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Self Care (part 2)

In the last blog Self-Care (Part-1), meditation, mindfulness, and self-hypnosis were discussed as part of self-care and relaxation techniques in areas such as anxiety, grief, life transitions, as part of therapy, as positive daily coping mechanisms, and to assist in sleep. Part-2 of the segment discusses more active and physical aspects of self-care, the importance during life transitions, and touches on a few other areas.

Self-care is an important component of life-one that many grapple with.  Most times, implementing and allowing self-care improves overall quality of life and dually allows an individual to step outside of one’s ‘self’, which in turn, promotes a healthier outlook on daily life and increases capacities to give to one’s self, family, community and society as a whole.

Self-care, at times, is difficult even for those that practice with consistency. This is where having an array of self-care behaviors that are easily implemented into different environments and situations is beneficial to building lifelong adaptable habits and behaviors.

I was at the park with my child recently and began speaking with a female that was there with her grandchildren.  She began discussing how she had two grown children and a number of grandchildren. Each of her grown children, their partners, and her grandchildren were in the process of moving; one family was moving a few hours away and one family was moving out of state.  The reality of little time with each family; especially her young grandchildren became difficult for her to contend with emotionally.

She began telling me how she is retired and that she is hoping that her husband will retire soon, yet, isn’t certain that he is ready.  This is a significant part of transitioning into retirement for those partnered in a long-term relationship.  She mentioned that she has been struggling greatly with this transition and isn’t certain what to do.  During the conversation, we discussed things she enjoys doing and how to begin implementing things she enjoys back into her life.  I noticed her discussing the past and the difficulty in transitioning forward.  This is a process that many encounter when grappling with difficult transition periods throughout a person’s life span.  In part, she was contending with transitioning to retirement and was anticipating her husband’s retirement, which he may not be ready to transition towards at this point in his life.  A main source of difficulty was struggling with finding a major aspect of her identity without the opportunity to nurture and be a caregiver for her grandchildren.  There is loss and opportunity dually in this transition period.

In daily life, self-care is essential, and vital to mental health and wellness during the process of transition periods, that are most times, filled dually with positive and difficult life changes and adjustments. Self-care becomes key to minimize depression, isolation, and the onset of an array of behavioral health and mental health issues. During our conversation, I asked her about things she enjoys.  She discussed the possibility of joining a group, becoming more active by taking a fitness class, finding projects at home that would bring a sense of accomplishment, and rediscovering her passion for painting. Each self-care item appeared to bring focus to the present, and towards finding new ways to enjoy life moving forward. Presently, she is grappling with many significant areas in her life. Seeking out the assistance of a professional therapeutic relationship may be most beneficial in finding positive coping strategies, stress reduction techniques, and committing to where she currently is in life, while preparing for upcoming life transitions; as well as, in finding new ways she will be able to nurture and give in manners she finds rewarding.

Being engaged in activities including physical fitness is beneficial to a mental health and well-being. Physical activity has the potential to assist in increasing energy, improving mood, reducing anxiety, and alleviating depressive symptoms. This can be in the form of a walk outside in nature, a run, biking, cross-fit, weights, or an array of other fitness activities. It’s getting out there and starting.  Whether it’s a ten-minute walk or a half marathon, there is a sense of accomplishment in working towards and finishing a set goal.  For example, I enjoy running as part of self-care.  It is one of my favorite forms of self-care.  I am not the fastest runner- quite honestly, I pace slower currently than I did in the past. I had taken a break from running and looked forward to returning!  I could feel a difference when running was missing as part of my self-care practices.  I used to run by myself and more recently, I run in a group environment. For me, running challenges me, it’s a lot of fun, and is a great form of stress release. Plus, I enjoy consistently working to increase my pace and endurance levels. I recall running my first 5K.  I had run the distance of a 5K in the past, yet, in returning, I was working towards having my feet on the pavement for the distance I experienced in past runs.  I did decide to formally signup for a 5K.  My pace was slow and crossing the finish line was a challenge; however, the entire experience was exhilarating and beneficial to me as a human-being.  I continue to run and push myself in these areas.  I am also looking forward to my next 5K experience.

