Thursday, June 1, 2017

Save Self-care Coupons, Not Demerits

As adults, we have somehow convinced ourselves that self-care is indulgent and there isn't time for it. When we do occasionally carve out a small amount of time for ourselves we tend to feel guilty and almost instantly focus on what we have done wrong.
  • "I ate too much today."
  • "I didn't make it to the gym again today." (Even though our bodies told us "No". 

Why do we forget the kind things we do for ourselves but remember the negative things so well? Why isn't self-care looked upon as a strength that is admired and encouraged?

When I taught fifth grade, my discipline plan was based on a reward system. Whenever I caught a student doing something positive for themselves or their classmates they were rewarded with a coupon that could be saved and used at a class party for goodies. Positive coupons could NEVER EVER be taken away. I wanted my students to know that my focus was truly on what they did right. Good acts should always be remembered and cherished. They are the very things that made us stronger as individuals and a group. When discipline issues did come up, we took care of them outside the reward coupons. Many thought this system would not work because children need consequences not rewards for the good things they do. As a person who has always believed people innately want to do good, I didn't believe this and my students proved me right! Children (and adults) love when they get caught doing something good. My students worked hard to earn coupons and overall, I didn't have a lot of issues. Best of all, the more good they did, the more they tended to grow in that direction.

What if we started saving self-care coupons that reminded us of each time we did something good for ourselves rather than always giving ourselves demerits for what we have done wrong? Would we love ourselves more if we could focus on what we are doing right?

Self-care is a practice that takes time and patience. We are slowly growing and discovering that self-care is an energy source that helps us thrive. Like a flower that naturally leans toward the warmth of the sun, we find ourselves leaning more towards the joy we get from being good to ourselves rather than what we are doing wrong.

During May, I shared a variety of low-cost self-care tips that hopefully at a minimum reminded you to be good to yourself. As you go forward, keep finding ways to be good to yourself but also don't forget to check in with friends and family and find out how and if they are practicing self-care. We have to hold each other accountable to self-care.

I hope you have enjoyed these self-care reminders. I had so much fun writing each one. My daughter said, "It's therapeutic." She is so right. Sending good vibes out to the world is definitely one of the ways I like practicing self-care.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Yoga at Lunch with Stacey

It's Arthritis Awareness Month! This month I am challenging you to take a little time each day and practice better self-care. Each day in May, I plan to share one simple way you can show yourself some love and appreciation.

On May 1st, I posted  Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Holding Each Other Accountable. I asked how often you ask your friends and family, "What are you doing for self-care?" So, I had to ask those in my self-care community.

My self-care journey is one that I share with my sister Stacey. Together we share ideas and motivate each other. Since we live 700 miles apart, we spend a lot of time texting which is self-care for both of us. On this last day of May, there is no other person I would rather leave you with. 
  

Yoga at Lunch
One of the many things I love about my sister is that she is always trying to improve herself and others. As a middle school social worker, that makes sense. 

This school year she set the intention of using her lunch break as time to focus on her own self-care by doing yoga in her office. Allowing herself this time has been a great way to re-energize so she can continue helping as many kids as possible. 

 
 
Extra Surprise!
Stacey is not a blogger so unfortunately you can't find more of her work . She is a full-time social worker, mother, wife, sister, and awesome person.  As a social worker, she helps the young teens she works with to practice self-care. And, since this is our last self-care day in this series, she is sharing her list of self-care practices she uses with her students. Take what works for you. I especially like "Buffet Thoughts"!!!

