Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Make Your Own Self Care Rules

“Be what you are. This is the first step toward becoming better than you are.” -Julius Charles Hare

Running seems to be all the rage lately.

Many of my friends have taken up running just this year.    In fact, more than a dozen of my friends participated in the Seattle Rock N Roll marathon last weekend. This was the first BIG race for many of them.

I don’t run, but I thoroughly enjoyed the victorious comments of my runner friends as they reported crossing the finish line last week.   It was so inspiring to see people working and achieving their goals, and the excitement was just infectious. I am glad that I could be a part of their success- even if it was only in the context of rooting for them and giving them some sincere kudos when they finished. The whole experience made me long to join their rank.

Except for one small, teensy, weensy problem…..I am fairly certain I hate running and won’t be liking it anytime soon.

Over the last two weeks, I have let go of some of the pressures I had been putting on myself to start 5K training. When I run, my feet hurt. I am bored out of my mind. My knees ache. It is just not fun for me.  I don’t enjoy it. End of story.

Instead, I have discovered I am just a damn good walker. I can easily walk 6 miles on a weekday (more if I wasn’t time constrained) and last weekend alone I walked 25 miles in two days! When it comes to the walk….I actually, ROCK!

I am way too stubborn to admit that I can’t do something. I believe strongly that we can accomplish just about anything we put our minds to- someday I may just lace up my shoes and get focused, but for today I am enjoying my walks and I know that it is just as good for me physically.

Do not be too hard on yourself when you are working on your self-care. Self-care should be enjoyable and not difficult or stressful! Make your own rules! Pick the things that you like to do and do a little bit of it every day.  This really is the best way to take good care.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Surround Yourself With Positive, Happy People.

“The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Yet, almost no one gets the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential. If everyone received the encouragement they need to grow, the genius in most everyone would blossom and the world would produce abundance beyond the wildest dreams. We would have more than one Einstein, Edison, Schweitzer, Mother Theresa, Dr. Salk and other great minds in a century.” – Sydney Madwed.

I encountered a little negativity this week when discussing my adventures in Self Care...
To my face:

“Not to be negative….” She began, and I braced myself for what followed, (which would no doubt be very negative) “but, why would anyone listen to you on the subject of Self Care?” (OUCH!)

Behind my back (paraphrased of course):

“Is she suddenly an expert on self care or something?” she asked snidely, “or is this just her current interest, so she feels she has to tell everyone about it”

Hmmm…Do I really feel the need to justify, explain or defend myself here? Not really. I believe in what I am doing, and-really- the amount of positive feedback I have received far outweighs the two negative ones.

Some people are mean. Some people are negative and insecure and a little sad. It doesn’t matter if you are attempting to do solve world hunger or save a few dollars on your grocery bill each week by clipping coupons – everyone has an opinion and invariably those bitter people who have nothing good to say about anything will feel the need to comment.

Fortunately, (or unfortunately, for them) neither of these people know me very well. I have kept them at a distance for reasons that are probably very apparent to you now. When I heard these comments I was initially hurt…I went for a walk….and I put it into the right perspective.

“I am not an expert on self care,” I had told the first critic, “I am learning and I am actually quite average at it…. So, while 50% of women know more than I do, certainly the 50% who don’t know as much can learn along with me, don’t you think?”

I did not address the second person, but I had asked her to lend her talents to my project and I don’t think I need her help anymore.

If you are one of these people: Please recognize that you are not adding anything positive to the world by being negative. Time to look within! What is going on inside that you can’t encourage others to be the best that they can be?

If you have one of these people in your life: Distance yourself. You get to choose who you let into your circle. Choose the positive, happy, loving people who believe in you and you will accomplish amazing things.

Surrounding yourself with positive people is just good self care.

Take Good Care!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Count The Steps and Not The Pounds

“I think of my body as a side effect of my mind.” -Carrie Fisher

Yesterday, Mr Self Care and I got out of bed early to take a 6 mile walk in the park.   I got my exercise clothes on, washed my face and quickly jumped on the scale.  

Much to may dismay...the scale did not budge.   I expected that after walking 42 miles over the last week,  I would see a loss of at least 2lbs.  This seemed like a conservative estimate too.  I took a moment and composed myself, but for the first lap of our walk I was troubled: What do I have to do to lose 2lbs?  (For crying out loud??????)

My answer came- like most answers do- while walking it out.  

This walking program I started two weeks ago has been so good for me in so many ways.   I took a moment to think about the benefits I was already enjoying...
  • I am proud to say that I have walked approximately 90 miles in two weeks.   This is -based on my previous sendentary lifestyle- a whopping 500% increase in activity for me.  
  • Mr Self Care and I are spending quality time together for at least 2 hours every evening.  Talking, holding hands, and just plain enjoying each other's company.
  • My body aches all over, but it is a "good pain" - the kind that comes when you know you have had a good work out!
  • I am in the park, breathing fresh air, enjoying sunshine (when it shows itself) and nature.
  • I have been spending extra time sorting out thoughts and feelings and coming up with some very good solutions and ideas in the process.
  • We have become a bit more aware of our community.   Early weekend mornings, there are several fishing guide companies that launch from the boat launch behind our home (didn't know that!).  Also, I am so to touched by the family time spent in the park.
All this and it seems pretty silly to get worked up over two pounds.  Weight loss is a horrible measure of physical self care.   Too many factors come into play that affect our physical make up.   You cannot rely on the scale; you can only control your activities.   Count the steps you take and not the pounds you lose!  My body feels different - more muscular in places and a little less fat in others- so I know that something in me is shifting.