I have met numerous individuals that tell me they don’t enjoy exercise. If you’re one of these individuals ask yourself these few questions:

  1. What have you attempted?
  2. How were you feeling before engaging in the self-care activity?
  3. What were your feelings when reflecting on what you experienced during the activity?
  4. How did you feel after?
  5. What messages were you given throughout your life about physical activity, your body?
  6. What messages do you carry with you currently that hold you back from physical activity and healthy self-care habits?
  7. Which items are part of an outed cycle of thought processes that do not relate to who you are and how you see yourself as a human currently?
  8. What are you open to trying?
  9. What do you feel comfortable about when considering implementing new self-care habits?
  10. What is your discomfort in the self-care activities you’re considering?
  11. How will you overcome your discomforts? Note: you are able to engage in activities with the discomforts present; over time, the discomforts with decrease, and you’ll feel an internal sense of accomplishment that will carry with you as you tackle new activities and exposure to new environments.
  12. If you took a pause, what were your reasons? Note: if the break was due to an injury, working with the proper medical professionals towards a full recovery and being cleared to seek out a safe replacement, whether temporary or long-term has the potential to be a beneficial option for those that function better with consistent activity as part of daily self-care habits.

Each of the above questions is a starting point for you to begin exploring your personal experiences and feelings regarding self-care.  If you need further assistance, you’re able to talk with your therapist regarding the process of overcoming personal obstacles to improving overall mental health, behavioral health, wellness, and consistency with self-care.

This segment discussed physical ways to engage in self-care and touched on life transitions.  Clients and friends mention the level of guilt in taking time for self-care.  It is important to work towards utilizing energies for positive daily self-care practices that work for you and your family, which was touched on in Self-Care (Part-1), and to move away from guilt and shaming.  Treat yourself with kindness and allow yourself to engage in activities that you may feel a level of uncertainty and discomfort with at first.  Give yourself the time and practice to improve, while enjoying the benefits of creating life-long self-care practices.

Lastly, surround yourself with positive people that bring out your natural energy, and create a sense of pleasure and laughter in your life.  Self-care increases capacities to function in more desirable manners.  It is healthy for brain function and it is immensely beneficial for human-beings to experience the enjoyment of learning new ways of being engaged in self-care and being physically active.

Learn, grow, engage in self-care & enjoy,

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Self Care

Self-care is an essential aspect of a quality life, yet, difficult for many.  This is important for many individuals.  Self-care is vital to overall health and well-being, and has the potential to assist with high levels of stress, daily stressors, anxiety, depression, grief, welcomed and unwelcomed life transitions, and many other aspects of being human.  For example, a professional that is balancing an array of responsibilities daily, benefits greatly from self-care. A stay at home mom or dad that hasn’t had any real down time or break for weeks, possibly longer, benefits immensely. A person that has recently retired and it adjusting to a completely different lifestyle and set of supports may have a smoother transition with self-care rituals. A child or adolescent that’s contending with growth and development, issues at school, or even the grief and processing of parents’ recent divorce has the potential to work through difficult emotions with the support of self-care. You may identify with one or more of these examples, know somebody with similar experiences, or have your own unique story and life circumstances.

For example, meditation, mindfulness, and self-hypnosis are each self-care techniques that assist with capacities to decompress, relax, and bring balance to an individual.  These techniques assist in relaxing the parasympathetic nervous system.  For many, this allows deeper slower breathing, which aids in increased oxygen to one’s brain, lowered blood pressure, and relief from emotional and physiological symptoms of stress.

I have encountered clients and individuals that enjoy relaxation techniques and those that have difficulty with gaining the discipline to practice relaxation as part of self-care with consistency.  It does take commitment, practice, and, at times, the assistance of a professional’s help and expertise.  Other times, it is as easy as downloading an app and carving out time to begin.  This is especially relevant for those preoccupied with anxiety.  It is difficult for many suffering with anxiety to step away from the anxiety experienced; especially those with generalized anxiety.  Many clients fear stepping away from anxious thoughts.  The thoughts will feel more manageable after practicing any combination of the self-care and relaxation techniques discussed.  At times, a therapist may utilize self-hypnosis with cognitive behavioral therapy when it appears beneficial for the client.  A therapist may also recommend a combination of each technique to practice at home in between sessions.

