practice

At Embolden Psychology, we term the foundations of self-care the Five Pillars: Sleep, Nutrition, Movement, Meditation, Connection.

The foundation holds up the house. Beyond these essentials, self-care can take many forms. The essence of self-care requires twofold mindfulness.

1. Making decisions that make daily life more efficient and efficacious.
A client finally bought a comfortable new mattress after many years of discomfort and back pain from a sagging old one. Another replaced her aged laptop that was frequently crashing and slowing down her work. A third example was a client who bought an app that went through all of her subscriptions and yearly payments, often for products that she was not using. She found that she saved close to $900 per year by getting rid of superfluous charges and subscriptions. At times, people don’t believe that they deserve or should have something for the sake of making life easier. Self-care is saving time and frustration. And money.

2. Consistently building in healthy Me Time.
Many people juggle obligations all day, from work to family. Self-care comes last, if they have time. I have written elsewhere about sleep procrastination. Folks who seemingly stay up late on social media or binging on TV shows have very busy lives. They may crave something that requires no obligations to others. What seems to be an unwise act of staying up late and being tired the next morning often stems from a desire for agency at the end of the day.

Past the Five Pillars, I have people actually schedule Me Time on a daily basis in their calendar. A big M to signify “this is for me and I need it.” Whether it’s a 20 minute nap, walk, quiet time (essential for everyone, especially parents), or even a massage or a movie, your brain and body sense that you’re doing something for yourself. This makes it less likely that you will subconsciously carve Me Time out later by skipping a workout, eating those hot Cheetos, watching trash TV, or staying up late.

While a resort vacation, a splurge meal at a great restaurant, or a new outfit provide a different type of short-term outlet, self-care is daily business.

Also see Five Self-Care Statements and Self-care is Often a Very Unbeautiful Thing.

 

 

The opposite of uncertainty is not certainty: it is presence

When we feel uncertain or insecure, our brain tries to rescue us by activating our dopamine systems. This dopamine craving encourages us to seek rewards, making temptations more enticing. Avoiding depletion is investing in yourself. It’s making personal deposits consistently to weather hard times.

Presence is:
-What you have in your refrigerator
-How you talk to yourself. Your Inner Warrior is always listening. Avoid disheartening words.
-Who you share your energy with
-What your personal sanctuary looks like, whether it’s a room, dorm, apartment, office, garden, or house
-Your morning routine. How you start, matters
-How you connect to the earth
-What you read
-What you scroll
-What you watch
-How you move your physical being: stretch, walk, run, lift
-Who has access to you
-What you edit
-How you forgive-yourself and others
-What you do before you fall asleep

For more, see Self-Care is Often an Unbeautiful Thing

On W’s

*Wins can be:
Meal prepping something delicious for the next couple of days.
Organizing and updating your planner or calendar.
Cleaning a closet you’ve been wanting to get to.
Catching up with emails.
Getting some movement at the start of a day.
Meditating.
Remembering to take vitamins/supplements.

*Wins can also be:
Remembering to hydrate. And repeat.
Resting when you’re tired. For short periods.
Taking a hot shower.
Scheduling a haircut.
Doing a load of laundry or doing dishes/pots and pans.
Calling or texting with a caring friend.
Watching a TV show you enjoy or reading a book that is uplifting.

Everything accumulates.
Not just laundry, but the Ws.

Also see The Morning Routine Checklist.

On Self Care

I’m 55 and I’m frequently asked about self care. First, genes and luck are a huge deal. I don’t care about youth. I believe in ancient roots. I love being half a century old plus five. Especially the century part. I’ve seen a lot and not enough. Don’t let anybody who wants to sell you a $150 moisturizer tell you otherwise. I don’t do a great job at self care and I’m always learning. I am surrounded by great people who know more than I do.

After genes, I think passion for whatever your endeavors, eating delicious and natural foods, movement, touch, being outdoors make a great difference. Love makes you glow. That includes love for partners, friends, chosen family, and the world (our ultimate partner). I have nothing against people getting “work” done. More important is doing the Work.

This is a bit different. I believe grief makes you beautiful. Our heartbreak and losses are part of us. They form us as much as joy. Compassion for self and others, that’s the beauty secret of the world. The second one: don’t care about others’ opinions.

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.

The Morning Routine Checklist for Anxiety

Wake up at 7 AM.

Stretch.

Check day planner or calendar to mentally set the day.

Brush teeth and wash face.

Take care of companion animals and younger children.

Drink water.

