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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,
Mandi