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.
Racism is the pandemic that has been plaguing Black people for 400 years. I really wish I didn’t have to write about this, but here I am talking about racism in America in 2020 (the whole year has been trash, so why am I even surprised).
I first want to say…I see you. I see the hurt, pain, anger, sadness, frustration, worry, and every other emotion engraved in your beautiful, melanin rich skin. This deep anxiety within us that at any moment someone could dehumanize us, insult us, degrade us or worst and no one will see it, infringes on our peace and joy daily. From microaggressions to killings in the street, we deal with a myriad of stressors everyday. But how do we cope?
I want to give you a tangible breakdown on ways to cope with racism in your life.
Lean in to the uncomfortable conversations. Taking a stand for yourself and others can bring a sense of relief. It may be initially uncomfortable, but it often leads to a release of buried thoughts and emotions. Be honest with yourself and those around you about how you feel. Read about anti-racism, black history, or personal stories of resilience to bring light to the shared experience of dealing with racism in America. Use your voice to speak up for change. Join a protest, sign a petition, donate, write, post, vote, whatever helps you feel heard!
Touch base with your support people. Those who you know will support you and make you feel good. Whether that be a best friend, a coworker, your therapist, or an acquaintance who is sharing in your experience. Speak about your hurt and let out your emotions. If you are unable to speak with close, loved ones try to journal or pray about your grief. Recognize the layers of emotions and let them out.
This may be the most important one of all. Shut down and recharge, so you can show up as your best self in your relationships and life. Take a break from social media or the news. Take some time off from work, so you don’t have to mask the emotions to maintain professionalism. Give yourself the basic fuel your body needs, whether that be some yoga stretches to recenter in the morning, eating a healthy meal to sustain yourself throughout the day, or making yourself a bedtime routine to ensure a good nights rest.
Know that we are in this together. Please take care of yourselves during these difficult times. And use the following resources to access help when needed:
What’s the Difference between Solvable & Perpetual Problems?
Solvable vs. Perpetual Problems. What type of problem do you have in your relationship? Do these examples sound familiar?
So your spouse forgot about Valentine’s Day again? That is a problem for sure. Is it a deal-breaker though? You know that they are going to forget it because it happens every year, so you’re prepared for their sad attempt to make it up the weekend after with wilted roses and a dinner at your 2nd favorite restaurant.
What if your partner doesn’t want to get married? That may be a deal-breaker. You may value the union that is marriage, while they never see themselves becoming tied down. That isn’t a problem that is solved very easily.
Let’s clearly define what the difference between the two are…
Solvable Problems: aspects or behaviors of your partner that are difficult to handle, but tolerable. There are usually reachable solutions or compromises that can be made for these types of problems.
Perpetual Problems: values your partner holds that may be intolerable or in opposition to your own values or beliefs. Things that you may have to “bend” on in order to stay happy in your relationship. These types of problems will always be present in your relationship.
You may go into therapy knowing that there is a problem in your relationship, but you may not know whether it is a solvable or perpetual one. This is an important part of the therapeutic process. Realizing what type of problem you are working to solve will allow you to figure out with your therapist the steps necessary to either solve said problem or learn to live with it.
Using simple tools such as “I Statements”, “Repair Attempts”, or deep breathing can all be ways of approaching solvable problems. See the list below for some tips and tricks on how to handle solvable problems in your relationship.
If any of these approaches do not seem like enough when it comes to a problem between yourself and your partner, you may have a perpetual problem. This problem is most likely best suited for therapy. Going to couples therapy can be a great place for solvable or perpetual problems because it allows for a neutral space to practice the skills necessary to manage the problem at hand. Going into therapy with an open mind and open heart can be the defining factor in whether solutions are found.
What solvable or perpetual problems have you been able to manage in the past?
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!
So you are in a “committed” relationship (or so you thought), but you have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right. Something is wrong. You start to dig for clues as to what is possibly going on, and slowly (but surely) drive yourself crazy wondering, “are they cheating??” Well I bet there is another question you haven’t asked yourself…”have I been meeting my partner’s needs?” Yep. I bet you haven’t taken a second to think “why would my partner cheat?”
