A Thought Worth Considering

What often inspires my blog posts are reflections that occur through my work. Not only with the individual clients I see but in the groups we run as well. Recently, a young woman brought to group a thought worth considering when we are wrestling with whether or not we say yes to something that has been requested of us. Resonating with her was a meme that she had seen which stated, “Don’t confuse my free time with my availability.” 

This is perhaps something we need to consider before saying yes. Perhaps we have set aside an entire day to do nothing but putter. Cross a few things off the list, enjoy choosing our own pace to the day, deciding how we want to spend our time moving between productivity and relaxation. Technically we are free. And so when someone asks of us a favour, we may begin to feel guilty if we don’t say yes. We may begin pushing the limits to our perception of what we perceive to be selfish.

In our examination of “Do I have the time, energy and support available to me to agree?” question, the distinction between free time and availability becomes an important one. The value we place on how we recharge our serenity is important and worthy of consideration.

Free time versus availability…a thought worth considering 🙂

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Re-Charge Our Serenity

I often speak of our comfort system – our relaxed state – and how we are meant to be there most of the time. For many people, the pace of life, anxiety or the lingering effects of trauma  keeps them in their fight-or-flight system most of time. This can lead us to feeling frayed, frazzled, overwhelmed and exhausted. A client recently spoke about how he goes to water to ‘recharge my serenity.’ He spoke about growing up near Lake Superior and how going to any body of water and getting out in his fishing boat for an evening or an afternoon helps him to recharge.

I  am drawn to the way he described the process of moving from an anxious or overworked state to a relaxed one. When we consciously make choices to recharge our serenity, we are inviting peace and calmness into ourselves; we become more aware of our spirit.

And so let us make sure that recharging our serenity is a part of our daily plan – getting outside in nature, through prayer, meditation and gratitude, through seeking meaningful connection with others, through music, quiet time, laughter, the purposeful seeking of joy. Creating the space for the recharge will help us to feel grounded and settled.

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Daily Non-Negotiable

When we think about the importance of self-care, it tends to encompass many things. Sometimes it is making sure that the pace of our day is balanced; it can mean the setting of boundaries, the things we consciously choose to do to feed our comfort system; the ways in which we rest, use our senses to self-soothe, feel at peace. Whatever our chosen means of feeling grounded, it is our tendency to set ourselves aside when our days get busy – when we feel frazzeled or frayed, we are actually less likely to lean into our self-care strategies.

Perhaps that is why it is important to wake up each day and ask ourselves, “What is my self-care, non-negotiable for today?” For those who take comfort in routine, their non-negotiable is something they tend to take comfort in doing every day; mine for example comes in the form of a walk. Within an hour of the sun rising, with the blues and yellows of the morning sun, the birds chirping and the air fresh – it sets my day.

For others, their non-negotiable might contain variety; perhaps it is a walk one day, a relaxing drive with tunes on the next, a bath, a meditation, a warm cup of tea while sitting in solitude.

In any case, the lesson comes from setting aside time in our day – just for us. When we make it a part of our day, it reminds us to slow down and relish the art of designing our own lives and how we want our day to feel.

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Why Daily Self-Care?

I am a big believer in some form of daily self-care. That might be the way that you start your morning – 10 minutes of meditation, prayers, stretching or yoga – or it might be a reset at lunch with a 15 minute walk in the fresh air. Our bits of self-care can be scattered throughout the day when we consciously choose to listen to music when making dinner, soak in a lavender-scented tub, light a candle. It can be the space that we make to watch the birds landing on the feeder, the snow falling gently outside our window, or the moments we take to give some affection to the dog or cat. It can be the joy we feel when we send a loved one a text, or sit down for a catch-up chat. Sometimes, our self-care routine is one that we incorporate into our bedtime routine, such as writing in our gratitude journal or cozying in under our weighted blanket.

Our self-care strategies are tailored to what feeds our comfort system; they remind us that joy is our birthright. They create a space that reminds us that we are important; that our very nature is meant to feel light. Self-care also helps to soften the tension. When we incorporate small changes into our daily life, we are naturally reducing the stress that tends to build up because of  obligations we have. They also remind us that we can feel peace when experiencing grief, sadness or uncertainty.

Consider sprinkling some self-care into your every day routine. Your soul will thank you 🙂

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The Basics of Self-Care Strategies

In an article entitled “The Top 10 Self-Care Strategies for Stress Reduction” by Elizabeth Scott and featured on verywell mind, we are reminded of some of the basics of self care and that sometimes we can let good habits slide, such as maintaining the right amount of sleep and getting proper nutrition. Two points that I especially appreciated:

  • Have the right attitude: Scott talks about the importance of leaning into an optimistic frame of mind and having positive affirmations as a part of our overall self-care strategy.
  • Maintain a spiritual practice: the article mentions that research shows that a lifestyle including spirituality is generally healthier.

I also appreciated Scott’s point that we should pamper ourselves; pretty sound advice indeed. Find some time today to celebrate you 🙂

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To read the full article: https://www.verywellmind.com/self-care-strategies-overall-stress-reduction-3144729

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Friendship as Self-Care

There are nuances to our healthy relationships that often affect their reciprocity. With parents, for example, there is a power differential. Present from our childhoods, the shift of power increases in equality when we become adults; however, one wrong look from Dad or a reproachful word from Mom and we are back to feeling like a four year old kid again. 🙂 With our children, we lead the relationship and ultimately just do more of the work; and that’s okay. And when it comes to our partners, although we can both feel generally satisfied with the way we mutually care for each other, there is a greater dance to the exchange.

Friendships; however, have the greatest potential for reciprocity and are what I consider to be a wonderful part of our self-care routine. When friendships are healthy, there is an element of unconditional positive regard for the other that rests in authenticity and genuine concern. There is an element of freedom and healthy escape in our friends, as almost inevitably, there is fun, laughter, and memories created in our shared experiences. Not to mention that they “just get it.”