Additionally, mindfulness, meditation, and self-hypnosis have potential to be beneficial for a person (at any age) with sleep issues.  Deep breathing is a beneficial facet of relaxation.  Deep breathing is relevant to, for example, young children with fears that contribute to sleeping issues, as well as, for adults that fall asleep to the sound and lights of a television only to experience decades of interrupted sleep cycles and the difficulties correlated with these behaviors.  Engaging in these techniques assist with redirecting focus and aiding in a sense of well-being to assist in promoting healthier sleep cycles over time.

There are an array of meditation, mindfulness, and self-hypnosis techniques as part of self-care.  The benefit of having options is in giving more opportunities to find a combination of techniques for individuals to utilize at different times.  As a counselor, it is beneficial for my clients to have several different types of self-care techniques available. At times, I recommend starting with one technique, checking in with how the client feels, and with time, building towards having several positive self-care options available to choose from. Integrating a variety of self-care rituals in different environments gives opportunity to practice positive and consistent self-care habits across the life-span.  I engage in each of the techniques discussed, and many others as part of my self-care rituals.  I enjoy aspects of each; especially self-hypnosis.  For me, practicing each, dually relaxes and reenergizes me as a human-being.  In Part-2 of the Self-Care segment, I will discuss a different set of self-care techniques to utilize with what was discussed in Part-1. Self-Care Part-2 will include more active ways to manage stress.

Feel free to share some of your experiences of utilizing meditation, mindfulness, and/or self-hypnosis as part of self-care. Leave a comment with any questions or curiosity you may have for more information regarding meditation, mindfulness, and/or self-hypnosis as part of self-care.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

Odd Jobs

As the old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” especially when it comes to jobs.  Most jobs make sense: we need transportation, so necessity paved the way for inventing pilots, bus drivers, and train conductors.  You can’t have items manufactured without factory workers, pupils without teachers, books without authors, or healthy pets without veterinarians.  All of those things make sense.  There’s even a job for “Iceberg Removers” – USA Coast Guard members part of a team called the “International Ice Patrol,” which patrols and finds icebergs, and provides safe routes around them, even physically moving the iceberg if it’s impossible to circumvent.

All of those make sense, right? But what about those odd jobs — those really sort of strange ones that you hear about every now and then.  Do they really serve a purpose? What kinds of people invent them, and why do we need them?

For example, take a more well-known odd job, the Professional Cuddler.  For around $60 an hour, you can hire someone to cuddle with you.  The boundaries involved in that are clearly defined, and although it seems silly to some people, the job fulfills some real, deep-seated needs among people today who just need to be noticed, cared for, and held.

If you’re getting married and are short some friends, you can hire a professional bridesmaid or groomsman, who will stand up for you as you embark on your journey into married life.

If you know you’re dying, and know you probably weren’t the nicest person on Earth, you might want to include professional mourners at your funeral in your final plans.  They can stand in for people who might have wanted to be around — or if your friends live too far away to travel to give their final goodbyes.  And they actually exist! It’s a real job.

There are many, many jobs like that fill a need, as quirky as it is.  There are professional “line-standers,” people you can pay to stand in line for you for the next iPhone if you don’t have the time to; professional Pokemon Go players who will do a great job on the game and sell their app to someone else (sometimes up to $10,000!); and professional apologizers, who will, for a sum, gladly take on the difficult job of apologizing for your mistake to a client.  There are even professional Christmas tree-light-detanglers!

Most of these sound superfluous – (Christmas tree light-detangler? Really?) – but I was struck most by the needs that these sorts of jobs filled when the jobs centered around emotions.  The professional cuddler, for example; or the stand-in bridal party members.  The folks who invented these jobs saw a need that people had for connection, and they capitalized on it.  I like to think that professional cuddlers and professional mourners are in it for more than just money — that they have a need of their own, a desire to connect with others around them physically, with cuddling, or emotionally, by being able to mourn and show compassion for someone they don’t know.  Maybe professional bridal party members are really good at encouraging people, so they offer their services to calm anxious brides and grooms; maybe professional jelly bean counters are just really good at arithmetic, and just want to share their gifts with the world, all while making a little money.  (I made that last one up, but it probably exists!)

To that end, you have to admire folks who see a need and are able to find solutions to answer them, as quirky as they are.  And you have to admire folks who recognize that they have that need in themselves to hire someone to fill them! It takes a lot of vulnerability to admit that you don’t know everything and you just plain need help.

