Colder weather is upon us, so here are a few exercises to keep self-care a priority!
What is self-care?
Self-care is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider. That's the Health Canada definition. Now here's mine.
Self-care is a pillar of mental and physical health, acts that we perform in order to become happier, more knowledgeable about our inner selves and thrive and cope in sometimes-not-so-optimal environments.
Why does it matter?
Burning the candle at both ends, so-to-speak, comes with significant consequences, which may include but are not limited to burnout, depression, anxiety, resentment and a whole host of other negative implications. Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and more. From a physical health perspective, self-care has been clinically proven to reduce heart disease, stroke and cancer. Spiritually, it may help keep us in tune with our higher power as well as realize our meaning in life.
Okay, so we know it's important to take care of ourselves. So what are we going to do about it? This week, I challenge you to take part in a daily self-care exercise, all while thinking about the impact it is having on your overall mood and self-compassion.
If you are interested in more self-care exercises, check out my Self Care 12 Week Challenge below!
Day One : Mantra Writing
Start your week off with a mantra. This is a short saying that is meant to ground your mind in order to refocus your attention on self-compassion. Today, you are going to find this mantra that will carry you through the entire day. Ideally, you will repeat it to yourself every day, at least once.
When coming up with a mantra, remember a few key guidelines:
Your mantra is personal; it needs to mean something to YOU.
Your mantra is different from a goal; this saying is meant to confirm positive affirmations.
Make is short and effective
Display your mantra (I like to write mine in my bathroom mirror using a dry erase marker) but you can write yours or even put it in your phone as your screen saver. Your mantra has to be true and positive
Here are just a few examples of mantra's I have used myself
"I matter and I make a difference in this world"
"I am loved, and I matter."
"I am exactly where I need to be."
Day Two : Reviewing Past Achievements
Your self-confidence will increase when you're able to say, "I can do this, and here's the evidence." The best way to improve is to reflect on past efforts, and then attempt to eliminate the actions that did not work. At the same time, you should embrace and expand those actions that were met with success.
Today, let's focus on the positive achievements. Write down 10 things you do well, accomplishments you have achieved or things you are proud of. It can really be as simple as "I got out of bed today" or "I took the dog for a walk". Write these achievements on a piece of paper and choose to share with those you love if you feel comfortable doing so.
Day Three : Take a Break
Yes, you heard that right. Take a 20-minute break today. Schedule it in. If you have kids, have a partner or friend watch them.
Work and family life can be demanding sometimes, and if you are grinding away hour after hour, chances are this toil may be costing you more than productivity. Taking breaks allows your brain and body to get the necessary recharge it needs to keep going. A break can be really helpful to refocus your attention if you experience brain fog or feel absent-minded. Taking a moment to recharge alone gives you time to reflect on yourself and understand why you are feeling the way you are. This short pause can actually help reboot your brain to be more tuned in.
Here are the rules:
You cannot do chores during this time
You must be alone
You cannot use electronics (listening to music is okay, but scrolling on your phone is not)
Here are some ideas of what you can do:
Take a bath
Give yourself a manicure
Go for a walk
Take a nap
Day Four : Self- Esteem Journaling
If you’re not a naturally confident person, building your self-esteem takes intentional, conscious work. Journaling is an important part of building that confidence because writing about self-confidence allows your mind to develop new, positive thought patterns.
Today, use these writing prompts to start your journaling journey. You know I love a good pun.
5 things that made me feel peaceful today:
I felt proud of myself when:
My family admire me for my:
5 small successes I had today were:
The highlight of my day was:
5 ways my life is awesome:
My biggest success this week was:
I feel best about myself when:
Day Five : Draw A Self Portrait
Grab a journal or notebook and open it to a fresh page. Draw a small self-portrait in the center of the page. Don’t worry—it doesn’t matter if it’s good!
Next, draw several thought bubbles sprouting out from your portrait. In these thought bubbles, write down your most frequent negative thoughts about yourself. This might be a little painful, but try to push through it. Once you’ve filled in all the bubbles, take a moment to recognize that all of these thoughts come from your inner critic. Label the portrait “My Inner Critic.”
Next, flip the page and do the exercise again, but with a focus on alternate ways to think about each bit of self-criticism. Label the portrait “My Authentic Self.” Whenever your negative thoughts start crowding out the good ones, return to these two pages to remind yourself that you are not your negative thoughts and that they don’t need to define you.
Day Six : Progressive Muscle Relaxation
According to Anxiety Canada (which is a great source btw!) "Progressive Muscle Relaxation teaches you how to relax your muscles through a two-step process. First, you systematically tense particular muscle groups in your body, such as your neck and shoulders. Next, you release the tension and notice how your muscles feel when you relax them. This exercise will help you to lower your overall tension and stress levels, and help you relax when you are feeling anxious. It can also help reduce physical problems such as stomachaches and headaches, as well as improve your sleep.
People with anxiety difficulties are often so tense throughout the day that they don’t even recognize what being relaxed feels like. Through practice you can learn to distinguish between the feelings of a tensed muscle and a completely relaxed muscle. Then, you can begin to “cue” this relaxed state at the first sign of the muscle tension that accompanies your feelings of anxiety. By tensing and releasing, you learn what relaxation feels like and how to recognize when you are starting to get tense during the day.
Step 1: Tension
The first step is applying muscle tension to a specific part of the body. This step is essentially the same regardless of which muscle group you are targeting. First, focus on the target muscle group, for example, your left hand. Next, take a slow, deep breath and squeeze the muscles as hard as you can for about 5 seconds. It is important to really feel the tension in the muscles, which may even cause a bit of discomfort or shaking. In this instance, you would be making a tight fist with your left hand.
It is easy to accidentally tense other surrounding muscles (for example the shoulder or arm), so try to ONLY tense the muscles you are targeting. Isolating muscle groups gets easier with practice.
Step 2: Relaxing the tense muscles
This step involves quickly relaxing the tensed muscles. After about 5 seconds, let all the tightness flow out of the tensed muscles. Exhale as you do this step. You should feel the muscles become loose and limp, as the tension flows out. It is important to very deliberately focus on and notice the difference between the tension and relaxation. This is the most important part of the whole exercise.
Remain in this relaxed state for about 15 seconds, then move on to the next muscle group. Repeat the tension-relaxation steps. After completing all of the muscle groups, take some time to enjoy the deep state of relaxation.
Day Seven : Treat Yo-self
You've been working hard, it's time to treat yourself. But why are you doing this? Because you matter. You are worthy of a little self-care. You are rewarding yourself. Also...because I told you so. Here are a few ideas of what you can treat yourself to:
a bath bomb
a fancy coffee