Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Practicing Self-Care

This is a tough one for me.  It's one I've studied and written about over and over and yet I still struggle.  I do well for a while and then I blow it.  And I don't think I'm alone.  I think many of us struggle.

There's basic self-care:  eating, washing, sleeping -- all those daily activities that keep us alive and healthy.  There's a step up:  exercise, cleaning, going to the doctor, paying bills -- those things that we think are extra, that fall away when we just have no energy left.  We might each have different things on those lists.  Something that's basic survival for me might not matter to you, because there is an element of emotion involved in survival.

And then there's more.  There are those things that feed our souls.  Those things that reward us for all the things we make ourselves do when we don't want to.  Those things that reward us for all we do for others.

I really stink at those, but I'm getting better.  I may not do them as often as I should, but at least I know what some of them are now.

I try to do them every so often.  That's probably not often enough.  I recently read a suggestion that we find time every day to do something.  That was a jolt to me.  I definitely don't take time every day to focus on feeding my soul.  But I agree that I should. 

I'm going to work on this.  I'm working on finding things that I can do in five minutes that feed my soul.  Like blowing bubbles.  Or coloring in a coloring book with crayons.  Maybe I don't have an hour every day to spend on this, but I can find five minutes.  And I can guard that five minutes.  I believe it's important.  It's time to make my actions reflect my beliefs.

When I started therapy and really working on my personal growth and mental health a few years ago, I was challenged by my therapist to do something good for myself.  To practice some self-care.  And I was completely lost.  I was clueless.

So I turned to my friends.  I asked them what they do.  And I created a resource for myself, something I can turn to when I need a little kick start.  Today I am sharing that with you.  If you don't read the whole list, at least scroll to the bottom and read the last paragraph -- that one has gotten me through some tough moments.  It's quite a long list, but I am sharing the whole thing because I don't know what will be right for whom.  I want you to be able to find what you might need.  Also, there are a few that are region specific (I live in Utah and several are about places in my area); I am including these -- as a bonus for those who live in Utah or as a jumping off point to find something similar in your area.  Some are quick.  Some are not.  I hope there's something here that helps you.  I welcome any you would like to add.

And I hope to be posting a list of my own healing activities soon.


On December 28, 2006 I sent out the following request to about 35-40 people in my email address book:

I have a strange request for help.  I am in need of emotional educating (or something like that).

If I have sent this to you, then you are someone that I think could offer something of value in my current quest.

I have recently come to realize that I have difficulty relaxing, doing something that I enjoy, or rewarding myself.  When I am asked to do one of these things, I am at a loss.  I have no idea what I enjoy or what might help me relax.

So I am looking for some suggestions.  I would like to know what each of you do to relax, to reward yourself, or just for fun.  Obviously, I don't want you to divulge anything that will be embarrassing to either of us.  And things that are outside of the norm would be helpful, things that others might not suggest.  The more diversity the better.

Thanks in advance for your help,

And here are the amazing responses from my generous friends:

