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Let’s talk about self-care! 

You may have heard this said many times before- “Perspective is everything.” This feels more relevant now during these unprecedented times than ever before to ensure self-care. None of us can effectively continue to pour into the cups of others if our cup has run dry. 

The truth is, self-care is essential for optimal wellness- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.   

Stress shows up in our physical bodies in many different ways. Maybe you’re struggling with consistent muscle tension, frequent headaches, digestive issues, insomnia. These are all signs of a body pleading to be nurtured and listened to. Are you feeling irritable and short-tempered and not sure why? Maybe you’re struggling to “turn off” your thoughts or having added fatigue and low energy. Consider some of these tools first to take the time to slow down and tap into your needs, and then learn ways to enhance overall wellness and mindset.  

Here are some ways to incorporate self-care into everyday life.

Gratitude Practice

We often keep track of what we don’t have more than what we do or focus on what feels wrong more than what feels right. A gratitude practice forces us to focus on more of the good in our lives, even sometimes during extreme challenges, grief, and pain. This takes intention but little time out of our daily lives with the possibility of significant impacts. It can help to make these thoughts of gratitude visual as a simple practice of self-care to enhance mood. 

A few options and tips: 

      • Set up a piece of paper and a couple of your favorite writing utensils in the middle of your kitchen table or typical place you consume meals. Write down a word or phrase of gratitude each day before a meal of your choice.  
      • Tape a large piece of craft paper to a door in your home. This can be especially fun for kids! Maybe you make a tradition of writing one word or phrase a day or once a week. Creating these visual reminders gently encourages a perspective shift every time they are seen. This could be a positive affirmation to yourself, a gentle word of encouragement to self, or someone or something else you’re thankful for.  
      • Set a journal or notepad by your bed or place of rest. Write down one small gratitude each morning right as you wake up or right before going to bed.  

Mindfulness

Our breath has the potential to empower and transform. Human beings take approximately 26,000 breaths per day. It is thought that if we breathed with more intention and awareness, we would get up to 99% of our energy from utilizing our breath alone. On average, people only access about 10-20% of that energy. Mindful breathing transforms our physical bodies- we know it lowers blood pressure and heart rate, but it also affects our brain’s emotional control center. Conscious breathing allows us to rid ourselves of thoughts of the past or worries of the future, bringing our focus to our body and breath in the present moment. Activities like meditation or yoga (synching the breath with movement) are powerful forms of self-care because they help to inhibit our brain’s natural “fight or flight” response.   Even taking 10-30 seconds of deep inhalations and exhalations can reduce our natural feelings of fear and anxiety about the “what ifs” that so easily intrude our thoughts.   

A few options and tips: 

      • Inhale positive/exhale negative. Try adding in a positive word on each inhale and exhale something you want to let go of, something that isn’t serving you. Some examples of this: inhale peace, exhale fear. Inhale confidence, exhale inadequacy. Inhale gratitude, exhale comparison. Inhale acceptance of the unknown right now, exhale the need to have control.  
      • Square Breathing/Box Breathing.  Picturing a box or a square as you count your breathing. Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, hold/rest for 4, repeat.  
      • If you’re looking for daily meditation or mindfulness app try Insight Timer, Calm or Headspace. 

Follow along as Olivia guides you through the practice of self care.

Adding on a small self-care practice to an already existing routine makes this more accessible. For example, practice writing a thought of gratitude as you sit down to eat a meal. Practice mindful breathing while you are taking a shower or another activity you do each day. Consider putting on that “feel good” song you know improves your mood as you prepare food, wash dishes, or complete assignments. These small intentions can go a long way.  

Modeling self-care is the best thing we can do to teach children. Creating self-care practices and setting intentions as a family is a wonderful way to highlight the importance of these practices. When kids see their loved ones committed to a practice or lifestyle, it increases their own motivation and curiosity.  It is important children understand they are not alone in their difficult emotions and that it’s ok to feel sadness, anger, anxiety, and an array of complex emotions, but what matters is how we choose to respond.

Model to your kids how to respond to yourself with self-compassion- noticing and accepting where you are without judgment, taking a moment to reflect on your needs, and deciding what the “next best thing” is.  Consider reflecting on gratitude or practicing mindfulness/joyful movement together as a family.  

Take care of your self and others,

Olivia Wilson Smith is a Masters Level Clinical SocialWorker (LCSW-A) and Safe Haven Trauma Therapist for Youth Focus, a non-profit serving youth and families in Guilford County through supportive housing programs and counseling services. She also enjoys her “side-gig” as a Registered Yoga and Mindfulness Instructor (RYT-200) and desires to continue growing in her knowledge of holistic approaches to wellness and the intersection of physical and mental health. When given the opportunity you can often find her anywhere between the NC Western mountains and Eastern beaches adventuring outdoors, cheering on the Tar-Heels at sporting events and spending quality time with her family and her husband, their kitties, and the company of their circles of friends in Greensboro, NC.

Given the current state and local guidelines for COVID-19, beginning March 13, Youth Focus will temporarily suspend all on-site volunteers to its programs. This DOES NOT include clients or those accompanying clients for appointments. Thank you for your understanding and commitment to the safety of our youth and staff.