What is self-care? And why does it matter? Self-care is a practice of doing things for the benefit of our own physical, mental and emotional health. Does that sound selfish? It can be, but if no one else takes time to care for your well-being, then who will? Also, we’re better able to care for others when our own balance of wellness is not depleted.
Does self-care sound like extra work to take on? That can happen too, but a few simple guidelines will address these questions and other things that get in the way of our self-care practices, which by the way may be most difficult to focus on in a busy season, but are no less important at this time of year.
To make the time you put into self-care have a real benefit, focus on these three things:
Caring for your body.
We all know that exercise is good for us, and we usually feel better after any amount of physical activity even if we were reluctant to get started. Nature is our ally for exercise, especially during a pandemic. And walking counts as exercise. So, why not reach out to a friend...for a walk…in nature? Watch out for icy paths! Decisions about what to eat, and what not to eat are also gentle ways to bring attention to caring for our bodies every day.
Caring for your mind.
No need to seek nirvana or a zen state…unless that feels good to you. Check in with yourself. How’s your stress level? How are you feeling? Then, identify what will help you feel a little better. Is it a few quiet moments to reflect? Or journaling? Or talking to a friend? Or dreaming about a vacation? Or a cup of tea and a good book? Or a glossy magazine? Or spending time with a favorite furry friend? Find ways to mentally relax.
Keep it simple.
Too many people run into obstacles that get in the way of self-care. For example, anyone might think: I don’t deserve to take time to give myself attention. Or, I’m not doing it right. Or, I don’t have time for this. Or, I don’t even know what feels good anymore. Remember that doing anything for the benefit of our own physical, mental and emotional health counts as self-care. And sometimes less is more. There may be times when doing nothing is a helpful way to care for ourselves if we feel depleted.
Two other friendly suggestions for self-care: First, let go of perfection. Part of self-care is giving ourselves permission to make mistakes and half an off day. Second, self-care is a process that takes ongoing practice. And, for self-care - like many, many other things - practice makes pretty good!
What’s your favorite thing to do for self-care? Tell us on facebook!
November marks a time when elections are decided, cold weather settles in and thoughts are drawn towards the holidays. While any one of these can present a source of stress, this year we are also faced with all of the unpredictable ways the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic affects our lives.
Amidst this uncertainty, I am reminded of the classic symbol of Thanksgiving – the cornucopia basket. Cornucopia is a word that comes from ancient Greece meaning the horn of plenty, and we have adopted it filled with seasonal vegetables as a symbol of giving to others at this time of year.
This month, let’s take a different perspective on this symbol and imagine ways to fill up your own personal cornucopia with the coping skills below as a way to give to yourself. Please note that the coping skills described below are not designed to solve problems that are outside of our control. For the people we work with and for ourselves, these skills can be used effectively to manage emotional distress on a moment to moment basis and to help feel more grounded.
Distracting skills help shift our focus away from situations that lead to emotional distress such as anxiety and worry, sadness, or frustration and short patience. These skills often use physical movement.
Examples of Distracting skills are: Play a video game, read a magazine, rake leaves, listen to music, do a crossword puzzle or word search, paint your nails, paint a picture, or bake something good to eat!
Self-soothing skills can be used to bring a little more calm feeling during stressful moments, especially when a problem may be outside of our control. Self-soothing skills use our senses in different ways, and many of us have a sense or two that is more dominant than others. What works best for you and the people your work with?
Vision: Watch a sunrise or sunset, look at falling leaves (or falling snowflakes), look at a soothing picture or watch funny videos.
Hearing: Talk to a good friend and pay attention to the sound of their voice, listen to moving water in a stream (or find a video of soothing water flowing), listen to relaxing music or a fan at night, or sing in the shower!
Smell: Try scented candles or your favorite soap, or enjoy the smell of something baking in the oven. Open a window and breathe in fresh air!
Taste: Enjoy the taste of something you cook or bake, try familiar foods or explore something different, slow down to focus on the soothing aspects of warm foods on cold days.
Touch: Pet a furry friend, or enjoy the simple comfort of your favorite chair or the feeling of your muscles warming up on a walk outside. Take a hot shower or take time to bring a mindful awareness to putting lotion on your hands and the soothing sensations this brings.
Each of these skills come from Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which offers helpful ways for people to feel more grounded during stressful moments. Remember, these skills are not designed to solve life’s problems. They are best used with the purpose to help anyone feel more grounded and calm in stressful situations. Good luck!
- Jim Gorham
During times when everything seems to keep moving faster, taking time to slow down for gratitude can help us cope better.
For months, we've all been dealing with the challenges of the pandemic, worry about the health of our loved ones and ourselves, and uncertain financial situations. With busy schedules, turning our attention to what we appreciate and are grateful for in life can be something that's easy to forget about, but putting a little more focus on gratitude can help us feel better and be more effective in what we need to do every day.
Gratitude does not have to be complicated. Recognize simple things you appreciate in your life. For example, I recognized that I'm grateful for having enough food, for warm summer weather, good health, the beach, and even flowers where I live. What about you? Here are some other ways to practice gratitude
Every morning, take a few moments to identify at least one thing you are grateful for.
Once a week, write a list of ten things you are grateful for in your life.
Work with a friend or family member to write an A - Z list of things you're both grateful for. (What did you come up with for letter X?)
Share your gratitude by telling a friend something you appreciate about them.
- Jim Gorham, Clinical Supervisor
DOVER -- The halls are empty, but the building is far from quiet. A piano player leads a chorus of singing voices coming through computer speakers. In another room, a staff member runs a morning meeting, with laughing voices from a Zoom call.
Jim Gorham provides oversight to the GBS Maine Case Management department. He has more than 15 years working at mental health organizations with people from diverse backgrounds. Jim is licensed in Maine as mental health counselor (LCPC), and holds national counseling certification.