  • Coloring with crayons
  • Watercolors
  • Crafts
  • Digital scrapbooking
  • Pedicure
  • Massage
  • Exercise
  • Shopping
  • Anything without kids – date with spouse, movie with friends, driving
  • Cleaning
  • Learn something new (e.g., how to play guitar)
  • Do something different even when you don’t feel like it (e.g., comedy club)
  • Read a good book
  • Take a bath and pamper yourself with a salt or sugar scrub and some good lotion
  • Call a friend
  • Eat chocolate, especially dark chocolate
  • Sleep
  • Buy something for yourself – make sure it’s for YOU!
  • Listen to some good music and be sure to sing!
  • Shut the lights off, lie in bed, and listen to relaxing music
  • Hammock in the sunshine (indoors by a sunny window in the winter)
  • Nature, solitude in the mountains, by a lake, or somewhere quiet and scenic
  • A hot bath (a hot tub if you have access; the bigger the better)
  • A good movie or TV show
  • A favorite treat (suggestion: Steven’s hot cocoa with a pastry made from rolled out pie crust with cinnamon and sugar on top and cut into squares and then baked to perfection)
  • Yoga/relaxation or meditation type video
  • Prayer
  • Drive up in the hills or mountains and listen to favorite 80’s music
  • Scenic places such as the Alpine loop overlook or Tibblefork reservoir, Bridal Veil Falls, Temple Square, across the lake on a drive, up any canyon
  • Ski resort
  • Mountain biking
  • Laser tag/paintball
  • A new movie you want to see
  • Hiking
  • Go to a water park
  • Video games
  • Play sports with kids
  • Attend a comedy at Hale Center Theater
  • Boating or canoeing
  • Frisbee
  • Eating good food at a good restaurant
  • Going to a national park
  • Lava hot springs in Idaho
  • Play pool, air hockey, pinball
  • Walk or hike – time to enjoy my surroundings, time to reflect, time to think, time to push myself
  • Go to a movie alone
  • Lunch with friends with restrictions on topics of conversation – no whining or complaining, no talking about work, no trying to solve the friends’ problems, just light conversation about the meaning of life or solving global warming
  • Games
  • Writing
  • Find a life coach, if necessary
  • Get your hair done, every 6-8 weeks
  • Get a “couples massage”
  • Go somewhere with best friends for a couple of days
  • Creative writing – no reality-type writing; fantasy, science fiction, fairy tale (escape)
  • Poetry
  • Curl up in a throw and just listen to some quiet, instrumental music
  • Quick crafts, something you can do ten minutes at a time
  • Listen to smooth jazz
  • Needlework – cross stitch, knitting, crocheting
  • Listen to audio books
  • Watch favorite DVDs
  • Play computer games
  • Take time to be alone
  • Build something
  • Sew
  • Get in the car, turn on music that I know all the words to, and just drive and sing!
  • Drive around and look at houses – and dream
  • Look at a magazine
  • Exercise outside
  • Bike
  • Walk in the canyon
  • Splurge on a totally unnecessary item for yourself
  • Give yourself permission for guilt-free television watching, within limits
  • One-on-one time with your children -- choose something wild that you’ve never attended or done, grab one of your kids, and just go do it (e.g., skiing, monster truck rally, etc.)
  • Go to Barnes and Noble ALONE, choose a book, and sit in one of those big chairs and just read
  • Hot shower, clean shaven legs, and clean sheets to climb into bed
  • Read – not something to learn from – just popcorn for the brain
  • Create with the computer – do something with the computer just to see if you can
  • Treat yourself with downloads from iTunes
  • Go to a ski resort in the summer, with a mountain bike; they put the bike on the chair lift, you have a nice quiet ride up, ride the bike back down, then do it again
  • Go for a ride in the car with no destination in mind, with or without company
  • Go for a walk with no destination in mind, with or without company
  • Go for a walk at night while it’s snowing or just after a snow
  • Take a book with you in the car so that if you are stopped in traffic or have a few minutes to wait for an appointment you can read
  • Work on a puzzle
  • Travel/explore new adventures
  • Read cookbooks
  • Research things
  • Garden
  • Look at fabric
  • Organize things
  • Walk around in art museums
  • Take classes
  • Go to plays, concerts, and movies with friends and family
  • Write poetry and prose – this can help work through strong emotions
  • Ride a motorcycle
  • Practice the breathing/visualization techniques you learned in childbirth classes
  • Play racquetball
  • Do something physical
  • Take a nap
  • Tickle/wrestle with your children
  • Watch movie trailers on apple.com
  • Call a loved one
  • Sudoku
  • Time with family
  • Dinner out
  • Pray for someone else
  • Quilting
  • Hot bubble bath when NO ONE can interrupt you
  • Hot chocolate with marshmallows
  • Read a book from your childhood
  • Write in a journal – without worrying about how this will sound to future generations, just for yourself
  • Window shopping at a store that is so expensive you’re not even tempted to buy (e.g., Banana Republic and Bass Furniture)
  • Let your friend give you a pedicure
  • Go to the dollar store and put together a little pampering kit for someone who won’t expect it and surprise them
  • Learning – it’s great now that I don’t have to do it for a class
I don’t know if sleeping is hard for you, but if so:
  • Sound machine – can get one at Walmart ($14, Conair); it has about 12 different sounds, 60-minute auto-shutoff, or constant
  • Deep breathing – there are CDs that can lead you through different exercises
  • Erasing thoughts – If I lay in bed with racing thoughts of things I need to do I have a notepad next to my bed to write stuff down.  Once it’s written you can usually let it go.  I will also close my eyes and picture a large chalkboard with all of my thoughts on it, in words or pictures, then you picture yourself with an eraser wiping them off.  For me sometimes they show up on the board again, so I just walk back and forth erasing until they all disappear.
  • Heart Beat – take your left hand and squeeze your right thumb until you feel your heartbeat; once you feel it count 10 beats then move to your next finger; repeat through all ten fingers; usually by the second time around you are asleep.
*  If all else fails follow your heart.  We all have purpose in life that brings us happiness.  Sometimes it just takes time to find it.
*  I can think myself out of just about any adventure.  The key here is – don’t think!
*  One question you might ask is when did you last enjoy something or relax.  See if anything has changed since then that might counteract enjoyment.
*  I always need time to myself.  I really force others to know this.  Family and friends will always demand your time.  It is easy to find things to do for others, but it can be difficult to find things to do for myself.  It is a matter of training yourself and others.  My time is my time.  (Don’t fall for, “Can you just take care of this before you have your time?” thinking.)
*  Productivity, using my creative side, bringing order out of chaos, all of these are both rewarding and stress releasing for me.
*  I find I have to do self-talk before I do something for myself.  I am doing this for mental health.  I am taking a mental health break.  I will do this for _____ minutes and won’t feel guilty for a single second of this time.  I am worth it.
*  I’m not trying to promote an anti-kid theme, but I feel you can let your true feelings/stresses/anxieties out so much more when they’re not around – you know, no show to put on for them and their feelings.
*  Mostly it is a treat if I get to make my own choice about what to do with my time.  That happens rarely enough that I treasure the chance.
*  If I really want to treat myself, I get everything else done so the chances of my getting interrupted or feeling guilty are lessened to some degree, then I get in cozy clothes, find a cozy spot with a warm blanket, and make some hot chocolate – then I tune out the world and read.  It’s really in the extras.  In the summer I like to find a nice spot outside and have lemonade instead of hot chocolate.
*  Whatever you begin to do for yourself, JUST DO IT.  The fact that you are looking for suggestions is moving in the right direction.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you can not take care of anyone else.  You need to know that you are worth it, and you deserve anything you want.


