6 Self-Care Strategies to Support Yourself through Stressful Times
What a year! It's been a rough one in many aspects of my life. I know for many of you too that many areas of your life have been impacted as well by the massive disruption and uncertainty that 2020 brought us.
It has been hard, I know.
We have coped, managed and here we are today. But how are we really doing? HOW have we been doing?
As we approach the end of 2020, it might be a good time to check-in and perhaps adopt ways to help ourselves continue to move through these times.
Today, I'm sharing with you what's helped me through these stressful times in the hopes that one or more of these strategies support you too.
I've been putting into practice these 6 simple mindfulness techniques & self-care habits.
1-Awareness of Thoughts: Noticing my thoughts and reminding myself that I AM NOT MY THOUGHTS.
Our thoughts are not facts. It's easy to get caught up in our running narrative and start believing what we tell ourselves. Inner critics get loud, we tell ourselves lies, we get anxious, stressed, etc.
We can slow this down and notice our thoughts simply by saying in our mind, "I notice that I am thinking _______ fill in the blank". For example, when my anxiety about work or relationships get the best of me, I say to myself, "I am noticing that I am thinking about things that haven't happened yet and there is no evidence that they will" or "I am aware that I am thinking about my work/my relationship".
Another way to approach this is when you are feeling high emotions, you can notice these emotions and say in your mind for example, "I am noticing I am feeling anxious" or "I am noticing that my body feels tense". This space between you and your thoughts is the pause you can use to build self-awareness and help to settle those anxious feelings (regulate your nervous system). This is part of building stress resilience; being able to notice your thoughts and have that pause in time to make better choices and respond in ways that align with your values.
2-Gratitude-Taking time throughout the day to appreciate the little things simply by being grateful for what we have, what is our lives, who is in our lives, what is around us, etc.
This practice is easily injected throughout the day. Noting what you appreciate, the small things that make your life easier, that give you joy, that make you feel loved, etc. Try it! Look for things, experiences, people, etc. you are grateful for. You can practice this simply in your mind or by writing in a journal.
3-Practicing non-judgement: This applies to myself and others. This truly is an ongoing practice for me as I'm always catching myself (inner critic) and reframing my thoughts. I'm also working on non-judging others. Self-compassion for myself and others is the key to spreading kindness and when you are spreading kindness there is no room for judgement. I think we can all benefit from adding that into our days.
1-Honoring my Body: Stretching daily is a priority for me. My body needs and wants to be stretched. Ask your body what it needs and needs and start building that into your routine so it can become a self-care habit. This is a great way to not only honor your body's needs but also to build body respect. Sometimes honoring my body also includes lowering the intensity of my workout of choice for the day too. Check in with your body and notice what is best for it in the moment rather than try to force it to do what you had planned. When you honor your body, you are learning to tap into its wisdom and learn to trust it. This process is practicing body respect as I referred to before, this is paramount to moving towards body acceptance.
2-Meditation: I know we are all busy. I don't know anyone that isn't busy, do you? So fitting in ONE MORE THING on my to-do list, especially sitting and doing nothing but breathing is hard to convince anyone to do.
BUT meditation has so many evidence-based benefits such as improved sleep, reduced anxiety and depression, increased concentration and productivity, the list is really long! I suggest starting with 2 minutes, then build up to 5 minutes. Try first thing in the morning and if that doesn't align with your morning routine, try meditating during your bedtime routine and see how that feels for you.
I used to think I had to meditate for 20 minutes for it to "work" or "count". I learned differently, thankfully after some research and professional training. I started with 2 minutes and now have a regular practice of 5 minutes at bedtime and that works for me. Over the years, I have had a meditation practice but it wasn't consistent and I think it was because of the pressure and expectation I put on myself about how long I "thought" I HAD to meditate. I also was trying to meditate in the morning and it wasn't working for me and it took me a long time to shift it to my bedtime routine right before I lay down to go to bed.
Find out how meditation fits best in your life. It's worth figuring out. I wrote a blog post about meditation and included a 2-minute meditation for you to start with, written and recorded by yours truly. Let me know what you think about it, reply to this blog and share your thoughts. I welcome all your feedback. Here is the link:
3-Writing: Whether it's in a journal, on your phone, computer or on post-it notes, writing out your thoughts, questions, struggles, challenges beliefs and goals is a powerful habit.
I find it incredibly helpful to have a journal and pen on my nightstand. I use it almost nightly to jot notes in. Sometimes they are really insightful and other times simply keywords to some ideas I have, other times, pages of writing about a problem I'm working through or maybe I even write a poem as a way to sort through my thoughts.
Writing helps to get your thoughts out of your head so you can see them and sift through them and begin to make sense of them. As for writing down your goals, THIS is a powerful practice. Studies show that those who write down their goals are 40% more likely to achieve them! I think that is pretty compelling, don't you? Give me a YES in the comments if you agree.
I hope these 6 strategies are helpful for you. Stress can be very powerful and create a lot of rigidity in our lives and bodies. It can cause us to try to gain control and feel at unease in our lives and until a "release valve" is turned on we don't even realize the grip stress has on us.
Awareness is a good thing. I'm so grateful to have had the experiences I have had this year even though many of them have been trying.
I believe brighter days are ahead for us all.
Focus on Hope, Strength, & Love.
Breathe deeper, take care of your mind and body and each other.
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