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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Photo credit: Me!

 

“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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The Importance of Holiday

We have just returned from a lovely, sun-filled week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Kurt and I, along with three other couples, have much to be grateful for including:

  • time spent connecting. Catching up, enjoying wonderful meals together, laughing, memories made.
  • being Canadian. It is such a wonderful feeling to hear (many times over) from Mexicans that they love Canadians.
  • the sun. Being in a sunny place for even a week, helps to reset your commitment to winter 🙂
  • the opportunity to experience local culture. We headed off the resort to the small mountain village of San Sebastian where we can easily see that simplicity creates happiness. Every Mexican town has a town center or ‘plaza’ that plays music all day until late afternoon – what a lovely and welcoming tradition.
  • the hospitality of the Mexican people.
  • the ocean. Relaxing on the beach is always a wonderful way to feel grounded and at peace.
  • home. Returning home to family and its coziness is always a part of the experience of travel.

Taking holidays (even if you don’t travel), is an important element of self-care. It reminds us that spending time with our loved ones is an important way we can connect – especially when we are not confined to the pressures we often experience as part of our daily routine. And if travelling is a part of holiday plans, we can experience the lovely feeling of escape – an important element in recognizing how necessary it is to purposely plan for fun and play in creating a contented life.

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The Power of “I am”

Words matter. Ask anyone who has been criticized in their childhood, or bullied with words, and they will tell you that it has long lasting effects.

The way we speak to ourselves; therefore, matters. Our internal dialogue is often automatic and we can carry with us the words heard (and now believed) from childhood. Repeat after me:

I am worthless.

I am ugly.

I am unlovable.

We can play around with the words “I am” to incorporate almost anything negative. “I will never meet anyone.” “No matter how hard I try, nothing ever works out for me.” “I have a black cloud following me around.”

We can call it a self-fulfilling prophesy; or we can look at it as the energy that we are sending out into the world. In either case, the result is the same – when we say those words to ourselves, we hear them. And we live them.

It is important to recognize the power of “I am.” Repeat after me:

I am worthy.

I am beautiful.

I am lovable.

Take a deep breath, and say them again. And again. And again. Take any negative statement that has been created in you, and change it. Say it before you believe it. Be determined. I guarantee you, it will change how you see yourself, and you will begin to see results.

I am capable. I am worth it. I am brave. I am here for me.

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Important Self-Care Words

When we think about self-care, we often think about the things we do to support and honour ourselves and the time we set aside in order to achieve those tasks. Here is a reminder of some self-care words that, being on our radar, help us to create a satisfying and joyful life:

  • Growth. Are we moving forward? Creating goals for ourselves? The path to progress is movement.
  • Acceptance. Of ourselves; of others. Of knowing that we often can only control our reaction to something or someone.
  • Creativity. Such an important element – for a healthy ‘fill up’, accomplishment and joy.
  • Soulful. How are we feeding our soul? Connecting with our inner spirit is an important element of self-care.
  • Nurturing. Not only of ourselves, but of the loved ones in our lives.
  • Balance. Pretty much the key to everything.
  • Connection. We can find many ways to feel connected to others and ourselves – building our time wisely.
  • Joy. Let us not underestimate the power of feeling contentedness and joy; we can strive for it through our self-care goals.
  • Kindness. Kindness matters – always.

Adopting these words into our overall self-care needs and goals, we aim towards creating a routine for ourselves that best supports us. What are some of your self-care words?

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The Importance of Self-love

I came across this quote by Kim McMillen:

“When I loved myself, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits. My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.” – Kim McMillen

How many times do we fail to see our value? Perhaps we have been in a job or relationship so long, we feel worn away. Perhaps we feel that to leave it means we have failed.

I love the line “My judgement called it disloyal; now I see it as self-loving,” as it implies that in order to stay, we have compromised or misread our value system; the truth it would seem, was found within.

I then came across a poem entitled “Self Love” by Lang Leav – it sums up perfectly what I am attempting to convey:

Self Love

Once when I was running, from all that haunted me: to the dark I was succumbing – to what hurt unbearably.

Searching for the one thing, that would set my sad soul free.

In time, I stumbled upon it, an inner calm and peace; and now I am beginning to see and to believe, in who I am becoming – and all that I’ve yet to be. – Lang Leav

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