Perhaps the most important shift, however, is the one I am making in my way of thinking:   Do not get so focused on a particular destination that you overlook the other benefits your journey is providing.

Take Good Care!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

31 Days of Taking Good Care

The best angle from which to approach any problem is the try-angle. ~Author Unknown

A few months back I came across a great little website that offered a challenge called "31 days of Self Care" where participants are challenged to do something nice for themselves every day for a month and blog about it.    I contacted one of the site facilitiators and learned that this event occured in January and that they have a similar challenge each month with different topics like creativity and thankfulness. 

I thought this was a fabulous idea, and decided to create a self care girl version to begin in July.  The self care version looks like this:
  • Set a goal.   It can be anything from walking a certain distance each day of July to spending 20 minutes a day in quiet contemplation.   Maybe you have been meaning to finish a quilt or to clean the garage, your goal may be to spend 30 minutes a day on that.   You get to choose whatever would be most meaningful in your life!
  • Post your goal on the self care girl facebook page before July 1st (Look under discussions tab)
  • Report back each day during July to provide status on your progress.
Studies show that people who write down their goals and tell others about what they are trying to accomplish are more successful in achieving thier goals.   Writing the goal down and announcing it gels your commitment, but the second part of telling others is that it lets other people encourage you and help you be successful.  

Having a daily goal is also important, because it allows you to refocus your energy on the goal each day.   I am currently participating in a program to walk 12,500 steps each day.   That is a lot of steps!  The true goal is to walk almost 500,000 steps in 6 weeks!  If I focus on the 500,000 I will most likely fail.   The 12,500 is definately a challenge, but not so daunting and I am finding it is quite do-able for me.

Another helpful hint: I am sure that most of us have set out with a goal like this:   Lose 10lbs in one month.   The problem with a goal like that it that we don't really have control of a parameter like our weight.  There are many factors that can interfer with weight loss, it is just not a good measure of progress and it can be quite defeating to get on the scale after losing 5lbs only to find that you are up 1lb after working your butt off all week! (Yes I speak from experience.)   Instead I recommend that you focus on a daily action that is within your control:  30 minutes on the Wii or 1 hour walk each evening- both can result in weight loss in the long run- but the activity is your goal and not the weight.  Got it?

Take Good Care!

Friday, June 25, 2010

To Make Real Connections,You Don't Need An I-Phone

“Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention.” – Jim Rohn

While lazing in the hotel pool on our wonderful Kauai vacation last month, Mr. Self Care and I observed a very unfortunate –albeit not uncommon- scenario. A thirty-something couple on vacation together in paradise spending all of their time apart.

We watched as the beautiful blonde (we will call her Barbie) stood leaning against a pool bar table – frou frou drink at her side as she zoned in completely on her I-phone. Her partner (who had a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger: hard not to look at) lounged in a chair at the pool about 20 yards away with his cell phone in hand, also texting.

I would like to believe that they were texting each other, however I am fairly certain they were not! The most unfortunate thing is that during the week we spent at this beautiful hotel in this fabulous piece of paradise, we could always find Barbie and Arnold in about the same configuration. We wondered what memories they would take away from Kauai. It definitely did not look like a restful or romantic vacation for either of them. They seemed busy, distracted, and oblivious to the importance of breaking free from their work (he mentioned that “corporate wanted (him) to call into a meeting”), and from the outside world, to enjoy a really meaningful vacation TOGETHER!

Friday posts are about social self-care. We need people in our lives. Spending quality time with our loved ones is good for our well-being and also one of our most compelling reasons for taking care of ourselves!

It is also a perfect time to employ some spiritual self-care, whereas you put yourself completely in the moment and give the person you are with, and the space you are occupying together, your full and undivided attention.

The person you are with will feel loved and respected and you will gain from a deepened relationship.

A few tips for spending quality time:

• Schedule one on one time. Two is company, three is a crowd.

• Go somewhere where the focus can be on each other. Ball games and movies –while enjoyable experiences- are a bit too distracting for this exercise.

• Turn off your phone! Unplug!

• Employ good listening techniques: eye contact, ask relevant questions to draw out more information, comment, repeat what has been said to ensure understanding.

• Touch. Hold hands, give a hug, pat on the head, give a smooch!.

It seems that in our busy, high –tech, ultra – connected, device driven world we are losing our ability to really connect with others. I challenge you to do something regularly to combat that trend!

Take Good Care!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How to Celebrate Your Senses

"Observe, record, tabulate, communicate. Use your five senses. Learn to see, learn to hear, learn to feel, learn to smell, and know that by practice alone you can become expert." -William Osler

Today is National Celebrate Your Senses Day!

