Thursday, September 15, 2016

Blog-Tember Day 16 | My Top 9 Self-Care Practices

Today's Prompt: How you de-stress/take care of yourself?

I absolutely love this prompt! If you know me you know how much I advocate for self-care. It's something I'm always assessing for in my clients. I think everyone can benefit from it but I do believe that the more chronic stress you're under (and especially if you've experienced trauma) the more necessary it is. I do not think self-care is a luxury only the wealthy and privileged should experience; I think everyone needs to learn how to self-soothe and care for one's heart, mind and body in times of great stress.

Ignoring our needs has some pretty serious side effects such as sleep exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition along with high levels of cortisol in the brain. Cortisol is considered the stress hormone. Unfortunately too much of it can cause all kinds of problems from lowering our immune systems, causing anxiety and depression. When the levels become bumped up, the adrenal glands become exhausted and we are at risk for Adrenal Fatigue among many other not-so-fun health problems.

I know that in a lot of cultures and communities it's considered selfish, indulgent and lazy to practice self-care but let me tell you something IT IS THE OPPOSITE. 

Practicing self-care is one the most generous things you can do for your family, friends and world. 

Rather than engaging in life from a self-depleted place you can bring your energized self because you've taken care of you. And if this isn't enough for you to consider and you like science and research, I'll let you know that mental health professionals recommend taking at least 20 minutes a day to incorporate some type of self-care. Since I'm a Marriage and Family Therapist, I am also considered a mental health professional (heheheh) and I would say if you've never done self-care start with 20 minutes but make your goal 30 minutes to 1 hour every day.  There are 24 hours in a day and we can certainly "sacrifice" an  hour to re-charge our batteries.

Okay enough about that! I need to talk about my 9 ways I take care of myself.

Flowers just help. If I go wildflower picking I can breathe in fresh air and nature while exploring all the colors flowers have to offer. If I'm not near where wildflowers roam #hellourbanjungle I head to Trader Joes. For me, just having a vase of flowers in my house brightens my space.

Yes, I merged two self-care practices together but honestly yoga really helped me implement deep breathing into my every day life. If I'm feeling stressed or having lots of body pain I try to pick up a Gentle Yoga Class down the street at our local yoga studio. If I don't want to pay for it, I head on over to Yoga with Adriene and do one of the free videos she offers. She is so funny and knowledgeable.

Since getting our puppy, Lenny I cannot imagine life without him. I remember fondly the days where I would go up to complete strangers in our neighborhood just to pet their dogs. I dog-sat all my friend's fuzzy friends as well. Now I'm so glad I have a funny little Lenny waiting for me whenever I get home. There is something so calming about watching him curl up in a ball, breathe deeply and fall fast asleep.

When I get my hands moving my stress level immediately goes down. Repetitive motions like knitting can actually decrease anxiety according to research. I don't knit but I do paint, color, create homemade cards and I LOVE washi tape. I love going to Target and finding a new colorful washi tape to create something fun with.

Going out into nature is the big exhale for me. I grew up in the Midwest on 30 acres of land so getting outside into space is so innate for me. I love feeling the texture of leaves and feeling the breeze. I like the smell of the earth after a big rain. I love going to the beach when it's empty, cool and cloudy. I get so excited to watch the sunset with Scott and Lenny on the bay. I feel free when I sit in front of a Minnesota lake and watch it's serene glassy mirror look back at me. I love roaming and hiking through the woods in Yosemite where I feel completely infused with all the magic the forest holds. This summer I spent so much time in nature, and it filled me in a way that is really indescribable. As Emerson says, "Look deep in nature and then you will understand everything better". I may go my whole day unaware of God's presence but when I step into fresh air and inhale nature I am suddenly made aware. (Genesis 28:16 makes me think of this)

I am a light kind of girl and by that I mean bring me all the candles and night lights and moons and stars and twinkly things. Lighting candles is a way I self-soothe my stress. Right now I have a little pumpkin sitting happily on my bookshelf. It only took one little battery and now I have a cozy Jack-o-Lantern grinning at me. I love finding soft mood lighting and holiday themed night lights. I adore paper lanterns. lamp posts and white lights wrapped around palm trees.

This year I picked up a gold polka-dot planner that I'm frankly quite obsessed with. #thanksamazonprime Planners help me schedule in self-care time. Sometimes when it's so busy and chaotic it's overwhelming to squeeze one more thing BUT I know that this one thing will help me manage the busy and chaos so much better. I schedule deep tissue massages or just block out an hour to get a pedicure or head to Target to browse. I schedule my girl time+ friend time+ date nights because in the midst of too much to do and chronic hustle I want to make sure I'm making time for what really matters; my people.

I mean you knew this was coming right?! Books are my happy place. Reading has been shown to lower your heart rate and reduce muscle tension! The act of visualization something else (especially when it's positive) can really benefit the whole person. I don't read horror books or dark depressing books because I don't think it would help me in the self-care category. I like reading self-help, marriage and family therapy, humor, children's literature, memoirs, and cheesy Christian fiction. #likereallycheesy

I know I know...the research does not bode well for me when it comes to de-stressing and caffeine. However it is part of my morning rhythm  that I savor so much. Read more about why not to give up your beloved coffee here.

That's all! What do you guys do for self-care? Can't wait to hear!


  1. Wonderful! Yes to all nine suggestions! Planning ahead is such a fabulous way to make sure you take care of you, I haven't ever done that. Deliberately set aside time for me ahead of time, generally when I go sit in front of my beloved calming beach canvas I'm already feeling stressed or very drained. How much better to ward these awful feelings off rather than try to deal with them when they've already struck. This is such a wonderful post Heather, thank you for sharing, huggles always xxx

  2. I totally agree with all of these! I bought some fresh flowers at the store today and they've made me so happy!