Refill Your Cup with Self-Care Genuine, sustained self-care is an art. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/rss.xml Taking Care During the Holidays http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_13068/ Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:38:00 +0000 http://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 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12974/ Fri, 10 Nov 2017 14:21:00 +0000 http://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 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12937/ Wed, 25 Oct 2017 14:37:00 +0000 http://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 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12913/ Fri, 13 Oct 2017 12:29:00 +0000 http://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 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12696/ Fri, 30 Jun 2017 08:48:00 +0000 http://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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Cultivating Self-Awareness http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12645/ Wed, 14 Jun 2017 10:44:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12645/ In the self-care classes I teach, we always take some time to reflect on self-awareness. I share with my students that while it takes a certain amount of self-awareness to practice self-care, the practice itself also builds self-awareness.

So, what words come to your mind when you hear the word self-awareness? Responses I've received in class include understanding your: strengths, weakness, skills, interests, and abilities. Yes, all of the above absolutely play a role in having awareness of ourselves. I searched for definitions of self-awareness and found the following:

  • An awareness of one's own personality or individuality. – Merriam Webster
  • "Knowing one's internal states, preference, resources and intuitions". – Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

Goleman's definition emphasizes our ability to monitor our thoughts and emotions as they arise. Many experts agree that being aware of our emotions and thoughts from moment to moment is key to understanding ourselves better, being at peace with who we are, and proactively managing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Individuals who are self-aware are more likely to be compassionate to themselves and others. Self-awareness has also been linked as a critical trait of successful business leaders.

You may or may not be surprised to find many of the self-care strategies we have discussed thus far also serve to cultivate self-awareness. These tools include:

Meditation – Meditation assists with improving moment-by-moment awareness. Start by taking a few minutes to focus on your breathing.

Journaling – Begin tracking your most positive and most negative feelings. Begin to notice patterns and trends as well as your triggers.

Seek feedback from others – Understanding how you come across to others is an important step in building self-awareness. Ask trusted friends, family, and colleagues for honest, critical, and objective perspectives.

My hope is that this post will encourage you to take note of how self-aware you are and how this awareness blossoms as you continue the practice of self-care. While building self-awareness is a life-long journey, my belief is that you will discover the many joys it brings every step of the way.

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The Power of Affirmations http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12492/ Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:58:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb416/entry_12492/ Often when I talk to adults about self-care the conversation leads to changes people want to make in their life. These changes may be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. This seems natural as taking the time to recognize where we do and don't take care of ourselves builds self-awareness and from awareness blossoms evolution (a.k.a. change).

Many have probably read a quote or two about change being one of the only things we can count on in life. We also know that change can be difficult. People often ask where do I start, how do I get motivated?

Often when I know I need to make a change and I don't know where to start, I begin by writing an affirmation that what I'm seeking is already true. Affirmations are positive, specific statements that help you visualize, and believe in, what you're affirming to yourself, helping you to make positive changes to your life.

Typically, affirmations are written on a regular basis or repeated over and over again either aloud or in the mind. This may be done as a part of prayer, meditation, or while taking a walk or doing chores. Research finds affirmations work very well for some and not so well for others.

Try looking at positive affirmations this way – many of us do repetitive exercises to improve our body's physical health. Affirmations are like exercises for our mind, emotions and outlook on life. These positive repetitions can reprogram our thinking patterns so that, over time, we begin to think, and act, in a new way.

If you would like to give the power of affirmations a try remember the five Ps:

  • Affirm in the present – By keeping your affirmations in the present tense you will ensure your subconscious mind goes to work on them right away. You might start with "I am…"
  • Keep them positive – By focusing your words on what you do want, you direct your subconscious mind to work on the positive results you desire. Keep words like no, don't, and can't out of your affirmations.
  • Keep them personal – Remember, the only beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors you can change is your own!
  • Be precise – The more accurately you can describe your desire the better. Envision the best! Describe all the details.
  • Be persistent – Positive thoughts create positive actions, and positive actions create positive new habits. This does not happen overnight! Repeat your affirmations every chance you get until you reach your goal.

Not into writing your own, or looking for a little inspiration? For examples of positive affirmations check out author and long-time proponent of the use of affirmations, Louise Hay's website: http://www.louisehay.com/affirmations/

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