Yesterday was all about "Letting It Go" and today we get to focus on "Letting It In!"

Personally, I think our senses are a great thing to celebrate.   What we bring into our senses take up very little can stockpile as many visions, scents, sounds, textures and tastes as you want and never run out of room (the one caveat may be "tastes" here...but I think you understand my main point!)

How to Celebrate the Senses:

• Stop! (…right where you are, and whatever you are doing!)

• Take a deep breath.

• Ask yourself these questions : 

...What do I see?

Sensual Bonus: Count all the beautiful things. Sometimes this means taking a closer look. Dive into the details! And then look at things from a distance too!

...What do I smell?

Sensual Bonus: Keep a favorite scent around you – perfume, lotion or essential oil. Scented candles are great for this! Also, stop and smell the roses…the lavender…lilacs too!

...What do hear?

Sensual Bonus: Play some classical music at dinner time; throw on some old time rock n roll when you have chores to do. Turn up the radio in your car and sing along loudly. Or, just sit quietly and take in the sounds of life around you.

...What do I taste?

Sensual Bonus: Eat luxuriously! Go slow and enjoy the flavor of your food. Make that chocolate truffle last another 5 minutes. Take some time to appreciate the flavors of natural, unprocessed foods...enjoy a ripe strawberry, an earthy, sweet carrot or a cool watery slice of melon.

...What do I feel?

Sensual Bonus: If you don’t have a favorite soft blanket of your own, or perfectly worn sweater- these I highly recommend. Pet a furry pet. Get a massage! Hugs too- are great ways to feel! Get lots of those!

• Smile and appreciate all your working senses - Our bodies and minds are amazing aren't they?

• Make a conscious effort to repeat this exercise at least once a day.

Happy Celebrate Your Senses Day!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ideas to Celebrate National "Let It Go" Day

“You don't need strength to let go of something. What you really need is understanding.” – Guy Finley

Today is National “Let it go” Day. Here are a few thoughts to inspire you to celebrate!

Some things to let go of:

• Things you don’t have control over and cannot change. This includes other people’s choices and problems and most global issues and disasters.

• Things you don’t need.

• Things you have too many of.

• Old tapes (the ones playing in your head that keep you from being the best you can be!)

• Guilt.

• Things that don’t work. (Ideas, behaviors, habits etc...)

• Negative people.

• Other people’s expectations

• Anything that causes you unhealthy stress

How to let go (the “hard” part):

• Ask “why?” (Why do you feel guilty? Why are you holding onto things you don’t need? Why do you care about this?)

• Express your thoughts and feelings.

• Love unconditionally. (this is a state of “being”, it does not necessarily require action)

• Set limits on your time and energy and money.

• Believe that all of us find our way eventually.

• Organize a space

• Simplify

• Be true to yourself

• Forgive (others and yourself)

• If you have caused harm, apologize and ask how you can repair it, don’t assume it cannot be repaired. We all make mistakes (that shows you are human), ask if you can make it better and then do your best to repair the mistake (that shows character).

• Breathe, walk, meditate, release

I hope that you all end this day feeling a little bit lighter! Happy Let It Go Day!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Self Care Primer: Some Notes on Incorporating Self Care Into Your Life

“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” –Carl Gustav Jung

We have given the six primary areas of self-care individual focus over the last week. The 6 areas are:

• Physical: Taking care of your body.
• Emotional: Honoring your feelings.
• Intellectual / Mental: Expanding what you know.
• Social: Interacting with and loving the people in your life
• Spiritual: Answers the question “Who am I?” includes our purpose and our meaning of life.
• Volitional: Our dreams, goals, plans. What do we aspire to be?

Hopefully, as you were reading these definitions and the “self care primers” over the past week, you were also thinking about what you can do regularly to nurture yourself in each area.   Self Care is a very personal activity.  Choose activities that you enjoy, and don't do things that you don't enjoy.  Easy enough? 

Keep it simple too! The good news is that many things that you do to support one area of self care have positive impact other areas too.

For instance:

• Taking a walk:

o Walking is good for your body (physical).
o Walking alone is a great way to sort out your thoughts and problem solve (emotional and mental).
o Walking with a friend (social)
o Walking in the woods or park on a sunny day, taking in the trees and birds and nature (spiritual)
o Walking as part of a weight loss program (volitional)

It is important to add a caution here as well – support of one area of self care may result in a negative impact on other areas.

• Getting a College Degree:

o College creates opportunities and may be an important step toward your personal dreams (volitional)
o College is a great way to learn new things (mental)
o College is a great place to meet new, positive and motivated people (social)
o College is stressful (emotional, physical)
o College takes up a lot of time- late nights studying and lack of sleep is common. (physical, social)

When you make a decision about taking care of one area of your life, be aware of the positive and negative impacts you may be creating in the other areas of your life. Consider how you may offset the negative by paying some extra attention nurturing those self-care areas that may get neglected.  

If you are going back to college to get a degree, perhaps you will also want to make a daily walk in the park part of your routine!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Self Care Primer: Volitional Self Care

“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.” - Lewis Carroll

Where are you going?