Got Self Care?  Then you have Coping Skills
Meditation – There are many benefits to meditation.  Check out watchwellcastmeditation on YouTube or a free app called Headspace to find out how to meditate. 
Warm bath or hot shower – warm water can boost your mood.  It triggers responses in your body and mind similar to those triggered by emotional warmth.  Think of your next shower like a  “Liquid Hug”.
Dark Chocolate – Certain chemicals in dark chocolate help relax the blood vessels, which reduce blood pressure.
Repetitive Tasks – Studies show that completing a simple repetitive task allows your brain to pare down and focus.
Five Count Breath – This is a coping skill you can use anywhere.  You simply need to breathe in through your nose for 5, hold for 2 and let the air out of 7.  While taking these 5 breaths you are counting with your fingers and by the fifth breath you should be giving yourself a thumbs up sign.  Thinking about your breath gives your brain a break, allows you to get oxygen to all your muscles and slows down your breathing.
Yoga/Stretching – Muscles get tense under stress and doing Yoga or stretching can loosen them up.  Yoga has been proven to help you feel more mentally alert, happier and healthier.  If done regularly, it can help with lowing stress, lowering blood pressure and help with sleep.  
Talk or Journal – Many people are able to process these ways and hopefully replace negative automatic thoughts or at the very least, get it “off their chest”.
Help Others – Research shows that helping others has a significant positive effect on our happiness.  Some research indicates that it can help us live longer, lowers blood pressure, helps improve grades and self-image and gives us a sense of purpose and satisfaction. 
Regular Contact with Nature/”Forest Bathing” – Just quiet contemplation near trees. Scientifically proven to improve your health. Trees give off an oil that helps our immune system.  Studies found that forests lower our heart and blood pressure and reduce stress hormones.  It can reduce depression while boosting energy.
Sense of Smell – The aromas of spearmint and lavender have proven destressing effects.
Pleasant Imagery – Imagine a peaceful scene that has a calming effect (e.g., you are lying on the beach.  The sun is warm, and there is a slight breeze).  Type in Guided Imagery on Youtube for help.
Gratitude Walk - Take a walk (1, 5, 10 min.) and think of all the things you are grateful for.  No gratitude is too small.
Buffet Thoughts - Imagine your worries on a buffet line and decide which ones and how much you are going to put on your plate.  Ask yourself if you have too much and if there are any thoughts you can leave behind.
Smile – The act of smiling for 20 seconds can trigger positive emotions.  Smiling stimulates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress and unleashes a feel-good cocktail of the neurotransmitters.  Smiling is contagious, stimulating unconscious smiling in others.
Progressive Relaxation – Starting with your toes, flex your muscles as tight as you can for 5 to 7 seconds, relax them and do continue up your body, flexing each major muscle up to the top of your head. 
Listen to Music – Happy music that is in rhythm to your heart beat can help us relax.  Songs that promote relaxation, good thoughts or confidence are encouraged.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Playing Hooky with Lene

It's Arthritis Awareness Month! This month I am challenging you to take a little time each day and practice better self-care. Each day in May, I plan to share one simple way you can show yourself some love and appreciation.

On May 1st, I posted  Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Holding Each Other Accountable. I asked how often you ask your friends and family, "What are you doing for self-care?" So, I had to ask those in my self-care community.

I have a very special self-care tip today shared by my good friend Lene of The Seated View. Because of our busy schedules, she and I schedule regular phone calls to catch-up. I always love when I suggest a day and she comes back with, "No, I am playing hooky that day." What a great thing to do for yourself.

Playing Hooky. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a nice pile of things to do when my body, mind, and soul need a bit of extra TLC. Heading out with my camera is the quickest de-stresser I know, sitting quietly with a purring Lucy on my lap is pretty blissful, and reading a good book is one of my favourite ways to spend time.

But my super-special way to take care of all of me is to play hooky. To take a day out of my work week and do something frivolous and fun. The grown-up way, of course, which means informing the people I work for that I won’t be in and making sure that everything I need to do is done (or can wait). But once that’s said and done, off I go on a long walk in nature, visiting a museum or the aquarium, or spending time with a friend.

This is not a vacation day, it’s not even the mental health day. Seeing it as playing hooky gives it an extra sense of delicious irresponsibility. And it turns out that that is incredibly healing.