I wonder why you haven’t asked this question because there is only one reason why people cheat. Yes, one. Here’s the big, top secret reason…their needs are not being met.
That’s it. Every person needs certain things to be fulfilled. These things could be love, sex, passion, compassion, security, generosity, time, affection, and an assortment of other things. More often than not people wind up in a relationship where their partner cannot satisfy ALL of their needs. Now this is the point where you are probably thinking, “well if your needs aren’t being met, just break up with the person!” Relationships aren’t that simple. Imagine this…
If our emotional needs looked more like our physical needs such as food, water, & shelter, how would things pan out? Imagine you were in a relationship where your partner is providing 2 out of 3 (water & shelter), but they were starving you. No food. You have dropped hints that you are hungry, maybe even straight up asked for food, but were denied 90% of the time. Then you come across someone who is offering up a feast on a silver platter. What are you going to do?
A. Go home to your water & shelter and continue starving?
B. Leave your whole life behind with only a guarantee of food (none of the water or shelter)?
C. Or are you going to try and sneak enough food to meet your needs, then go home to a reliable source of water and shelter?
Let’s be honest with ourselves, the last choice makes the most sense. Now putting this back into the emotional sense…when you partner with someone because they meet most of your needs, there is a risk that the needs that aren’t being met will be met somewhere else. The other option is to learn to live without that additional need, but that is often easier said than done.
Now, you may be wondering “how do I prevent cheating from happening in my relationship?” Great question. Before I answer, I must remind you that relationships are SELFLESS acts. That means at any given point in a relationship you should be trying to meet the needs of your partner, while effectively communicating your needs as well.
The best way to prevent cheating is by utilizing the time you spend as a single person figuring out how you can meet your own needs. This allows you the time and energy when you enter a relationship to focus on how you can meet your partners needs. Because again, relationships are not about you! They are about having a mutual understanding that you will support one another. If you can figure out your own needs, then you will want to be with someone who has done the same, and neither of you will be looking for a partner to complete them. Because you are a WHOLE person. No one can “complete” you.
Here’s the trickier part. If you are already in a relationship and feel your needs aren’t being met, then you have to learn what it is you need, and teach yourself/partner how to meet that need. You cannot just say “I need your attention more.” You have to educate your partner on how they can give you more attention. Give them the who/what/when/where/why/how you learned in grade school. For example, if your need is sexual intimacy:
Who needs to be meeting this need? Obviously it takes two to tango, so your partner needs to be involved in meeting this need.
What is the need EXACTLY? Be clear. Is this need about actual sex, or is this need about general physical touch? Does foreplay meet this need? Would you like to kiss & hug more often? This is not just a single sentence answer. Go into detail.
When is the appropriate time to meet this need? Everyone has a preference, but also when is it feasible to meet this need? Maybe kids are in the house so babysitters have to be arranged. Or maybe this is a need that needs to be met more than just once a month. When would you ideally like to meet this need? Be open to some compromise in the process.
Where is the appropriate place to meet this need? The bedroom, a hotel, the shower? Hey, whatever floats your boat.
Why is this need important to you? This may be the most important question. This is where you help your partner and teach your partner the reason behind the need. Maybe you feel like there is a general lack of intimacy, or maybe you feel insecure about how you look and want to feel desired by your partner. Again, not a place for a one sentence answer. Be descriptive.
How can your partner support this need? Explain what role you would like them to play in supporting this need. If they can initiate sex more often or if they can provide compliments that make you feel sexy. Whatever it is, help your partner figure out how they can be supportive.
No matter what your need is, utilize these questions to effectively communicate to your partner how you two can work as a team to meet each others’ needs. A relationship is about support and giving. Taking preventative steps to care for your partner can help reduce the likelihood of having to take drastic measures to put a relationship back together. And at the end of the day if you are finding it difficult to have these conversations, make a therapy appointment! Therapy is a great place to learn how to communicate effectively and efficiently.