So…About Self Care

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So…about self care

It’s a struggle to take care of myself everyday. As a habitual helper and fixer, I spend precious hours of my time making sure that most, if not all of the people around me are taken care of. I honestly think that that was the underlying reason for me going into social work. I have an innate need to be needed.

All of this “save the world” stuff takes a toll on me though–as a person, a mother, a wife, and even in my career. Hubz has been very clear in that I just need to walk away and leave well enough alone. But I don’t think that he understands what that would mean for me internally. It’s like telling a chronic smoker to “put that cigarette down…forever.” Yeah, I know that smoking is bad and all, but do you really think I wouldn’t do it–that I wouldn’t put my cigarette of choice down–if I could, if it really were that easy?

Why we struggle with self-care

Not everybody struggles with self-care. Some people practice it completely and perfectly. We call those people “selfish” and we associate them with other words like “self-centered”. After many many years of being a fixer, I finally had to really analyze the information that was being spoon fed to me about those two words–selfish and self-centered. And after much thought, I just have to call it what it is: bullshit.

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Making the Best of a Mental Funk

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I believe mental funks definitely have their place and are necessary for growth. So, I'll see you on the other side.

Right now I’m in the thick of something funky. I mean, it stinks to the high heavens up in here and there’s nothing I can do about it–but go through it, feel it, and learn from it.

I’ve been in this place for a few months now. If you haven’t noticed, things have slowed down a bit on the blog. In real life, my family and friends ask questions like, “Are you sure you’re okay? You know you can talk to me, right?” I do, but I won’t. Their concern is appreciated, but in a way, it’s misplaced. I’m okay. I am. I’m okay.

I have to make the best of where I am

Am I feeling the best that I’ve ever felt in my life? Absolutely not. Are there some days that I just wish for this all to be over? Absolutely, there are. Do I believe deep down that I have to go through this to come out better than I went in? There’s not a doubt in my mind. Before I really sat down and thought about how I was going to address this and how to best describe what I’m going through, I toyed around with the idea of a “how to get out of a mental funk” type post. But how can I advise someone on something I’ve haven’t done myself? That seems pretty imperious and inauthentic. “Here, do what I can’t do and even though it didn’t work for me, maybe it’ll work for you.” Nah. That’s not how I roll. What I can do though–genuinely and without hesitation–is share how I’m making the best of my mental funk.

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Back to Life + Tips on Practicing Self-Care During a Tragedy

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SelfCareTragedy

It’s been kind of quiet around here for the last few days. I haven’t felt like writing and to me it seemed that anything I wrote would be inauthentic if I didn’t write about a particular subject: Michael Brown and Ferguson, MO.

Like most of you, whether you’re interested or disinterested, I’m aware of the decision not to indict the officer that killed Michael Brown.  Now, I won’t pull any punches or beat around the bush on this matter, so it’s important to know that the verdict really put me in a bad place.  This time, what I was feeling went beyond anger and got right down to pain and sorrow.  I cursed, questioned humanity and bawled my eyes out over yet another tragedy involving our Black children.  And honestly, I expected that to be the end of it.  I expected to pray for peace for Michael Brown’s family and have deep conversations with my husband, friends and family about what we could do, if anything.

But that didn’t happen.  Instead, I stayed in this weird space between sheer rage and unexplainable sadness.  I was dragging. Energy depleted. No good to no one.  I watched and listened to commentary from people I thought I knew.  The terms “thug” and “criminal” were thrown around so much and so passionately that I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe I was missing something here.  Folks that I had known for years were, in essence, showing their true colors.  Emotionally drained would have been an understatement.

Today, I’m a little better. The pain that I feel for Michael Brown’s family and the absolute despair that I feel for this country continues to weigh heavily on me, but I’ve been doing my best to practice self-care through it all.