When our self-care sits on the back burner so potentially can our friendships; it becomes an important part of building our time to make sure we have coffee dates, play dates, good old fashioned, laugh-til-you’re-snorting dates with our friends. You will be happy you did.

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Walking the Cabot Trail

This fall, I decided to get back to walking – my 45 minute daily loop through forested trails. For the past year, I had really slowed down due to my 11 year old Great Dane not being able to map it any longer; we were going out each day, but it had become more of a daily stroll. And I needed to get back to exercising.

As I was scrolling through Facebook one day, I see a sponsored advertisement for a company called My Virtual Mission. It peaked my interest so I explored it further. As it turns out, I could ‘walk’ just about anywhere in the world. They had many trails to choose from and for a relatively small fee, I would get virtual postcards along the way, a tree planted as I completed each leg of the trail, and a medal that gets sent in the mail once I had completed the mission. I decided to give it a try – I gave myself 12 weeks as a timeline to complete it, and I have to say, it was an additional motivational factor in getting out for my walk every day. And, on top of that, it was fun! I could check out my progress every day on the map, and it even had a street view of where I was at all times (I got to see the ocean!)

Yesterday, I completed the mission. Walking the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, I clocked 299 kms in 67 days. 5 trees will be planted on my behalf.

I most likely would never have done this had it not been for the pandemic. And although it doesn’t replace actual travelling, it did give me a little boost. Next virtual mission? The Grand Canyon!

To visit the My Virtual Mission website: https://www.myvirtualmission.com/

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“No” is a Complete Sentence

This is often a good mantra for people pleasers. And although it is perfectly acceptable to simply say no to a request, it often feels difficult to do so. The first thing that enters into the picture is the propensity to say “Yes” – and that pull tends to be quite strong. Next comes the guilt – somehow saying no indicates what a horrible person you are. Tsk. Tsk. Unfortunately, saying yes all the time makes us tired, feel as though we are being taken advantage of, and places ourselves in the “I am not important and you are” position. Ugh.

Perhaps to start, we need to think about the word ‘maybe.’ In answering someone’s request, ‘maybe’ often sounds like:

“I am not sure I can do that. Let me check my schedule and get back to you,” or

“I understand that you would like an answer right now, but I have to think about it. I will get back to you in an hour, (by lunch, by tomorrow, etc.)”  – This one tends to work well with kids and teenagers 🙂

Then you take the time to run this quick inventory before you decide:

Do I have the time? Sometimes we just don’t have the time to squeeze one more request into our day; other days the pace is going well.

Do I have the energy? Perhaps it is the end of the week, and we are running on empty or maybe the walk we had this morning has given us some pep.

Do I have the support? Perhaps we can say yes if others are around to help carry the load, or maybe we are flying solo and it becomes too much.

Once we have the answers to these questions, our maybe can become a yes, or it might have to be a no:

“I’m sorry, I can’t commit to that. My schedule doesn’t allow it this time.”

“Going to the party isn’t going to work this time. I understand that is disappointing.” This doesn’t mean that the arguing and cajoling isn’t going to ensue – after all, you always say yes – it is okay to remind your loved one that “I say yes a lot, I try to make things work for everyone. This time, it’s a no.” 

And by keeping the boundary in place, that is when “No” becomes a complete sentence; having faith that everyone will survive you having said no, including yourself 🙂

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The Idea of Productive Rest

We can all appreciate a good work ethic. When our head hits the pillow at night, there is a part of us that feels satisfaction from a fruitful day. And yet for some of us, the pendulum has swung too far. From the moment your feet hit the floor, it is go – go – go.

Perhaps it is Type A tendencies, expectations of self that tend to be too high, perfectionism, learned behaviours and/or developed patterns that have contributed to an association that resting is unacceptable. And as a result, when there is no more energy, and the crash comes, resting means doing nothing. Zoning out in front of the TV, feeling useless, grappling with the guilty thoughts of “I should be up doing something.”

But what about the concept of productive rest? Could it be that instead of rest being indulgent, it actually could be necessary? I often refer to our comfort system and the importance of recognizing that in order to truly be productive, we also need to rest our bodies and relax our minds.

Productive rest is planned. It is about carving out time to do something that is restful in nature and yet soothing to the soul. For me, that plan often includes reading – there is nothing like a good story to draw me in, resting my body, distracting my mind. Easy exercise, chatting with a friend, sitting by the water, walking in the forest – they all work too. It is about incorporating rest (even in little bits) throughout the day.

Giving ourselves permission to productively rest can help ease our minds too – we can begin to give up our core beliefs that somehow we are inadequate if we relax. When we can acknowledge that rest is an important part of our ‘work’ day, we give ourselves the valuable gifts of joy and peace.

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Social Media and Self-Care

These days, technology has become an asset in being able to connect with our loved ones. We all know that social distancing and being cautious are important, and yet we are also aware of how it feels to miss the hugs from our extended family members, the missed conversations at dinner gatherings, the ability to invite a friend over for a chat and a coffee.

I know that to make up for that, I have been checking my phone more often – with two family group chats in place and a friends one as well (lots of love, laughter and pics), I am often also scrolling social media accounts. In our mode of isolation, it makes total sense that we need to also feel connected to the outside world.

When it comes to social media and self-care, this post is not about limiting your time on it (unless that is what you need of course), but rather about creating accounts that line up with your values and what makes you feel supported. It is about unfollowing any people or pages that are not having a positive effect on you when you see their posts in your newsfeed and it is about choosing sites that do.

We may not have a lot of choice right now when it comes to our social life, but we do when it comes to our social media 🙂

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