This question is the crux of volitional self care. Wikipedia defines volition as the “cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action”

We all have dreams and wishes and ideals that we strive toward, but there are many reasons why we may not act on them:

• We also have our lives; commitments and responsibilities that interfere with the pursuit of those dreams.

• We don’t know what we want for sure.

• We know what we want, but we don’t know how to get there

• We know how to get there, but for some reason we don’t think we can do it.

• We have tried and failed and haven’t been able to start again.

Whatever your reason…know this:

• Many times our dreams contain the manifestation of our greatest personal gifts. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to take time to explore and to develop these and to share them with the world.

• If you don’t know what you want for sure, allocate time each day (or week) to think about it. Set aside time to dream. Sometimes it helps to think about what you DON”T want first. I also know of many successful people that found their way by revisiting the aspirations of their youth; what did you want to be when you grew up? What did you dream about before all the real life commitments and responsibilities colored your plans? What do you enjoy doing now?

• If you know what you want, but don’t know how to get there: Find a mentor. Talk to someone who is doing what you dream of. Most people who have achieved success are happy to share their stories and give advice. If you can’t find a mentor, ask friends what they would do. Someone will give you the right answer once you send a question out into the universe. Surround yourself with positive people who support and encourage you. Read books on the subject.

• In the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “You must do the thing you think you cannot!” Start with writing down what you want. Put together a road map to get there and take a step. One step will lead to another and before you know it you will be doing things you only imagined. When you challenge yourself to accomplish great things in your life, you grow- whether or not you succeed immediately or fail a hundred times before succeeding. You learn what to do and what not to do, you gain confidence. The key is to start…baby steps!

• Good for you if you have tried and failed! Pat yourself on the back! Successful people will tell you that they almost always fail more times than they succeed. It is how they find their way through uncharted territory. You tried! Do you know how many people don’t even do that??? Now, ask yourself, “What happened?” Revise your approach and try again. Do not let a failure keep you from attaining your goal!

Take some time to dream and plan!  "Becoming" is good self care.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Self Care Primer: Spiritual Self Care

“Flowers do not force their way with great strife. Flowers open to perfection slowly in the sun.... Don't be in a hurry about spiritual matters. Go step by step, and be very sure.” – White Eagle

Who are you and what are you doing here?

An exploration of what spirituality is begins within how you answer these questions. You can see that there are as many right answers as there are people to answer them. Spirituality is complex and it is a very personal thing.

Spiritual Self Care is about fostering a positive perception of your purpose and meaning of life.

This broad definition encompasses belief in a higher power, our morals and values, nature, self-awareness, faith, hope, love, grace, and any other personal connections we have to the world around us.

Our spirituality is important because it dictates many of the decisions we make in life and it plays a huge part in our feelings of well-being. Preconceived notions of our personal abilities and limitations are often factored in when we make big life decisions. Our choices are also determined by religion, social mores, our connection with nature, our previous life experiences, the knowledge we gather over time and our personalities.

Here are some ways that people practice good spiritual self-care:

• Being open to different cultures and religions

• Giving your time to volunteer or participate in community service activities

• Spending time defining personal values and ethics and making decisions that complement them

• Spending time alone in personal reflection

• Participating in spiritual activities

• Participating in activities that protect the environment

• Caring about the welfare of others and acting out of that care

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Self Care Primer: Social Self Care

“Enjoying the joys of others and suffering with them - these are the best guides for man” –Albert Einstein

Can you imagine what the world would be like if you were the only person in it?

“Lonely” and “meaningless” are the two words that come to my mind when I try to fathom that scenario. The thought causes me a little bit of panic too, as I consider what I would do if I didn’t have my husband or my son or the other important people in my life whom I care for and who care for me.

Ultimately, our relationships-other people- give our lives purpose.

Social self-care is about the nurturing and growth that we derive from our relationships with others. It is about our contribution to the lives of those we are committed to and responsible for and what benefit we bring to our communities and society.

It is about quality. On the whole, all humans have value and are worthy of our consideration, but good social self-care dictates that we discern between those who bring real value and meaning to our lives and those who detract from it. The quality of people we bring into our close personal circle matters!

People who practice good social self-care surround themselves with people who contribute positively to their lives. In turn, they share their own gifts that convey love, encouragement, validation as they seek to make the world a better place in which to live.

A few tips for practicing social self-care:

• Ultimately, social self-care starts with being comfortable with and liking yourself as a person. The more respect and value you have for yourself, the more you will be able to discern and attract others who possess the same qualities and the more beneficial your gift will be to others

• Surround yourself with positive, healthy people who validate you! Limit the time you spend with people who do not!

• Get involved in your community – volunteer!

• Make sure that you spend time with the people you love – make them your priority. Make sure they know how you feel about them.

• Encourage others to follow their dreams, to try again if they fail, and applaud their accomplishments.

• Assume good intentions. Believe that the majority of people in the world are good and mean well.

• Set healthy boundaries. Saying ‘no’ or asking for help when commitments or people overwhelm you is okay!