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Tips on Practicing Self-Care During a Tragedy

  1. Feel whatever it is that you feel–Whether it’s anger, sadness, pain or even joy, you have a right to feel however it is that you feel.  Too many times, we think (or people tell us) that we’re supposed to feel a certain way when something happens. Or better yet, that we should have no feelings at all. Or that what we’re feeling is somehow wrong. Nope, not the case.  As a living, breathing, feeling human being, feel what’s there and embrace that. It’s the only way that you can actually go deeper to a level of analysis and eventual acceptance.
  2. Know your limits. Impose your limits.–As someone who already has a limit on the amount of social media that she can take in, I’ve had to be especially mindful of my limits for the last few days.  No matter how much I wanted to respond to the detractors, the folks who felt that it was okay to morph #blacklivesmatter into #alllivesmatter, and the folks hollering, “What about Black on Black crime,” I knew that doing so would have pushed me beyond my limits and only made me feel worse.  So I shared where I could, educated when possible and deleted when necessary. Do the same.
  3. Do what makes you feel better–When you’re in a really, really bad place, it can seem like there is literally nothing that can pull you from that. It’s like you can smile, but what’s the point if your insides are crying.  I know because I’ve been there.  And I’ve figured out that a lot of the reason why I’ve been there (and stayed there for so long) is because I’ve tried to get happy, instead of getting better.  While grabbing and reading a book may not make me “happy,” it does make me better and puts me in a better place than when I started.
  4. Don’t do what makes you feel worse–This one is tough on several levels, as there are things that we’re obligated to do that make us feel worse about everything we’re going through.  I loathed dragging myself into work on the Tuesday after it was decided that Michael Brown’s killer wouldn’t be held accountable.  I had  no patience for “just another day.”  I had to do it though.  What I didn’t have to do was entertain racist people and entertain their racist commentary.  What I didn’t have to do was attend events for the sake of obligation, if I knew that doing so would cause me more hurt than healing.  One of the best ways to practice self-care is to practice self-preservation.

How do you practice self-care during a tragedy?

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Find Peace with a Pedicure: Creating a Self-Care Kit

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This #RespectUrFeet shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

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When I was nearing the end of my social work career, I was a hot mess.  I wasn’t sleeping, I was eating more poorly than usual and my body was breaking down on me.  The constant migraines, the excessive acne and the days spent crying uncontrollably were evidence of the breakdown.  Not to mention the depression, both seasonal and regular.  Honestly, I was a walking billboard for the importance of self-care.  Allowing myself to get to that point, being that far gone, was a HUGE no-no.  In the helping profession, we’re taught in school, the importance of taking care of ourselves.  So I devised a plan to do just that and create my own self-care kit with everything I needed to self-soothe.  That’s the books, the journal, the at home pedicure and plenty more.  Here’s how I did it.

Creating a self-care kit goes beyond just throwing “happy things” in a box.  In all honesty, it really comes down to knowing yourself and what works for you.  Pretty things are good, but what do they mean to you? Really think on this and figure out what moves you, what makes you feel good, what brings you back from the brink of anger, sadness, despair, etc.

After assessing your self-care  needs, the next thing to do is to figure out what you will “house” your kit essentials in.  Some people use bags, shoe boxes, even baskets.  It’s up to you and depends on what floats your boat, but this is an often neglected step.  To me, it matters what I store my essentials in.

I don’t want something that’s easily accessible because I have a nosy family.

I don’t want something that can easily tear or become damaged if it gets wet.

I do want something that is secure.

I do want something that I can decorate and really make mine.

With all of the above in mind, I chose an old, wooden lock box.

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Choosing the contents

What you choose to put in your kit is a personal choice that should be a choice that you and only you should make.  Here is what I chose for my box + why it works for me.

1. Amopé Pedi Perfect and foot cream: These are new products that I got from the foot care aisle at Target.  The gadget, along with the foot cream, adds moisture for healthier feet, which is important to me, as I’ve noticed that the care of my feet, or lack thereof, are instant indicators of how I’m feeling about myself.  When my feet are baby soft, my toenails are clipped and painted pretty, I feel like a force to be reckoned with.  I’m confident and taking pride in my appearance.  When they’re not, well, it’s just the opposite.

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2. A good book: While the book changes, depending on what I’m reading or how I’m feeling at the time, I make sure to keep some soul-stirring books in my box.  These are not how-to books or books on business or anything like that.  These books awaken your soul by challenging your thinking and helping you get back to a place of balance and contentment.

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3. Something that smells good: Smell is so important when it comes to self-care.  Scents like lavender have a calming effect and help reduce stress.  Other scents such as Jasmine and Rosemary have uplifting capabilities that produce feelings of confidence and help to fight mental exhaustion.  I use my favorite hand lotions or body butters to create the scent that I’m looking for.  I’ve also used candles and even fabric softener sheets.