Respond to important overnight texts.

Make bed, tidy room.

Eat healthy breakfast.

Write or journal.

Meditate/Pray.

Go for a twenty minute walk. Even just on your street.

Shower and get dressed.

The foundation holds up the house.

The Psychology of Houseplants

Plants are a metaphor for our lives.

The average person spends more than 85 percent of their time indoors, maybe more so now because of COVID-19. So it’s no surprise that quarantine has made plant parents of a lot of us. But the human connection with plants is ageless; countless studies have analyzed the mental health benefits of keeping indoor foliage.

People have been keeping potted plants as far back as ancient Egypt, Babylon, and Rome. Wealthy Victorians embraced houseplants as a way to brighten the dull, dreary English winters. In the 1970s, the decade of the world’s first Earth Day, there was an indoor foliage boom. There are many mental health advantages to having plants in your home and office spaces that have been documented across psychology studies.

Houseplants give you a taste of nature.
Houseplants are an easy way to bring the outside in and reap the restorative benefits of being in nature, even when you can’t be outside.  A Japanese study that explores Shinrin-yoku (‘forest bathing’) found that spending time around nature lowers stress levels, reduces blood pressure and has an overall relaxing effect on the body. Forest bathing is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

Tending to plants models self-care.
Caring for a plant, giving it water and sunlight, cutting it back when needed, repotting to a better space, the simple consistent habits required for plants to thrive, lay the foundation of doing these things for yourself.

Plants improve executive functioning.
Caring for plants creates a positive feedback loop, in which you are taking on a measured responsibility, following through, and witnessing the effects. Tangible evidence of what can happen when we are consistent, do what needs to be done, and adapt to our environmental needs. Plants teach us the outcome is worth the effort and that we are constantly growing and evolving. The sequential aspect of plant care is good for our mental functioning.

Plants can boost your creativity.
Plants are good for brain storming and creativity. A Texas A&M University, department of psychology, study found that having indoor plants in the workplace greatly improved idea generation, creative problem-solving, and boosted sustained effort.

Plants can make you more productive.
A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that the presence of plants in the workplace led to increased productivity, energy, and higher levels of concentration. Maintaining plants actually appears to stimulate your brain and increase your attention span.

Plants reduce feelings of anxiety.
Exposure to indoor plants has positive effects on mental health. When we’re in the presence of indoor plants, the activity of our sympathetic nervous system, which is the fight-or-flight portion of our nervous system, decreases. Indoor plants promote a sense of relaxation, comfort, and calm.

Plants promote mindfulness.
Most people with anxiety worry about the future. They may be mentally living in the future, worried about what’s going to happen next, or what could go wrong. Mindfulness brings emotions and feelings to the present. Taking the time to tend to plants can be considered a mindfulness activity.

How To Feel Better: 12 ways in 30 Days

At Embolden, we emphasize self-care and self-compassion as an essential part of the therapeutic process.

Simple tips that make a difference:

  • Sleep 8 hours. If you cannot do it in a single stretch, divide sleep into phases, known as polyphasic sleep.
  • Hydrate. Drink a minimum of 2 L of water per day. Make a large jug of water in the morning, adding anything that you enjoy, such as citrus, cucumber, ginger, mint. Sip it throughout the day.
  • Meditate. 15 minutes a day of meditation, including seated, walking, or even lying down calms the mind and body.
  • Avoid sugar. We know that sugar causes inflammation. For mental health, sugar gives us a quick mood/energy spike, followed by a crash that is detrimental for people struggling with anxiety and depression.
  • Enjoy the bounties of nature. Eat fruits and vegetables daily, especially greens.
  • Care for an animal. A number of studies have shown the beneficial mental health effects of caring for a companion animal, including reductions in stress, loneliness, and even blood pressure.  For more see Mental Health and Companion Animals.
  • Write. Writing in a journal, in paper or digital format, for as little as 10 minutes a day reduces anxiety.  Read more on Journaling.
  • Go outside. Get sunlight daily.
  • Read. Just 30 minutes a day is good for cognitive and mental health.
  • Connect. Speaking with close friends and family members on a regular basis; online, by phone, or in person has clear benefits for emotional well-being.
  • Exercise.  At least 3 to 4 times per week, move your body. Whatever format you choose, consistency is the key.
  • Unplug and reboot. When our technology is failing us, we turn everything off and reboot. For mental health, when things are not going well, the reboot can be a short nap, taking a break, walking away from the situation, or even starting again the next morning.
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