Woman enjoying the water in a swimming pool
Christy Gualtieri

Feel The Relax

On the last day of the swimming season, my family and I were graciously invited to the nearby pool by our neighbors, who are mainstays of our township and some of the most entertaining and generous people you’ll ever meet.  I grew up in and around swimming pools, but don’t recently frequent them because whenever you offer me the opportunity to go to the pool alone with my two young children who can’t yet swim, I’ll often decline. (It’s a lot of work trying to keep two alive by myself at once, is all I’m saying.)  But my kids who can’t swim are a bit older now, and have these next-generation floating devices that are way above and beyond anything I had as a kid, so we agreed to go.

It was a beautiful afternoon.  It had been forecasted to rain but it held off, and so it wasn’t as hot as it had been, but not terribly cold, either – the perfect temperature.  We got in the pool and my kids had a great time splashing around, even paddling a bit to the wall in the few feet of water we were in. My daughter bobbed by, a miniature pink buoy, her hands in the water and her face looking ahead, concentrating.  She mumbled something, and I leaned in to hear her:

“Feel the relax,” she said.

I watched as she stretched out her hands, pawing at the water the way a cat would, slowly making her way to the wall from my arms.

“Feel the relax.”

I was just as struck as I always am listening to my kids.  I wasn’t relaxed at all that morning – I was upset at having to buy a bathing suit last-minute (always a terrible experience)  and not looking forward to spending hours at the pool while both kids constantly clawed and clamored on me in the water, having to think about how much sunblock I’d applied and whether it had been enough or not – and I was dumbfounded by how much she knew, inherently, that the power to relax was inside her, just waiting to help.

In the hectic, frenetic weeks before school started and as the end-of-summer activities and to-do lists stretched on, I had completely forgotten all about the point of summer: to relax.  To just stop and observe the world around me. To let my muscles un-tense themselves, to feel the air on my face and the heat of the sun on my skin.

I watched my kids playing, and observed the joy on their faces as they partook in the last of the great summer traditions before school started the next day.  I looked up for longer than a second or two at the cloudless sky, and noticed that the leaves on the trees surrounding the pool were beginning to turn. I listened to the loud roars of the buses passing, and a train that had come by; and when the teenage lifeguard blew the whistle for adult swim, I passed my kids to my husband and went for lap after lap, the same way I used to do when I was little.

I felt the relax, and kept feeling it when we returned home.  Felt it as I threw their suits and towels in the laundry machine, felt it all through dinner, and as I packed my son’s lunchbox the next day.

Sometimes I forget to feel it, still, when the anxieties of the day crowd my mind; but I remember the innate wisdom of my little girl, take a deep breath, and try again.  A new season is coming, after all – and each and every one needs just as much relaxation, wonder, and peace.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

 

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Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk

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

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Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk

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,
Mandi