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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

Let’s be honest, self-care is a bit like mindfulness – an over-used and almost cringe-worthy, eye-roll of a topic. It’s a commercialized way of describing something that’s actually very simple and vital to living a happy life.

If you’ve ever been told you need to give yourself some self-care, it probably didn’t make you feel super motivated or good about yourself, did it? Because if it gets to the point that someone has to tell you, then it’s pretty obvious that you’re not exactly handling your sh*t.

“I think you should meditate & practice some self-love.”

Rage-inducing comments like this are well-intentioned but ultimately useless. It’s just like telling someone with depression to just “cheer up” or asking a person with broken legs to get up and dance, it’s not gonna happen.

A better way to encourage someone is to build them up and highlight their positives and strengths. Be the example of someone who practices self-care, but most importantly, do not point out their problems.

So, if you’re the person who needs a little love, or if you want to set a good example for someone else, then rest assured you’ll find out how to do this here. No fluff or woo-woo; just some genuinely useful and effective strategies you can start using today.

What is Self-Care?

Firstly, can we instead refer to this as “the relationship you have with yourself”? It’s less cringe and more accurate. Because what we’re really talking about is the act of caring for yourself, as you would for a friend, and asking:

“How are you?”

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And responding with “I’m fine.” is not allowed.

Rate your relationship with yourself from 1 -10 (10 being you probably don’t need any self-care tips!).

If you’re struggling to place a number on it, think about whether you habitually make yourself feel bad, question whether you’re worthy or beat yourself up often.

Or do you cheer yourself on? Do you feel strong and capable, telling yourself “you can do this” instead of “why should I bother”?

Think of it this way:

If you had to repeat your inner dialogue – the words you say to yourself – verbatim as if it were advice to your friends, would you have any friends left?

It’s ok if you wouldn’t or maybe just have a few stragglers. We’ve all taken a beating from ourselves at one point or another. But let’s get this straight: if you haven’t taken the time to listen to your mental chatter, now’s the time my friend.

This isn’t one you can let go, because it is literally the key to your success. Being imprisoned by your negative thoughts and beliefs will lead you to things like anxiety, depression, low confidence, low self-esteem, and a generally unhappy life experience. So yeah, it’s important.

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“Self-talk is the biggest thing. A lot of us have a dialogue that is crap. I use my self-talk to make me better, to make me stronger… Self-talk comes from belief in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself it won’t work.” – David Goggins, an ultramarathon runner, retired US Navy SEAL, and former US Air Force Tactical Air Control Party member who served in the Iraq War.

“They’re Just Thoughts, How Harmful Can They Be?”

Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a real event and a thought.[1] This is why you can get anxious when you think of public speaking, or when your mouth waters when you think of chewing on a lemon.

If you have negative self-talk with yourself every day, your brain’s neural pathways will genuinely change and mold to this style of thinking, almost like a default setting. Your subconscious mind believes the things you tell it, and if you tell it something for long enough, you’ll form a belief system at a subconscious level that will underpin how you act and react every day.

This is because the brain is malleable – it changes and it adapts.[2] So when we think the same thoughts over and over, these pathways strengthen and become the new normal.

“Neurons that fire together, wire together” – Hebb, D.O.

This is the first and most crucial thing to understand in order to create a good relationship with yourself. You don’t have to “fall in love with yourself,” but you should accept yourself with all of your flaws and create new, positive thought patterns that drive you forward (not hold you back).

How Do I Know What I’m Saying to Myself?

Focusing on self-talk, inner dialogue or mental chatter requires us to shift the focus from the external world to the internal world.

Doing this is hard, but it is possible. Nothing good comes easy, and it’s only hard for most of us because it’s not something we learned at school or from our parents (though it most certainly should be!).

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Here are some ways to start listening.

Start Writing

Get a pen and paper and just write whatever comes to mind. Some prompts: “I wish I could feel less/more...” or “Lately, what’s been annoying me is…” take stock of everything you’re telling yourself every day.

What are the feelings and emotions you’ve been feeling lately? What is stressing you out? What makes you happy?

A therapist can help with these types of things, but you can do this yourself once you practice identifying your thoughts and feelings, becoming more self-aware.