• Expose yourself to the influences of a wide variety of people. Open yourself to the views of different cultures, ages and belief systems.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Self Care Primer: Intellectual Self Care

“All of the top achievers I know are life-long learners... Looking for new skills, insights, and ideas. If they're not learning, they're not growing... not moving toward excellence.” – Denis Waitley

Mental (or intellectual) Self Care is all about getting energized by intellectually stimulating activities.

It may seem quite obvious that using your brain is good for you. It is something that you practice on some level every minute of every day. Like now, for instance, as you read this blog- you’re using brainpower to gather information, process it and to decide whether or not it is useful to you… (Or just fluff – LOL!).

Mental Self Care, however, requires a little more effort than what we naturally expend as we go about our daily lives. It is more than just the unconscious drone of our brains as we intake, sift, & react over to all we encounter in the course of our day. That is what we refer to as “just going through the motions”. Fortunately, most of us seek more out of life than being like a machine, and this is where mental self care comes in.

People, who practice good intellectual self care, generally do the following things:

• Seek knowledge. They explore subjects that interest them in depth.

• Seek a wide variety of learning experiences. They read, write, attend classes, discuss, debate and explore topics from multiple angles.

• They are observant of what is around them, mindfully employing all of their senses

• They listen.

• They find ways to apply what they learn

• They stay current with what is happening in the world an in their communities.

• They seek new experiences (e.g. travel, theater, arts)

The most important benefit of healthy intellectual self care is that it not only expands our minds, but it also grows our options. It makes us more capable, more creative, and it also increases our uniqueness as individuals. No two people know exactly the same things! What you know shapes who you are.

Exercise: What interests you? What are you currently exploring? Carve out time each day to read, or to explore something that interests you. Use all of your senses. Challenge yourself to take occasionally take an opposing viewpoint.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Self Care Primer: Emotional Self Care

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” ~Dale Carnegie

Did you know that every thought a woman has goes through the emotional part of her brain? It’s true! Men do not possess this same wiring.

This is not to say that women cannot be logical and concrete at times and it does not mean that men are always unemotional, it is simply evidence that our ways of thinking are different and do stem from a physiological basis. Also, one is not better than the other. There are times when an objective decision is needed and times when we should definitely be guided by our feelings.

Women’s biology makes us excellent caretakers and community builders. We are blessed with compassion and a strong sense for making connections and building relationships with others.

So, what is emotional self care?

Emotional self care is about feelings. It includes listening to your feelings, asking for what you need, and allowing yourself to express your thoughts in ways that are healthy and beneficial. It also includes receiving validation from others and being able to self-validate. Part of emotional self care is acceptance of your gifts; your uniqueness and individuality. All this sounds very simple, but it really is not always easy for most of us.

One of the challenges that we face as women is that sometimes we experience several feelings at once and it is difficult to discern exactly what we feel. We also may not know exactly what we need at a given moment. Emotional self care tools – like writing and walking and talking it out with a girlfriend can be very helpful.

There are other times where we know what we feel and need, but choose to not communicate these things. We have many reasons for doing this, we may be concerned about someone else’s feelings, we may be afraid of making someone angry- or getting angry ourselves. We may not want to be a burden on others, or we may think that someone cannot help. Emotional self care is about communicating. Stuffed feelings cause illness, and even though you think you are superwoman, you simply cannot do everything.

It is also true; sometimes our feelings are triggered by hormones. One day – or one week- out of every month, everything seems intensified and we just don’t deal well with other human beings. I personally experience one day a month where Mr. Self Care – poor guy- needs to stand clear or risk becoming the target of my mood swings. I cannot help it. Good emotional self care is about accepting that and communicating what you need: “It is not you…it’s me…I need some space today.”

Some great emotional self care tools:

• Chick Flicks! I think this is because these movies are validating, emotional and many times fantastical…watching is just good emotional exercise.

• Communication skills. For many of us this takes training and practice. Standing up for yourself and speaking your mind when it is called for is important to keeping negative stress out of your life.

• Girlfriends. Being able to talk things out and have your feelings, ideas and person validated is so important.

• Bubble baths, meditation and walking – calming activities that help you tune out and think are great for getting your head together.

• Writing. Getting thoughts down on paper and out of your head is a great way to sort them out.

• Exercise, Sleep and eating right. Physical self care. Exercise causes your body to release endorphins which create a positive mood. Eating healthy and getting lots of sleep keep you healthy and hormonally balanced.

Assignment: Think about emotional self care. Are there ways that you can incorporate or improve upon your current practices?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Self Care Primer – Physical Self Care

“Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live.” Jim Rohn

Physical self care is all about taking care of your body.

Some basic needs of physical self care are regular movement, good nutrition, fresh air, refreshing sleep and intimate touch.

Regular movement: Exercise impacts your health in so many ways. Did you know that your lymph system does not have a pump on it? Your lymph system is crucial for good immunity and it relies upon your physical movements to operate effectively. Also when you exercise, your body releases endorphins which give you a happier, more positive, outlook. It is recommended that you engage in a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise each day. Find activities that you enjoy and make them a regular part of your routine.