The Dose of Reality said...

I love how you break it down in the beginning. There really are 3 levels of activities. I need to work on the last group (and I ADORE that you have a list to help us recharge and regroup!) but I realize that I'm not always very good with even the step-up second level of things. I don't make time to exercise and I've put off going for my annual check up for three months. UGH.
This is something I do really need to work on. Thank you for posting this today. I needed it!! --Lisa

MaggieJo said...

I didn't read the whole list but I love making myself a good lunch everyday. Not the kids leftovers or a pb and J unless if I want it. Simple but good for me.

tori nelson said...

Such amazing response from your friends. I am great at getting the basic to-do's done. The house is clean. The workout is done. The dinner is cooked. I forget the soul time all too often, though.

Michell Pulliam said...

Awesome list! It may sound cliche, but it's soooo important to enjoy yourself and relax! We as women find this so hard to do. If we're burned out and frazzled, we can't help those around us. My anecdote for that..."Carpe Diem"! Have a wonderful weekend relaxing! :)

Unknown said...

I too have a very difficult time relaxing and just "being". This is a great list...some things I would have never thought of.

Savvyworkinggal said...

What an amazing list Robin - I can't think of anything to add. I am going to add your link to the comments of my pulling myself out of a rut post. My problem is I wait too long to take care of myself then find it really hard to pull myself out of a funk. I like the idea of doing something for just a few minutes each day.

Mothering From Scratch said...

{Melinda} What a great list. This is so important. This week, I have taken very little time for myself and I can feel it. And so can my family. It makes me cranky and difficult. Thanks for the reminder and the great, long list of suggestions. Anybody can find something that works for them on that list!

Alison said...

What an amazing list! Your friends are family are awesome. As are you, for sharing.

Paulin said...

This is an amazing list and what a great experiment! For me, exercise, especially outdoors exercise, is what "feeds my soul". But this isn't always possible, especially in the winter months. That's the main reason why I have a hard time, emotionally, making it through winter.

Unknown said...

I used to do everything for everyone else and it caused me to become very depressed. Every week, I do something that is just for me. It's always small like buying new nail polish colors or showing my hair some TLC!

shari lynne @ Faith Filled Food for Moms said...

Robin this is a FANTASTIC list for self care! As Moms I find that self care is the last thing on my list :( However as I get older I'm trying to make it more of a priority..I'm glad you are too! Thanks for stopping by this Moring :)
Have a blessed weekend!

Unknown said...

After my first baby was born, my dad always reminded me to take care of myself, because I won't be very good at taking care of the baby if I'm not taking care of myself first! Great reminder and great list!

Libby said...

I'm fairly certain I've relied on many of these things when it's all a bit much. My weekly self-care is sitting in my favourite organic cafe with a big coffee and a good book. It recharges me for the rest of the week. Thanks for sharing this list Miss Robin.

Michelle said...

I love that list! I would especially love to take a nap in a hammock...we had one but the kids played on it a little too much...and now we don't. I definitely don't get enough down time...going to keep this list in mind and try to carve out some more free moments here and there!!

@Dayngr said...

You are so right! We always make ourselves last on the list but we're first to take care of everyone else. We can't help anyone if we never take care of ourselves.

Great list, great post & you must take time for yourself at least once a week.