*Be sure to also check out Lene at Health Central and watch her beautiful story in Live Bold Live Now.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Sleep with Kirstin


It's Arthritis Awareness Month! This month I am challenging you to take a little time each day and practice better self-care. Each day in May, I plan to share one simple way you can show yourself some love and appreciation.

On May 1st, I posted  Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Holding Each Other Accountable. I asked how often you ask your friends and family, "What are you doing for self-care?" So, I had to ask those in my self-care community.

Kirsten, from Not Standing Still's Disease and the awesomeness behind Chronic Sex, is a friend from the health community who I first met online and later through advocacy conferences. One of the many things I love about Kirsten is that she observes the positive strengths of others and then skillfully brings people in the health community together. 

Sleep.  I used to fight sleep all the time, up until the last year or so. I have a hard time sleeping at night, but sometimes just pass out earlier in the evening or, now that I work at home, earlier in the day. I’ve stopped doing that, focusing on listening to what my body is telling me. If my body says I need sleep, then I need sleep.

Our bodies straddle this world between functioning and sabotaging itself. It takes so much more energy for it to try and carry out normal functions. Plus, with pain interrupting our sleep, there’s no reason to not take advantage of naps!


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: RADiabetes Gives Us Choices

It's Arthritis Awareness Month! This month I am challenging you to take a little time each day and practice better self-care. Each day in May, I plan to share one simple way you can show yourself some love and appreciation.

On May 1st, I posted  Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Holding Each Other Accountable. I asked how often you ask your friends and family, "What are you doing for self-care?" So, I had to ask those in my self-care community.

Today, I checked in with my friend Rick from RADiabetes. I met Rick at HealtheVoices two years ago and we both participate in Joint Decisions. Rick is someone who does a lot for both the rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes community so I wanted to make sure he is taking care of himself too.  


Choices. I love that Rick has a variety of self-care options ready to go!

1.  Ride my bicycle. Nothing beats the wind blowing in my, well ok, I used to have hair.

2.  Focus on someone else. When I am not feeling so good I strive to remember to help someone else.

3.  Read a great blog. The authors in our community are amazing. I love catching up.

4.  Remember to laugh. If I am. It laughing out loud then something is wrong. Nothing beats a loud laugh to make my life better.

5. Slow down. Most issues that cause me to lose self care involve being too busy. Making time Makes me feel better.

6. Do something silly. I wear crazy bandages to cover up my diabetes devices. My current passion is a blue shark, but dinosaurs and puppy dogs also find their way to my body occasionally.

7. Play cars with my grandchildren. My grandsons love to wreck hot wheel cars, so do I.

8. Join a tea party. My granddaughters love to serve steaming pretend tea and cookies to the adults. It's the zero calorie way to have a good smile.

9. Read. Learning and growing gives me hope that I am not yet obsolete.

10. Go to a movie with my wife.  We love good movies and the popcorn smells are free.

11. Admit to Sheryl I feel bad. Her arms around me have always made my world better.

*Stay tuned to RADiabetes in September when Rick sponsors RABlog Week. It is a great way to connect with others whether you have a blog or not. 


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Visualize Yourself Well

It's Arthritis Awareness Month! This month I am challenging you to take a little time each day and practice better self-care. Each day in May, I plan to share one simple way you can show yourself some love and appreciation.

Visualize yourself well.  When I look back over our family photos, I instantly can tell which pictures were taken when rheumatoid arthritis was playing a huge part in my life and that feeling crawls right back into my memory. It isn't a place I like to visit. Some pictures bring tears of compassion knowing how much pain I was experiencing at the time.

On the other hand, during some of my worst days, I found that when I visualized myself healthy and pain-free, a smile instantly took over to comfort me. 
  • See yourself jumping out of bed without stiff joints
  • Imagine yourself receiving a big hug that nourishes and doesn't hurt you. Soak that hug in.
  • Look at photos of yourself doing the things you love doing not as a pity party but a reminder of days to come.
  • Draw pictures of yourself as the beautiful person you are because truly, you are beautiful and perfect.  
  • Photograph or cut out things you still want to do in life.