Good nutrition: The first rule of thumb here is simply to EAT! Do not skip meals. Food is your body’s fuel source- you NEED calories to function. To maintain a good metabolic rate, research shows you should eat every 3-4 hours. The second food rule is to eat a wide variety of quality food. Did you know that many of the ingredients in our processed food supply are foreign to our body? While your digestive system recognizes proteins and carbohydrates and fats, it gets a bit confused when we ask it to process ammonium acetate and Yellow #5. It is recommended that you eat food which is as unprocessed as possible. You should eat mostly complex carbohydrates and about a third of your diet should be lean protein.

Fresh Air: Rain or shine, it is important to spend a little time outside inhaling! Nothing smells better than fresh clean air after a rainstorm and the Vitamin D you get from the sun is the kind your body likes best.

Refreshing Sleep: I read recently that your body goes through 7 different stages of sleep, and that it needs a full cycle of each of these stages to recharge completely. One great bit of advice I got recently was to set the alarm for bedtime. Give yourself 8 hours, although most of us do well on about 7.5 hours.

Intimate Touch: Humans are social creatures; physical contact is a basic need. A recent study showed that women can lower their blood pressure by having their partner massage their neck for just 15 minutes (without sexual intent-which will most likely have the opposite effect.) Hugs are good for you too!

Self Care Exercise:  Take some time to consider ways that you might incorporate physical self care practices into your life each day. Small changes can have significant impacts when applied regularly.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Zen of Gardening

Plants give us oxygen for the lungs and for the soul. ~Linda Solegato

I have spent the weekend in the garden, pulling weeds and trimming up hedges, making everything tidy and neat.  Digging in the dirt is meditative to me and it does my heart good to create outdoor spaces that are restful and reflective.  

Here are some pictures from our front garden and one from our back deck...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sunshine Makes Me Happy

“May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day. May songbirds serenade you every step along the way. May a rainbow run beside you in a sky that's always blue. And may happiness fill your heart each day your whole life through.” -Irish Blessing

Finally we got some summer-like weather today!  I don't know about you but I have really been needing some sun!   One can only keep up a positive outlook during a record rainy June spell for so long!

Sunshine is incredibly good for the soul!   The light and warmth are mood-lifting, and people just seem friendlier on sunny days.   We got out in the garden today to weed and take an inventory of the state of our plants.  Pulled out our umbrella and patio furniture for lunch and listened and watched a softball tournement from our back patio.   There was a lot of summer noises all around.   Today just had "summer is finally here!" written all over it.

One of the most interesting things about the sun is that it is also very good for your body!  We hear a lot these days about the evils of sun exposure, and I think not enough about the benefits.   The sun is actually our best and biggest source of vitamin D.   Studies show that vitamin D is essential for building and maintaining healthy bones and muscles.  Deficiencies have been linked to various cancers, osteoporosis, heart disease and multiple sclerosis- just to name a few!  

You can get vitamin D from eating salmon or drinking fortified milk, but unlike dietary or supplementary vitamin D, the sunshine variety is better processed by our bodies which take what it needs, and de-metabolizes any extra. That’s critical, because too much ‘D’ from dietary supplements may cause the body to over-process calcium and nobody really knows for sure how much supplementary vitamin D is safe.

90 percent of the vitamin D we make comes naturally from sunlight exposure to our skin.  YOU NEED SUNLIGHT.  Just 10-15 minutes of sunbeam exposure a day is enough to replenish (If you skin is darker it may take another 5-10 minutes more than that to do the trick)    

Wearing sunblock (min 25 SPF) is still recommended and very smart self care- the good news is that Vitamin D is sunblock proof! 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Self Care Girl's Day Off!

 “The best cure for an off day is a day off” - Frank Tyger

I took a sick day from work today...(mostly because I am a bit sick of going there.)  =)

While I am certain that is not what the Board of Directors had in mind when sick leave was established, you will not find me making any apologies or excuses. I work hard and I get burned out easily.  When I need a day off to get my head straight,  I take it.
This blog is about self care, and good self care means sometimes taking a mental health day.

So today, when Mr Self Care kissed me goodbye and headed off to his cubical, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

I slept in. I did my morning yoga. I ate a healthy breakfast.  I am contemplating not getting out of my pajamas today.  And really I am already feeling much better.

If you have not taken a mental health day in a while (or ever) I highly recommend it.