There’s plenty I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I’ll stay away from hiring any Christmas tree light-detanglers.  But, life happens! Who can say.

Until next time, be well!

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Benefits of Volunteer Work

Several years ago, I had a desire to do volunteer work. During my search, I came across many great causes, yet, it wasn’t until I learned about volunteering in a capacity that assisted groups of individuals working in public safety that I decided that this was a group of people I could commit to helping.  For the last number of years, I have volunteered as a mental health person for a critical incident stress management team that assists public safety personnel after the exposure to a critical incident.  As soon as I learned about what I would being doing for this demographic, I felt this was an area where I could give support and help others; especially a demographic that at times, is met with scrutiny and/or lack of understanding for what is endured.

As mentioned, as a volunteer, I work with public safety personnel after a critical incident.  This is done in a group setting during a debriefing or defusing. Recordings of any kind are not permitted, and everything is treated with the upmost confidentiality.  There is a sense of comradery within the group that appears to assist with healing.  A debriefing or defusing is not therapy.  However, it is therapeutic for individuals that work in public safety after the exposure to one or more critical incidents.

In addition, we refer individuals for therapy if an individual is grappling with trauma from the exposure to a critical incident and would benefit from further assistance.  Many times, debriefings and defusing simultaneously assist with decreasing high levels of stress, decreasing the need for therapy, and increasing resources available for an individual that may feel a therapeutic relationship is beneficial to further healing.

Much of the time, volunteers experience a high level of compassion satisfaction and feel a sense of accomplishment in assisting a demographic that at times, suffers in silence.  For me, volunteer work is something I feel passionate about; I’m thankful for the opportunity to help groups of people that give so much of themselves to others, and am able to balance my time volunteering with each of the facets of my busy schedule.

I have had both clients and friends mention that they would like to take an active role in volunteer work, yet, aren’t sure “what to do”.  Does a person need to do formal volunteer work or is a person able to give to others and the community in other ways?  Of course, an individual is able to give in other ways or possibly by offering your time to a combination of each.  There are many ways to volunteer your time and to benefit your community, and society as a whole.

Additionally, if volunteer work becomes too much to balance, is overextending one’s reserves and energies, and/or contributes to trauma, then it’s perfectly appropriate to take a break or find another cause that works with your life and current circumstances.  At times, volunteering your time is helping your neighbor with yard work, or picking up groceries for someone that is ill.  Others, it’s taking time out of your day to call a person that could use the support. Giving is an important part of life.  Many times, it assists the volunteer as much as the individual(s) being helped.  There is a sense of compassion, gratitude, and satisfaction in helping others; especially in giving your time. Volunteer work is beneficial for each person in life. My child helps our neighbor with yard work consistently.  This is a way that she is able to give, learn, and grow as a person.  This is a way that our neighbor is able to engage in generativity by teaching about planting and various other aspects about life and nature. As a parent, I appreciate these aspects of life.

It is important to find volunteer work that it comfortable for an individual and works with a person’s busy life; especially in today’s society.  Many, including myself, balance many facets of day to day life.  This includes family, friends, community, career, self-care, rest and relaxation (some may be saying what is that), and various other facets of life.

Ask yourself these few questions as a start in considering if volunteer work is something that would work with your life:

  1. Is this something I could be interested in and visualize myself doing with consistency?
  2. Is this a demographic I am motivated to help and in what ways?
  3. Will this type of volunteer work and the position I am considering work with my schedule and/or my family’s schedule in each area of life?
  4. Is this something I will be able to balance with my current life style, if not, am I willing to make the necessary adjustments to do so?
  5. Will I be able to maintain my current commitment(s) to myself and others?
  6. Will this type of volunteer work contribute to any trauma and/or trigger past trauma; if this probability is present, what resources are available for supports through the volunteer work and in my personal life?
  7. Is this an area I could thrive in and in what ways would I be able to help others?

This is not a comprehensive list, yet, a starting place to consider. At the end of each day, many could benefit from giving time to volunteer to a demographic that speaks to you as an individual.

Please share your experiences with volunteer work.  What brought you towards that demographic and the type of work?  How do you feel after you assist this demographic?  Is there anything you sacrifice to give to others, if so, is it something you’re able to balance and feels beneficial? What benefits do you experience personally from volunteering?

Learn, grow, & enjoy,