Learning How to Incorporate Self Care in Your Life
Everyone is talking about self care, but what is it really? Well as mental health has become a less taboo topic in many communities, so has the idea that taking care of yourself can be your number one priority.
You’re probably thinking, “What?? I’m allowed to put myself first?!?” YES!
Self care is not equivalent to being selfish. I repeat, self care is NOT selfish. It is simply the term used to describe the fact that if you are in a healthy state both physically, mentally, and spiritually, then you are better able to show up in the many roles you may play in your life. Whether you are a student, employee, entrepreneur, mother, wife, caregiver, etc., prioritizing taking care of YOU means you are putting your best foot forward in all these areas. Ultimately you are serving those relationships better.
“So how do I do this ‘self care’ you speak of??”
Well let me tell you, it is simpler than you think. Self care lives on a spectrum from merely meeting your basic needs to full on pampering yourself. It can be free or very expensive, but that is up to you. It is all about partaking in activities and being intentional about doing things that make you feel good.
“Where do I sign up!?”
Hold on. Before you start booking massage appointments and buying face masks, you need to identify what is it you really need. Pause and get in tune with your body. What are the things that would make your soul smile? Taking the time to really get a grip on your needs allows you to be more intentional about your self care.
Maybe you have been feeling really low, and been having a hard time even getting out of bed. Maybe your self care is just opening a window or taking a long shower. Maybe you have been pulling non-stop overtime at your job and what you really need is a vacation day or two. Maybe you are a new mom who hasn’t gotten a good nights sleep in ages and calling a family member over to watch the little one while you nap is what you really need. This is ALL self care!
“Wow. I didn’t even realize it was that deep.”
Yeah. Taking the time to prioritize yourself and shift your mindset can almost be more work than actually doing the things that make you feel your best, but once you figure this all out the relief it brings is so worth it. Consider getting some help along this process by finding a therapist that fits your needs and can collaborate with you on creating a unique plan for taking care of yourself. Having someone to talk to in and of itself can be just the self care you needed.
Has nervousness and anxiety crept up on you after a recent engagement? Whether you were recently proposed to or hoping to take your relationship to the next level, here’s some ways to manage the anxiety that often follows…
There are a lot of big moments in your life, and getting proposed to is arguably in the top 5. The society we live in has created a billion dollar business off of couples committing themselves to one another. You may be knees deep in bridal magazines, color swatches, Instagram feeds of brides and grooms and venues…oh my! And although everyone may ask you, “How did they propose??”, very few may ask, “How are you feeling about getting married?”
Cue the engagement anxiety.
Everyone expects you to be smiling from ear to ear for the next year or two as you plan the “biggest day of your life”, but you may feel as if nothing but stress and worry and doubt are flooding over you. Some brides-to-be (or Grooms-to-be) may start finding small things to nit-pick about their partner…”His teeth aren’t white enough.”, “Her toes are strange”, “They don’t understand me!” Things you didn’t even notice before become these huge question marks looming over your relationship.
Where does this anxiety come from? Is it normal? And what do you do about it?? Here’s 5 steps to resolving your engagement anxiety…
1. Be Aware That You Are Not Alone
Engaged women all over the world are panicking at this very moment about whether they should get married or not…they just aren’t telling anyone (other than their therapist). So you are not alone. You are allowed to have some anxiety about a new life transition and how your role in your relationship might change as a fiancé or spouse. There is no other time in life when you make a commitment to stay with one thing/person, literally forever…even kids leave the nest after 18 years. If there was a list of “legitimate reasons to be anxious”, this would definitely be on that list.
2. Recognize What Role Anxiety has Played in Your Life
Step 2 is to realize that anxiousness is present for different people at different times. Some people have dealt with crippling anxiety their entire lives, and are not surprised when this anxiety shows up in the middle of the proposal. Others have never felt anxious at all, so anxiety about their engagement feels extremely scary and completely new. Recognizing other times you have felt anxious allows you to recognize what skills you used to calm yourself down, and also allows you to recognize what may have been a trigger for this bout of anxiety. These questions you ask yourself may very likely be questions you also hear in a therapy session with your counselor.
3. Do Some #SimpleSelfCare
When people hear “Self Care” they often think of a day at the spa or a vacation, but the key to good self care is consistency and small doses. Doing something as simple as buying your favorite coffee creamer to put in your instant coffee in the morning, or setting your alarm 10 minutes early so you can cuddle with your partner in the morning before you start your busy days. Those are the most effective ways to take care of yourself…what I call #SimpleSelfCare. Doing these little things will help reduce your level of anxiety and remind you that you are in control of how you feel. Being mindful of your breathing is another small adjustment that can have a big impact.