Here is the secret Self Care Girl technique for taking a much needed mental health day from three short steps:

  1. Choose a day when you are not likely to impact work too badly. Nobody is going to do your work for you- it will be there when you return...unless, of course, you work in an environment where someone will have to fill in for you- in which case you must return the favor on the first opportunity that presents itself. (that is only fair). If you have kids- get a sitter (unless spending the day with the kids will be beneficial to your mental state). If you do NOT  have the optimal "light" day in your work week to choose from , then might I suggest that your need for a mental health day is more critical than you think. The best time to take a break is when you don't think you have time for one!
  2. Email your boss ( this is the best form of communication for slipping under the radar). A quick and honest "I won't be in today, I am taking sick leave " in the subject line is all that is required. Avoid making excuses and don't send a message in the body of the email! Short and sweet is your aim. If you were really sick you wouldn't feel like explaining yourself right? So don't. Tomorrow, just tell anyone who seems to care (only those who ask fit in this catagory) that you are feeling much better after getting some much needed rest.
  3. This day is all about you...It is not a day to catch up on housework or pay bills. Instead, sleep in a little late, go for a walk, mediate, meet a girlfriend for coffee, engage in your favorite hobby, take a bubble bath, read a good book.
Mental Health Days are good for you!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

W1, D2 C25K

Week 1, Day 2 Couch Potato to 5K

Took my shoes off part way through- my right knee and foot were aching- felt better running barefoot.  I am thinking about making it my own personal style!

Time: 27.00
Distance: 1.403m
Kcalories: 133
Walking speed: 3.0
Running speed:3.5

12,500 Steps A Day to a Better YOU!

My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-three today and we don't know where the hell she is. ~Ellen DeGeneres

Do you know how many steps you actually take every day? (I didn’t.)

Walking is great exercise- I actually find it quite tolerable. So, when my company announced a walking challenge recently, I didn’t hesitate to sign up.

The challenge runs from June 14 through July 25. You commit to walking a certain number of steps each day and at the end you get a t-shirt, entry into a drawing and, hopefully, a greater appreciation for walking. There are 4 different options provided when determining how many steps you will accomplish each day, and they throw in a great little pedometer for good measure!

Because I didn’t know for sure how many steps I take during any given day, I (naturally) chose the highest level: 12, 500. No one can accuse me of being a lightweight (er...I mean, when it comes to challenges- I usually do not do things in small ways.) but I sometimes jump in head first on these things without truly understanding the gravity of the situation and I did not really think that 12, 500 was excessive….

…Until yesterday, when I walked a whopping 1771 steps ALL DAY. That is 10,729 steps short of my daily commitment for this challenge. While I think yesterday was NOT typical (I am sedentary, but not THAT sedentary!), this does tell me that 12, 500 is a helluva lot of steps. I am now struggling with my decision to stay in this category, but on the other hand -I think it will be good for me to at least try.

Today I decided to pick things up a notch. I wanted to see if I could find ways to increase my walk time…only I proceeded to lose my pedometer before my lunchtime walk. (It was recovered by one of my co-workers later in the day.)

I considered a few options for getting in steps!

1. Walk in the morning before work (means getting up early though- ugh)

2. Walking over to talk to people rather than sending an email. (time consuming, but good for building rapport)

3. Walk at lunch (I used to do this and quite like it.)

4. Take more breaks during the day (already do this –getting up to walk every hour)

5. Walking in to office from furthest parking lot (this can easily be 10 – 20 minutes each way)

6. Walking at home after dinner with hubby.

7. My normal C25K run can count towards steps.

I am going to give this a go tomorrow - see I can't come close.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Not On A Diet....Just Eating Better

“The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook” –Julia Childs

Diets do not work. 

I am not sure what does.   I struggle with my own weight, so I am probably the last person that you will want to take advice from on this subject.

This is what I am doing:
I am eating healthy, wholesome foods.  Trying to focus on unprocessed, organic as much as possible- because I do like the idea of that.   I am also increasing strength and aerobic exercise- which I don't like so much, but I am doing it because I know I NEED to.  These are tried and true approaches we have all been told are key to weight loss, but I am also experimenting with a couple of new ideas:

Have a compelling reason. This is not about getting skinny for the “upcoming Caribbean cruise in the spring” or to “fit in that size 2 wedding dress by August”. This is more long-term. I am getting older – the nest is empty, the bank account is stable- there is nothing stopping me from getting out and travelling and enjoying life- except that I don't have the energy that I should have for someone my age. I want to be healthy and have the power to maintain this new lifestyle!

Keep moving. My job is the type where- if I am not mindful of it- I could easily spend most of my working hours sitting and hunched over a keyboard. My rule is not to sit for more than an hour. Every 60 minutes I am getting up and walking for 10 to 15 minutes. At home- each evening- Mr. Self Care and I are limiting our computer time and getting active together- walking, wii-ing, running on treadmill. I have also joined a work program that encourages walking and there are classes on site and during work hours for stretching and stability ball training.

Zero Deprivation. I am adding to my life and not taking anything a way.  I am not starving myself, but I am not overeating either. When you think of food as fuel -quality and quantity are important.   Eat what you need.   And as for Chocolate... Dark chocolate actually contains a nutrient that is good for you! I am allowing myself a square if I really want it- so far I haven’t. I am slowly finding acceptable substitutes for or limiting things that I love that I know are not good for me. I am not changing everything at once though either!  Still having my one cup coffee in the morning, just substitued my late morning one with green tea.

