Refill Your Cup with Self-Care Genuine, sustained self-care is an art. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/rss.xml Letting Go https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_13243/ Fri, 16 Mar 2018 10:03:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_13243/ I hope you are enjoying some warmer days and sunshine. With the official start of spring just a few days away, I would like to discuss the idea of letting go of what no longer serves you. Spring is a time of renewal, of planting new seeds. In efforts to make way for the newness of the season (physically, mentally and emotionally), it may be necessary to let go of a thing or two.

What needs to be released will be different for everyone. This may be a habit, behavior, negative thought pattern or emotion. When we take the time to assess, we often find some of the choices we make in life provide temporary satisfaction, yet really do not align with our higher goals.

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us probably have something in our lives we could let go. For some this may be releasing judgmental thoughts, for others it may be finally shredding all that old paperwork, it may even be a toxic relationship in your life that needs to end.

Things may not change overnight; sometimes a gradual release serves us best. Either way, if you have identified something in your life which no longer serves you, consider some of the following to help facilitate the process:

  • Journaling
  • Spending time in nature
  • Writing positive affirmations
  • Practicing breath work

I welcome each and every one of you to begin preparing your own personal soil so that it may be healthy, rich and fertile as you begin planting those new spring seeds. I think of it as spring-cleaning for the soul!

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Happy Now Year! https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_13107/ Fri, 05 Jan 2018 07:55:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_13107/ Happy 2018! I hope the new year finds you happy and healthy. One of my yoga teachers shared that a friend of hers had wished her a "Happy NOW Year". This was her friends way of reminding her of the importance of being in the now, or in the present moment.

Keeping ourselves in the present is of course challenging for many reasons including the pressure to multitask and constantly being barraged by new information via technology. The new year is a perfect time to set an intention to be more mindful.

I personally feel I fall in and out of mindfulness several times throughout my day. I may start with the best of intentions, yet as soon as emails and texts start flooding in while I am preparing for my next class or meeting, I can easily find myself outside of the present moment.

Like many things in life (eating healthy, exercise, self-compassion), staying in the present moment is a practice. One exercise you might try when you find yourself feeling scattered or overwhelmed, is to choose one task you do on a daily basis and just try to be in the moment during that one activity for one whole week. This may be something quick like brushing your teeth, or you may choose a more time consuming challenge like being present while taking a shower, cooking dinner or doing yard work.

Simply practicing being in the moment during one task, on a regular basis, will actually heighten how conscious you are of being mindful at other times during your day. Welcoming the now into your life brings benefits of increased focus and clarity as well as stress relief and greater self-awareness.

A few quotes for inspiration:

  • The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present. – Eckhart Tolle
  • You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. – Henry David Thoreau
  • Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. - Buddha
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Taking Care During the Holidays https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_13068/ Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:38:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_13068/ With the holiday season in full swing, many of us may find ourselves already feeling a bit over tired, over spent and over socialized. While this time of year may invoke feelings of love and joy, it can also be a time of increased demands and being pulled in many directions.

During the season of giving, don't forget to give to yourself first. No one wants to begin the new year feeling exhausted, burned out and broke. With the feeling of one more party to attend, one more gift to buy, or one more dish to make, sticking to your boundaries can be a real challenge.

I invite you to give yourself permission to say "no" when you need to. I challenge you to not feel guilty for staying in, if that is what your body and mind are craving.

Twice in the past week, I have read about the HALT Principle. I believe this is good advice anytime, yet especially during the holidays. - Don't allow yourself to get too:

Hungry

Angry

Lonely

Tired

So remember to keep yourself well fed, emotionally stable, in good company and get plenty of rest. By listening to your heart and giving yourself the self-care you need, the extra time with loved ones this season will be all the merrier.

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Maintaining Center https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12974/ Fri, 10 Nov 2017 14:21:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12974/ With the busy time of year upon us, I thought it was a good time to write about the concept of maintaining center. I know for me personally, with the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the year drawing to a close, this is always an exceptionally challenging time for me to uphold a sense of calm.

This center I'm referring to is a feeling of contentment that we strive to maintain no matter what chaos may be going on around us. Think about welcoming in whatever is in the moment, rather than riding the emotional roller coaster of life. This concept really challenges us to be in the moment. Discontentment is the polar opposite, the illusion that there can be something else in the moment. In all actuality, the moment is complete as it is.

When thinking about sustaining this calm center, you might picture yourself as a strong, tall tree which is so rooted in the earth that even hurricane force winds cannot topple it. When I teach children's yoga, we use the idea of an inner resource. We actually take time to sit quietly and picture a place; it could be real or imagined where one can feel this sense of peace, safety, and calm. What does it look like, what does it smell like, what sounds do you hear, are there other people there?