Some practice…breathe in (hold it)…1…2…3…4…5…breathe out. *Repeat until anxiety has subsided*
4. Communicate with Your Fiancé
Let’s be honest all this engagement anxiety is your partner’s fault. They just had to divulge their undying love for you in the form of a proposal. But really, if your anxiety is truly wrapped up in the engagement it is very important to talk with your partner about how you are feeling. Chances are they may already have noticed a shift in your demeanor or behaviors due to the anxiety. Discuss with them what is triggering to your anxiety and give suggestions on how they can help make you feel more comfortable. Whether that means them rubbing your back if you have a small panic attack or them chiming in when another person asks, “Have you set a date??” (*Side Note* that is honestly the most annoying question). Cluing your partner in to how you are feeling is a skill that is important now, and will be important for the rest of your relationship, so might as well get in some practice.
5. Go to Premarital Counseling
Last, but definitely not least…go to premarital counseling! I know that I am biased because as a therapist I recommend therapy for any and all things, BUT this is one of the most ideal times in a relationship to go through couples therapy (it’s also one of therapists’ favorite stages to see a couple in). Premarital counseling is ideal because (hopefully) there aren’t any real problems in the relationship yet. This is the stage that you can really take a look at your partner and say I want to love this person unconditionally, and I’ll take whatever tools necessary to make that happen. When couples come into therapy 4, 7, or 10+ years into a marriage with a laundry list of reasons they want out, therapists often spend most of their time trying to get couples back to this place of wanting to try their hardest. Go now, so you can talk about all those little concerns and start building your tool box of skills that help you communicate with and love on your partner in all the best ways!
Summer isn’t quite over yet, thankfully. But have you taken your vacation yet? As a kid many of us experienced yearly 1-3 month vacations from school, stress, and generally any responsibilities. Then we became adults and all those glorious breaks disappeared. Tragic.
Have you ever wished you took better advantage of those breaks? And if you had those breaks now, what would you do with them??
If you can think of even one thing to answer that question with, you probably could use a vacation. Vacations are a luxury, yes. But vacations can also be a necessity. A break used intentionally can make all the difference in your ability to work and interact with others.
Why take a vacation and what are you suppose to spend your time doing? The short answers, 1. Self care and 2. What you want to do, not need to do. Taking a break is all about taking a step back from all the duties and to do lists and really giving yourself some intentional lovin’. Vacations allow for intentional self care. The busy work weeks often leave minimal time to check in with yourself and how your mind and body are feeling. Vacation is free time to really dive deep into this self care and make yourself feel good again. Doing what you want with no time constraints or restrictions makes whatever it is you are doing more enjoyable. Cherish this time.
Giving your mind and body a break from the daily hustle allows you time to reflect on your goals, your values, and your desires. These vacations can be mini or extravagant. Whether you take a day off just to sleep in and head to the beach, or take 2 weeks off for massages and world travel. This time is about fulfilling those aspects of life that get put on the back burner throughout the rest of the year. You should feel refreshed, relaxed, and energized after a break.
You may be asking yourself, “How can I even afford to take a vacation?” Here is the key. Vacation is not about stunting on the “gram” or out doing your coworkers. Vacation is about you and how you feel during and after that time off. If you spend all your time focused on taking the perfect picture you are going to come back feeling just as stressed and depleted as when you left. If you really want to be intentional and relaxed plan ahead, and live within your means. Maybe you can’t afford a week off, but maybe you can afford a day or two tacked onto an upcoming holiday weekend. Put in that request now, and not only will you have something to look forward to over the next few weeks, but you will have all your coworkers jealous when you come back to work the day after them.
Do you need to be a world traveler or can you just be a local tourist? My husband and I love using our vacation time to pretend to be tourists in our own city. We try out restaurants during the day that we don’t usually have time in the evening to go to, or we take off time mid-week when normal attractions are empty to feel like we have the whole place to ourselves. We use our time to connect with each other and have those in depth conversations that we don’t always get to have because the little one is needing attention. Parent hack: if you have a little one in daycare or school…leave them their! Take those 8 undisturbed hours to enjoy your partner! It’s cheaper, easier, and trust me they won’t even know you were having fun all day when you go to pick them up from school. 😉
Make vacation your own! Use the time to connect with yourself and your loved ones. Do the things that make your body and mind feel good. Get that dopamine flowing, and have some fun!
I recently experienced what so many of my clients come into session concerned about…physical aches and pains.
I woke up one morning with an aching pain in my jaw. It was like having a migraine in my mouth all day long. I tried to think back over the last few days…what had I been doing differently that could have caused this? After some self reflection and figuring out what the pain exactly was, I realized stress was the culprit. I had gotten to a place of extreme stress from working two jobs, being a mom, and managing all the calendars my household had to keep track of. I had begun clenching my teeth while I slept, which caused me to wake up in pain.
The solution to this pain? Physical therapy, mouth guards at night, and pain medication. Um…I don’t know about you, but none of that sounded like a solution or appealing in any way. They sounded more like management, than a cure.
So many of my clients come into session expressing symptoms of depression or anxiety or general stress, then will make a passing comment about chronic back pain, or chest tightness, or other physical ailments that they have been getting evaluated at a physician. They never tie the experience of physical health to their mental health however.
Disclaimer: I am not a physician, and you should always seek out medical professionals to have any physical health symptomsevaluated. This is in no way a replacement for medical assistance/ advice.