Knowledge is power. Understanding how your body reacts to certain foods and what your body needs to work optimally is really powerful for fuelling a healthy lifestyle. I have been reading about how the body produces insulin and realize that I need to keep my levels lower and consistent throughout the day- this means watching sugar intake. (which is probably why I have been resisting chocolate so easily- I know what the sugar in it does to me)

Forgiveness. My previous attitude was that I had to do things all the way or not at all. So the second I fell off of a healthy routine it would be all over for me. I am anticipating that I will step off (not fall off) at times and giving myself permission to do this. I don’t have to be perfect, but I do have to be persistent.

I will let you know how this new plan goes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Just Doin' It - (WK 1, Day 1 Couch to 5K)

“The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that's when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.” -John C, Maxwell

This is my 3rd attempt at the Couch Potato to 5K training program- a 9 week running regime that takes you from Point A (sedentary chair sitter) to Point B (powerful 5K running queen).   The first time I did this, I made it to week 7 and decided that running is not for me.    The second time I only got to week 5.   My goal this time is to finish (but I have a secret goal to just not keep moving backwards- must get past week 5!)

I feel like I have an awful decision to make each day: Exercise, or don't exercise.   Followed by another really terrible decision:  morning or evening.    In the morning I am too tired.    In the evening I am too tired.  But if a workout is going to happen, it will happen in the evening.   I cannot be coaxed out of bed in the morning to do a workout.   I wish I was that dedicated.   I am not.

Forgive my negativity here- I am usually a very positive person, but running on a treadmill is ranked right up there under toilet cleaning on my list of "tasks that put me in a foul mood". (at least until the endorphines kick in- which btw has never happened to me while wielding a toilet brush.)

So in the evening, when I get home from work, I immediately put on my exercise clothing and get started with the Couch to 5K training before I have too much time to think about it.   There is definately enough thinking that is going on when I am in the middle of it.

Thoughts going through my head when I am on the treadmill:
  • Ugh. Lets get this over with.
  • Good music
  • Why am I doing this again? it is obvious that I am not a runner.
  • OMG! I hate this!
  • How about a little positive attitude? (followed by a few minutes of trying to find something immediately positive about it)
  • maybe if I focus on something else
  • maybe if I just focus on the movement itself
  • my feet hurt
  • I wonder at what point people who run decide that they love running.
  • I wonder if I will ever love running
  • I need to get a hold of Dr Doug and get some new orthotics.  
  • Something in my shoe doesn't feel right
  • Can't run to this song...need to update MP3
  • Halfway there
  • You can do this.  (do I detect a few enforphins here?)
  • How am I going to be ready for 5k by end of July - not enough weeks to complete the C25K - will have to do this every other day rather than 3 times a week.
  • Maybe I would like this better if I did it outide.
  • I doubt it.
  • I am hungry
  • My feet hurt
  • The first week of this is not so just isn't fun.
  • a little bit more
  • I need better music...and something interesting to look at.
  • and STOP!  (Thank you, Jesus!)
Week 1, Day 1 Stats.

Time: 25.00
Walk pace: 3.0
Run pace: 3.5
Incline: 0
Distance: 1.297 milesk
kcalories burned: 123

Friday, June 4, 2010

Girlfriend Time is Good For You!

Friendship isn't a big thing - it's a million little things. ~Author Unknown
My mother posted this article last week on her blog,   I thought it was relevant to self care and asked her if I might re-post it here.   Enjoy!

.. I just finished taking an evening class at Stanford. The last lecture was on the mind-body connection--the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends. At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.

Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality "girlfriend time" helps us to create more seratonin--a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings?--rarely. Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters, and evidently that is very good for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.

There's a tendency to think that when we are "exercising" we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged--not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking! So every time you hang out to shmooze with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health! We are indeed very very lucky. Sooooo let's toast to our friendship with our girlfriends. Evidently it's very good for our health.
Mia Simmons, EFT Cert-1, ADV
Certified Practitioner

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Smelly Things...

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth. ~Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

There are many fragrances that trigger memories for me.   Lilacs on a hot sunny day alway remind me of my first little apartment.  They grew along the walkway in a hedge at the sunny front entrance of the building. 

Fresh tomatoes remind me of summer; fresh baked cookies remind me of fall, Old Spice reminds me of my Grandpa Chris and Lavendar makes me think of my son.

I am not a huge lover of perfumes, I prefer natural scents: citrus, roses, almond, vanilla, and spice.

Fresh baked scents, like apple pie, gingerbread and chocolate cake comfort me. 

My BFF stayed with us for a month and she turned our guest room into her space - it never smelled better than it did when she was here.   The first time I walked into the room it brought back memories of growing up with her.   Just a soft, clean and warm floral scent. 

What a wonderful way to leave a mark on the world!  To have a signature scent- a wonderful smell that lingers and reminds people of you.   I am going to have to experiment with this!

On my way to work today I decided to practice just being in the moment.   I left my cell phone in my purse, turned off the radio and just drove.

The best way I have found to get centered is to engage your senses.   What do you see? hear? feel? smell?  I encourage you to try this.  

BTW:  All I could smell was coconut lotion from Kauai. It did make me happy.  = )

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Something Tells Me This Is Not My Dream Job

“Life is a sum of all your choices.” - Albert Camus

This just has wrong written all over it!