5. Music: For me, this may be the most important item in my self-care kit. There are certain songs that serve as the soundtrack to my life and in order to really get into my feelings and feel whatever it is that I’m feeling, I need to hear those songs.  I use music streaming websites for this, but you could also use CDs or something else.

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4. A journal, markers and a pen: This is self-explanatory, but I’m a huge proponent of writing for self-care.  Free writing, in particular (just writing continuously and generating raw, unedited, grammatically incorrect material), is a favorite of mine for identifying flawed thinking and overcoming self-criticism.  In addition to writing, I like to draw and color because it allows me to create freely and gives my analytic and critical left brain a rest.

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From here, it’s just a matter of putting everything together and having it ready for when you need it.

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For women, mothers, people with depression, and so on and on, self-care has to become a priority and a topic of discussion.  Getting to know yourself and creating your own self-care kit is the starting point for self-preservation, which we all should be striving for.

If you were to create a self-care kit (and I hope you do), what would be in it?

Let’s stay in touch!

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How to Boost Your Well-being and Be Great

well-being, working women, selfcare, research, study

well-being, working women, selfcare, research, study

Over the last few years, I’ve had to learn the hard way that I can’t have it all…at least all at the same time.  Or if I was just set on having it all, I had to learn to be prepared for “all” to mean subpar in every category.  It took quite a few breakdowns and breakthroughs to realize that I was wearing myself out with all that I was trying to do.  My well-being was dead last.  My happiness was non-existent.  I was trying to be great in all the wrong ways. So when I read a new study, conducted by career strategist and author, Megan Dalla-Camina, I was not surprised by the results:

  • 40% of women report “hanging on by a thread”
  • Only 16% of women surveyed reported that they felt happy in their lives
  • 55% spend their time doing things for other people…even when it’s not in their best interest
  • And 70% of women are struggling with their well-being

These stats are just not good.  Only 16% of women reported being happy in their lives?  Like, really?  Don’t we realize (Yes “we” because I am not a member of that 16% club…yet.) that we only get one life.  Just this one.

While I continue to struggle with my well-being on a daily basis, I’ve identified a few ways to boost my well-being when I’m feeling low.  These are the things I do:

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To be great takes work.  And while people will tout productivity and focus and always being “on,” oftentimes it’s forgotten that to really be adequately and authentically “on,” one’s well-being has to come first.

How do you boost your well-being to be great?

 

 

 

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6 Ways to Let Go of Being Everything to Everybody

Thrive arianna huffington post book club 6 ways

thrive arianna huffington book

For the last few days, I’ve been reading Arianna Huffington’s Thrive.  The book’s tagline urges readers to redefine success and create a life of well-being, wisdom and wonder.  It opens with the story of how it took Ms. Huffington hitting rock bottom (like, she literally hit the floor) to realize that her life was toppling over. She had all the power and money she could probably ever want, however, neither of those things cushioned her face when it hit the bathroom counter…then the floor.

Ouch.

While many of us aren’t able to say that we’ve reached the status of Ms. Huffington, we likely can relate to the rat race that is the pursuit of success.  As a mother, wife, social worker, daughter, sister and friend, I can sympathize all too well with feeling the need to be successful in all roles at the same time.  I can also sympathize with the feeling of impossibility that also plagues this scenario.

Slowly but surely, though, I’m learning to let go of the incessant need to be everything for everybody.  To do this, I’ve had to make some significant changes.

Thrive arianna huffington post book club 6 ways

1. Stop taking on other people’s problems

2. Prioritize my needs over those of others…even if theirs are seemingly greater than mine

3. Set clear boundaries on what’s acceptable and what’s not

4. Understand the difference between helping and being taken advantage of

5. Acknowledge that a crisis on someone else’s end does not mean that there’s a crisis on mine

6. Recognize when it’s time to give it up

Our well-being, our mental, physical, emotional and relational health, is essential to our success in whatever we do in our lives.  And unless success is defined as being overworked, on edge, miserable and defeated, true success cannot be obtained while being, or attempting to be, everything to everybody.  It’s just impossible.

Arianna Huffington may have had to smack the floor to get this wake up call, but I thankfully I didn’t.  And by focusing on your well-being, hopefully you won’t have to either.

How do you make your well-being a priority?

This post was inspired by Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington who encourages everyone to sleep their way to the top. Join From Left to Write on May 1 we discussThrive. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links.

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