Minority women especially, are more likely to experience mental health concerns as physical symptoms in the body. These aches and pains are almost always directly related to your level of stress. In my personal experience, consciously working on reducing my stress enabled me to reduce my jaw pain to zero.
Now this does not mean medical intervention isn’t helpful, but it can work hand in hand with mental health interventions. Utilizing various coping strategies to reduce stress can assist in a speedy recovery.
Here are my top 5 coping strategies for managing stress:
1. Mindfulness Breathing
Mindfulness breathing is a tool that can be utilized at any moment in your day and requires nothing more than the ability to breathe. Pausing in a moment of stress to take a deep inhale and slow exhale allows for your body to experience a sense of calm. It slows down your heart rate and reduces the idea that your body needs to go into “fight or flight” mode. If you want some assistance in practicing this technique try searching for “Guided Mindfulness Breathing” on YouTube, or download the “Calm” app on your mobile device.
Journaling can be a great way to get thoughts out of your head and practice letting go of stress. Writing about your emotions whether it be grief, anger, joy, or a plethora of other emotions allows you to release these thoughts and reflect on how they are affecting you. An important aspect of journaling however is practicing to write about gratitude. Expressing gratitude for various aspects of your life provides balance to the challenges and emotions that occur on a daily basis. Nobody wants a book of sorrow, so incorporate both the good and bad.
3. Skincare Routine
This may seem frivalous, but hear me out. A regular skincare routine not only benefits your skin, but it gives you time to yourself. Depending on the type of skincare routine you implement (it could be as simple as rubbing some lotion on or as complex as a multi-step regimen) you can give yourself 2-30 minutes of “me time”. Being intentional about this time each day guarantees that you take a break and attend to your own needs even if only for a few minutes.
4. Low-Impact Exercises
Depending on your physical symptoms and with approval from your physician, try low- impact exercises such as walking or yoga. Walking is such an underrated exercise regimen. Taking time on your lunch break or before/after work to take a walk outside allows for more time in the sun, increased blood flow, and an overall mood boost. This physical activity kills two birds with one stone as it benefits your physical and mental health at the same time.
5. Sleep Hygiene
Last, but certainly not least, ensure you are getting enough sleep. How you feel when you wake up determines how well you’ll manage your stress throughout your day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Take a look at your daily schedule. Where is time wasted? And what could be moved around to create room for a decent bedtime? Also, take a look into what you are sleeping on. Maybe that futon from college isn’t cutting it anymore, or your mattress could use a new topper for support. Nobody has ever applauded themselves for having a late night and waking up groggy in the morning. Elevate this basic need to ensure a brighter day ahead.
All these coping strategies can be used on a day-to-day basis to reduce the stress that is likely contributing to those physical ailments. Incorporating and practicing these stress-reducing skills will allow you to live a happier and healthier life. And if these things aren’t enough, try attending therapy!
I know. You came here to schedule an appointment, but you saw I had a waiting list. You got yourself pumped up for starting therapy and were disappointed. I sincerely apologize. I created a waiting list so I know who to reach out to when an appointment opens up. I do not encourage rushing people through their therapeutic process, so as I help my current clients, I will try to leave you with some ideas on how to utilize your time and start the therapy process before your first appointment!
One way to document your emotions, events in your life, or just ideas and to-do lists is by keeping a daily or weekly journal. The first question I ask all my clients is, “what brings you into therapy?” If you keep a record of how you have been feeling, you will have collected all the data necessary to answer this question. The therapeutic process would have started before you even walk in the door, and you’ll feel prepared for the work that happens in the therapy room.
Do some Self Care
If you are willing to dedicate an hour a week to therapy that means you have an hour in your schedule already to do some self care. Take that time now to schedule something just for you. Self care can look like taking a walk around the park, lake, or by the beach. It could be spending some time doing something creative like painting, coloring, or knitting. It could mean practicing mindfulness or meditation in a peaceful setting you create just for yourself (candles, mood lights, and white noise machines welcome!). Self care could also look like setting up a coffee date with some of your favorite people every week. Whatever you choose to do with your time make it all about self love!
Talk to your Support Network
Maybe you can’t grab coffee every week, but maybe you can incorporate some other form of communication. Write a letter to an old friend or to someone you never got to say how you really feel too. Call up a sibling and laugh about old shenanigans or vent about your crazy parents. Join a book club or support group that helps you learn how to open up about your thoughts. Or just carve out time for you and your partner to connect every week. Who ever you give that time to, make sure it is spent with those that will add to your life instead of take away from it.
Try Something New
You thought therapy would be a new adventure for you to take. Why not try something else new and different from your normal routine? Being uncomfortable is a skill you will definitely utilize in therapy, so might as well practice now. Whether that is a new restaurant in town or a new hobby, get outside of your comfort zone and try something that the new you could really dive into!
Reach out to one of the Referrals Provided
If waiting isn’t something you are open to, please utilize one of the referrals emailed to you after adding your name to the waiting list. You could also call the following numbers to get resources more quickly!
Mental Health Resources: 2-1-1
Access & Crisis Line (San Diego): 1-888-724-7240
Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
I hope to see you soon along your path to wellness!