Sometimes the pain has been so extreme for so long that we forget who we were and what we did before our illness took over. When that happens, ask for help from your family. Let them guide your memories.

Visualization isn't ignoring the fact that your body has changed but instead is a way of keeping hope that the right treatment hasn't yet been matched with your individual body and that hope still remains. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Spread Good Vibes

It's Arthritis Awareness Month! This month I am challenging you to take a little time each day and practice better self-care. Each day in May, I plan to share one simple way you can show yourself some love and appreciation.

My fourth Life is Good t-shirt!
Spread Good Vibes. It seems that so many of my self-care reminders/tips go back to being kind to others. In The Book of Joy, Archbishop Tutu says, "Generosity is so deeply rooted in us."  

In the book, three types of generosity are described:

  • material giving
  • giving freedom from fear (protections, counseling, and solace)
  • spiritual giving (sharing your wisdom, teaching others, and helping others to be self-sufficient and happier)
As you go out into the world today, spread good vibes. Be generous as you tip for your morning coffee, listen to a friend in need or read a news story with a fresh perspective, and most importantly share your attention, your friendly words, and your smiles. The winds may just blow those kind deeds back at you. 


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Move

It's Arthritis Awareness Month! This month I am challenging you to take a little time each day and practice better self-care. Each day in May, I plan to share one simple way you can show yourself some love and appreciation.

Move. Not every day is a good day to move. Some days we need to recognize our limits and rest. However, when possible, MOVE! 

  • Lots of pain today? Try gently rolling your ankles and wrists as you veg out on Netflix.
  • Stiff but able to get out of bed? Go for a short walk. The sun and wind often change your mood instantly.
  • Not sure how movement will affect you today? Julie, over at It's Just a Bad Day, Not a Bad Life shares some great tips for chair yoga.
  • Feeling like you can take on the world? Go for a bike ride, lift weights, hike, hold hands and skip with your kids. We don't have these days every day so embrace them while you can.    

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Compassion for Yourself

It's Arthritis Awareness Month! This month I am challenging you to take a little time each day and practice better self-care. Each day in May, I plan to share one simple way you can show yourself some love and appreciation.

Compassion for Yourself. Being part of a chronic illness community, we often find ourselves sharing kind words with others who are struggling. We send virtual hugs, healing thoughts and/or prayers, and we let each other know that support is available. We see ourselves through the eyes of our friend who is in pain and try to bring comfort and understanding to them.

But what about yourself? Do you have compassion for yourself? Do you treat yourself as you would a friend? Do you say loving things to yourself and remind yourself to be get the sleep and care you deserve? My guess is "No." We tend to feel angry towards our bodies and are stubborn about continuing life as we did before our symptoms appeared. For some reason, the rules aren't the same as they are for a friend in need.

Today, show yourself compassion. It doesn't mean you are weak. It isn't a luxury. It is a necessity. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Essential Oils

It's Arthritis Awareness Month! This month I am challenging you to take a little time each day and practice better self-care. Each day in May, I plan to share one simple way you can show yourself some love and appreciation.

Essential Oils. On days that I need a little pick-me-up, I turn to essential oils and one of my two diffusers. I have an assortment of scents and let my mood dictate which one I will use. Sometimes I prepare the diffuser before leaving the house so when I return I can instantly get it going.

  • Orange and lemon are motivating as you clean the house
  • Peppermint or Eucalyptus invigorate as you bathe or soothe a sick body
  • Lavender is wonderful as you prepare for bed or sit to read a good book
  • Frankincense, one of my favorites, is known for assisting in relief from stress 
  • Try mixing oils or buying a premixed variety 
  • Essential oils are fabulous in your homemade cleaning products!