If the idea of an inner resource resonates with you, I encourage you to make this a regularly scheduled practice or meditation. It is important to tune in to this place on a regular basis. The more time you spend developing this inner resource, the more quickly and easily you can return to it simply by recalling the sensory experience of it.

Developing this inner resource reminds us we all have a place we can "go to" when we need to get off the roller coaster, so to speak. With practice, you will be able to tune in to the feeling of this special place, ultimately helping you to maintain your calm center.

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Self-Compassion - Part 2 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12937/ Wed, 25 Oct 2017 14:37:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12937/ I hope you have had the opportunity since last post to reflect on how and when you may or may not be self-compassionate. Studies show 80 percent of us treat others with more compassion and kindness than we offer to ourselves. When our friends have a bad day or are struggling, we jump in to support them in any way we can; when it's our own self who is having a bad day, or has failed at something, we generally beat ourselves up with self-judgment and self-criticism.

Some may fear that being self-compassionate will prevent them from accomplishing their goals and dreams, that self-compassion will breed laziness, self-pity or even selfishness. Research demonstrates that this is far from the truth. Self-compassionate people have greater motivation to improve, meet their own shortcomings and actually have greater compassion towards others.

It is important to remember that the practice of self-compassion isn't about suppressing or fighting difficult emotions. With self-compassion we can mindfully accept that the moment is difficult, give kindness and care to ourselves in response, and remind ourselves that imperfection is something all humans experience.

Practicing lovingkindness meditation is a nice way to practice self-compassion. There are many versions of this meditation available. This version is provided by author and Buddhist monk, Jack Kornfield. I hope whether you are new to meditation, or a seasoned pro, you will give it a try.

To begin, start in a comfortable sitting position. Let your body relax; let your heart be soft. Let go of any to-dos, plans, or other preoccupations. Breathe gently, and recite inwardly the following:

May I be filled with lovingkindness.

May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.

May I be well in body and mind.

May I be at ease and happy.

Start with a two to three minute meditation, gradually working up to five, maybe even ten minutes. After creating a stronger sense of lovingkindness for yourself, you may expand the meditation to include a loved one. Simply replace the "I" with "you".

There is no doubt that this meditation may feel awkward at first. My hope I that you will be patient with yourself and give it a few attempts before you determine if this practice is for you.

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Self-Compassion - Part 1 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12913/ Fri, 13 Oct 2017 12:29:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12913/ First of all, let me say thank you for your patience with me in the gap between blog posts. I took on some extra professional responsibilities this summer, and while I'm proud to say I managed to keep up with my personal practice of self-care; I'm sorry that my self-care blog did indeed get put on the back burner. Needless to say, I thought it was good timing to write about self-compassion.

Discussing compassion is a large part of the work that I do in training teachers on trauma informed care. Our conversation centers on how practicing compassion for students who have experienced trauma in their lives actually helps to build resiliency. This tends to ring true with teachers, who overall are a pretty compassionate bunch. When we turn the conversation to self-compassion however, as is true in practicing care, most people find it easier to have compassion for others than themselves.

Leading expert Dr. Kristen Neff explains having compassion for oneself is really no different from having compassion for others. To have compassion simply means to understand the suffering of others paired with a desire to help alleviate it. Kristen explains it as "giving ourselves the same kindness and care we'd give to a good friend". This includes, and is especially important when we fail or make mistakes.

Dr. Neff shares three main components of self-care: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Let's break each one down:

Self-kindness – Being gentle with yourself when faced with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of ideals.

Common humanity – Recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience, something everyone goes through.

Mindfulness - A non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress, deny, or over-identify with them.

One example given, which I often find myself referring back to when I am struggling with being kind to myself, is to actually think of the words you would say to a good friend in the same situation and give those same kind words to yourself. It may be helpful to write these kind words down as a letter to yourself.

I know, much easier said than done. I encourage you to give it a try the next time words of criticism or self-judgment enter your mind.

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Personal Good https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12696/ Fri, 30 Jun 2017 08:48:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12696/ In keeping with the theme of self-awareness, I would like to share an activity called Personal Good. I learned this activity from a Communities in Schools Chicago social/emotional training with local expert Caryn Curry. I appreciate this activity for it provides space to reflect on our bigger picture, things which may get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It sheds light on many aspects of our personalities.

Caryn suggests doing this activity often; once a week, or month, or every season. Find what works well for you. The activity should take no longer than 5-10 minutes and simply asks you to complete the following sentences:

I feel most motivated when…

I feel most joy in my life when…

I enjoy myself best when…

If I could do anything in the world, it would be….

How was the process of self-reflecting? Were some questions easier to answer than others? If you would like to share your experience please post a comment or email me at: mcrawfrd@illinois.edu

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