Are You Practicing Self Care?

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With it being Self Care Awareness Month, it's a good time to remind us to check in and ask ourselves very personal but necessary questions.

Am I happy today?

Am I thankful?

Am I ignoring any physical changes that need to be addressed?

Am I practicing my own advice?

Am I on-the-go so much that I just need a break?

Do I recognize any sadness or thoughts that would be detrimental to my mental health?

 Is there negativity that I can cut out of my life?

 How are my patience levels and am I proud of how I am treating others?

How is my diet?

These are to just name a few.  It is important to recognize if we are in need of self-care because if we are not whole and in a good place, it makes it very difficult to care for and love others in a way that we expect of ourselves.

Self Care looks very different for each one of us and we need to dig into what inspires us, what makes us happy, and what just refreshes our mind and soul.  In the world of adoption, missions, and helping people in general, our attention is in high demand.  While it is our goal to give everything we have mentally and physically, we need to keep our buckets full.  Below are some basic items to make sure you are checking off your Self Care checklist.  Again, each category will look unique for each person, but we need to recognize how each of these items fit into our lives.

1: Sleep

Adults are recommended to shoot for between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, although this depends on both fixed and fluid life situations such as age, sex, genes, and how much sleep debt you owe. Whatever else you need to get done during the day, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to sleep at night. This is a principal requirement of proper self-care.

Also, don’t underestimate the effects of a good power nap. Fifteen minutes of dozing can increase awareness, productivity, and brain function. When and where possible, try incorporating this into your daily regimen. Your boss shouldn’t mind — he or she needs to try it as well.

2: Move

Much of maintaining a good habit of self-care involves resisting a sedentary lifestyle. Moving around, getting on your feet often, and generating a good blood flow is good for your spine, your heart, and your overall attitude.

Whatever your preference for staying mobile is, do it. Make a part of your everyday process. We suggest making it a part of your morning routine to kickstart the day — and as you keep it up day after day you’ll start to notice it take effect. Whether you are choosing to do yoga, take a morning jog or stroll, or isometrics at your desk, you’ll be well on your way.

3: Strong Social Support

It is one of the most beautiful paradoxes in life, that to take better care of one’s self, one must reach outwards to others. This is one of the primary foundations of human existence, and that is why we feel such a draw toward forming families and creating friendships. For Self-Care Awareness Month, make these relationships a priority.

Whether you make that weekly phone call to your parents or you decide to reach out to an old friend, keep your social circle sharp. Be a friend and a support to others and you will experience the immense reciprocation from them.

Not only is keeping strong social support good for your mental and emotional health, but it can also have positive physical effects as well. Many experts even go as far as to say that strong social relationships can guarantee a longer lifestyle than daily exercise.

Strong social support is a paramount step toward better self-care.

4: Treat Yourself

We all need to feel like we are special, and sometimes we love to be pampered. Do yourself a favor and “treat yourself” every once in a while to something you love.

This may just seem like an exercise in self-indulgence — and that’s exactly what it is. But there is a marked difference between a self-indulgent lifestyle and treating yourself. You work hard every day to make ends meet and to juggle all your responsibilities…be kind to yourself and show yourself a good time.

Go out to a nice dinner, or order that item off your Amazon Wishlist. Don’t overextend yourself, but also learn to responsibly slacken your grip once in a while. Plus, if you have somebody to share in your experience, all the better.

5: Play with Pets

Animals, especially pets, are the best. Cats, for however much they may or may not be judging you or plotting world domination, are great low-key company to have around. Dogs, as you know, are man’s (and woman’s) best friends. And who doesn’t love a fun couple hours at the zoo? There’s something about our friends in the animal kingdom that bring with them a wealth of joy.

The best advice we can give you for Self-Care Awareness month is to spend time with animals. Go home and play with your pets (or your neighbor’s, with permission) and feel yourself feel better. Head over to the park with your kids with some old bread and feed the ducks. Even just bird-watching from your window, if you’re in the right neighborhood, can be a fascinating couple minutes.

One of the best ways to exercise self-care is to let animals care for you.

6: Laugh

Does anything feel as refreshing or cleansing as a good, hearty laugh? It can help to completely turn a bad day around, or act as an icebreaker in a tense or uncomfortable situation. Finding ways to laugh more often is an effective step toward better self-care.

So what makes you laugh? It could be watching a standup comedy routine, movie, or TV show. Maybe it’s playing with your pet or kids. Or reading the funnies. You know your tastes — turn them in your favor and let them lift you to a higher level.

