How many times have you heard, “It’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get back up”? But how did you learn to “get back up”? We are so supportive toward our loved ones when they are stressed but when it is time to support ourselves, rarely do we spare an inkling of “grace”? We struggle day after day with trying to manage our time to be as productive as possible, draining every ounce of our “battery” to accomplish a myriad of daily duties, unfortunately, making many nights end in exhaustion and frustration.
Allow me to introduce “Self-Care.” Self-Care is becoming a popular phrase now that more people are understanding the importance of mental health throughout our everyday lives. Self-care is defined differently for everyone, but the concept is simple… find your peace and relax in it! Self-care means to prioritize your Self so you can get through the rest of your day with resiliency, rejuvenation, and efficiency.
Here is a small list of Self-Care activities that you may have under-estimated their value:
- Exercise Regularly: When you feel over-stimulated, do you notice you start fidgeting, picking at your nails, vibrating your knee, or shaking in the body? Your body is trying to release some of the adrenaline the anxiety is producing. Physical activity releases stress hormones, or cortisol & adrenaline, from the body. Working out can be tough, but so can holding onto the adrenaline; the adrenaline does not know whether to fight, run away (flight), or freeze. Alongside the reduction of these hormones, exercise also increases endorphins which produce natural pain killers and mood elevators (Harvard Medical School, 2020).
- Eat Well: Fueling your body and mind and staying hydrated is similar to giving your car gas, an oil change, and maintenance. The better you take care of it, the better it runs. You take time to do it for your car, you can make time to do it for yourself. Some of the hardest motivators for anxiety are sugar, caffeine, alcohol, fried and/ or processed foods, and food additives (i.e., MSG, food dyes, artificial sweeteners).
- Get Adequate Sleep: Our bodies release hormones when we sleep that repair cells and control the body’s use of energy (i.e., rejuvenation), along with the fluctuating heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure that are important for cardiovascular health. Your body needs sleep to create enough energy for the next day. Get some sleep, your brain has a lot of work to do while your body rests.
- Practice Gratitude: We are consumed with negative thoughts, sometimes without realizing it, but we can be INTENTIONAL with our thoughts by putting effort into recognizing the positive moments in our lives. Examples of positive thoughts can be “I feel like I inspired someone to do the right thing”, “I’m so glad I was able to be there for them today”, “It was a challenge, but it changed my life for the better”, or “One bad day does not change all of the progress I’ve made.” You can start your day out with “I’m strong and will give myself grace today,” “I will have integrity in everything I do,” and “I will not allow anyone to take my joy today.”
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation or Body-Scanning: Noticing all the tension in each part of your body, starting at your toes. Tighten and then release from the toes, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, buttocks, lower back, upper back, shoulders, chest, neck, face, and don’t forget that tiny crinkle between your eyebrows. Relax everything and just sit there recognizing how your body feels. Do not forget your lungs and heart need the same attention. Slow the breathing and you will slow your heart from racing.
- Take Time to Unpack Your Feelings: We avoid our emotions, compartmentalizing them, to “deal with when I have time.” They build up inside and eventually, one day in the ice cream aisle, you just start ugly crying. A therapist (that’s me!) would say, “You need to find the time to reflect & process those packed up emotions. This is like cleansing your pallet when food tasting… taste it, describe & talk about it, wash it away, and make a clean space for another bite… allow yourself to feel the disappointment, shame, grief, or sadness that you packed away… talk it out, release the feeling, and give yourself GRACE for feeling them… all emotions are a part of us, they need to be heard and appreciated just as much as joy and love, so they can heal.
- Harvard Medical School (2020). How does exercise reduce stress? Surprising answers to this question and more. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax#:~:text=The%20mental%20benefits%20of%20aerobic,natural%20painkillers%20and%20mood%20elevators. ↩︎