7: Make Time for a Hobby

Our “logical” bid for self-care — working hard, exercising, and making money — can sometimes get in the way of our true passions. Of course, you need to keep a reasonable balance, and we aren’t trying to encourage anyone to quit their job and dedicate their lives to miniatures (unless you can make a sustainable living off of it, in which case, more power to you). We do recommend that you make time for your hobbies though.

This requires a good amount of self-discipline and prioritizing. As a responsible adult with commitments, you must not trade in your duty for hobby or your personal involvement for a laissez-faire attitude. Self-care is inherently an exercise in balance. Try calendaring out your day and carving out an hour, half-hour, or even fifteen minutes to do something for yourself. You are a three-dimensional human being with passions and interests. You are not a worker bee.

Take time to do the things you love and you will be well on the road to greater self-care.

8: Shake It Off

There’s a lot of things that happen throughout the day that can bother or bring us down. Through one method or another, the better you can learn to “shake it off”, the better you will be able to maneuver the little imperfections of life.

Just like with anything, your method depends on your process. Here are a couple of suggestions for common ways to take a deep breath (even literally) and let all the junk just wash over you.

9: Breathing Techniques

Breathing, the very mechanism by which we live, can also be an invaluable tool for dealing with stress. You’ll only need to set aside a few minutes every day to establish a good habit, and it helps if you try to do it in the same place at the same time.

One that may work for those with a little imagination would be to inhale, think of a particular thing that causes stress to you, and exhale, letting it go. Of course, it doesn’t change the existence of the problem, but I have found it helps to compartmentalize and let go of it emotionally.

10: Exercise

Whether or not exercise is one of your hobbies, there’s no denying that even a small amount of exercise every day has its benefits. It can also help to clear your mind as you focus on the physical activity rather than whatever is stressing you out. Plus, you don’t need a gym membership to exercise. There are plenty of opportunities to workout from home, or even at work.

11: Unplug

This can be so hard to do in this current day and age. But perhaps it’s because it is so hard to do that the outcome is so rewarding. Last weekend my phone experienced some water damage and stopped working completely, and while there was an element of stress in replacing it, it felt so nice to have an excuse not to be on my phone.

Of course, you don’t have to (and really shouldn’t) wait for your phone to break before taking the time to unplug. Let anyone who may try to contact you know that you will be “off the grid” for an hour or two, switch your phone to “Airplane Mode” or shut it off completely, and relish in off-screen time. We recommend using this time to fully invest yourself in a hobby, maybe one that is hard to enjoy with the temptation of a phone around, such as reading or doing something creative.

As you take the time to unplug every now and again, you will feel more in touch with the world around you and help eliminate stress.

12: Connect

Wait, we just recommended that you unplug…so how can you connect at the same time? We mean, connect with people. Make small connections in random places, like a checkout clerk or other customer service individual. We have already discussed the merits of reconnecting with old friends or reaching out to family members you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Making and maintaining connections — however strong — is a terrific form of self-care because it allows you to turn outwards. It facilitates being able to positively affect others, even if your interaction is no more than a few minutes.

Credit to Amerihealth for the list above.

For parents of adopted children or foster care who want to dig a little deeper into self-care - our social worker Sheila King, LCSW from CCAI has recommended the Adoption Exchange as a very valuable resource. They are located in CO, UT, NV, and MO and offer resources and support to adoptive families who reside in those states.  They also offer online training that anyone can sign up to take for FREE!!!

Here is a link to their webinars. 

They have some webinars specific to self-care for parents: 

1) Self-Care For Caring Adults

2) Self-Care Strategies: Building Emotionally Resilient Parents / Adults

3) The Cost of Caring: Managing Secondary Trauma and Burnout in Foster, Kinship, and Adoptive Parents.  

Parents must register to access the trainings, but once registered classes can be taken for free.

Sheila also encourages the practice of mindfulness and meditation. There are great apps out there such as Calm, Headspace, MyLife, and Insight Timer, although there are many others available as well. 

Mindfulness is even something that parents can teach their young children.  There is a great book with CD called Sitting Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents).

Please Note:  While it is important to recognize the avenues for self-care, it is also important to identify the signs of depression.  Here are the 10 most common symptoms:

Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. 

Loss of interest in daily activities. 

Appetite or weight changes.

Sleep changes. 

Anger or irritability. 

Loss of energy. 

Self-loathing.

Reckless behavior.

Should you find yourself in a state where any of those things on the list appear in your life, please see your family doctor immediately.

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