Meditation

If you’re struggling with writing, start with meditation and breathing. Meditation (and something even better, hypnosis) is a way in which we convert our brain waves from Beta to Alpha – meaning we can access the operating system of our mind.[3] In this state, we reduce the effects of stress and cortisol by getting to the “rest and digest” stage.

You don’t have to clear your mind or sit in a weird, uncomfortable pose.

Just get some quiet, get a good soundtrack on Spotify or Youtube, and start by focusing on your breathing. Counting in for 5 and out for 7. You can add in some mantras to say out loud like “release”, and let your mind wander (but bring it back whenever you notice it wandering too far).

“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there, buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks everyday.” – Deepak Chopra

This gets easier with time. Once you know what your thoughts are saying, you can stop a thought before it signals an emotion.

Remember, it’s our responses to situations, and how we perceive them that can trigger different types of emotions.

What Else Helps?

Start Using Affirmations

Put them up where you’ll see them every day – on your phone or your mirror. Familiarize your brain with it to see positive reinforcement. This, along with journaling, is a great way to start to undo any of the negative neural pathways you’ve been using for too long.

Try these 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life.

Diet and Exercise

We know exercise and eating well is good for us, so start doing that if you’re not. This is the relationship you have with yourself and your body, so reduce processed sugar and carbs, increase healthy fats and vegetables, increase lean protein, and start sweating.

All of these will make you less prone to negative thinking and get your hormones on your side.

Final Thoughts

These strategies are worth your time.

No one can be held accountable for the relationship you hold with yourself other than you. Yes, people can definitely impact the way you see yourself, but that’s only if you permit them to do so.

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Give yourself a talking to, take back the consent you gave others to negatively affect you, and set your intention to build a great relationship with yourself. Not only will the people around you start to notice, but your performance in every aspect of your life will also increase. There’s never been a better time to start than during quarantine!

More Self-Care Tips

Featured photo credit: Samantha Gades via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Daina Worrall

Lawyer, C. Hypnotherapist and RTT Therapist - Personal Development & Mental Health

Overcome Fear and Anxiety with These 4 Mindset Shifts Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice) How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist) How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

Stress affects everyone, invariably in different ways. Regardless of how stress shows up in your life, when it does, it takes over, making it difficult to stay in the present moment or show gratitude for what and who we have in our life. In the eye of the stress storm, everything is tossed around into oblivion, and self-care ideas go out the window.

However, this is the moment when self-care is the most important. When you notice that you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, or powerful emotions, it’s time to get back to a sense of balance by showing yourself love and compassion.

How Does Stress Show Up?

On a physical scale, stress tends to be behind many of our typical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, or body aches and pain.[1] When we’re in stressful situations, our body activates our fight-or-flight response through the stress hormone, cortisol.

According to the American Institute of Stress, when the body is in this mode due to stress, “the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.”[2]

While our fight-or-flight response is extremely helpful when we’re in situations that risk our survival, not every situation is that dire. However, the body doesn’t know how to differentiate between such scenarios.

Rather, we become accustomed to seeing every stressful situation as life-threatening, and we become locked into this fight-or-flight response automatically. This causes us to burn out because our body is constantly fighting or fleeing from threats that are not causing us any real harm.

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On a mental and emotional scale, stress affects your thoughts, feelings, and ultimately your behavior. Everything is interconnected. When stress takes a toll on our bodies, this has a domino effect on how we process our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see correlations between depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with stress.

Self-Care Ideas to Combat Stress

Below are five self-care ideas for combating stress in your life. Consider implementing them into your daily routine for the best results.

1. Start a Brain Dump Writing Exercise

When you’re overwhelmed with thoughts, it can become very difficult to stay present and focused. This could affect you at work, in school, or in your relationships. It’s as if your mind were filled to the brim with thoughts that are constantly competing for your attention. If left unattended, this can affect your performance or your state of being, so it’s important to turn to self-care ideas in these moments.

One exercise to get this under control is called a brain dump, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Start by getting comfortable with a pen and paper or your favorite journal. Without any special formatting or introduction, just start writing any and all thoughts that come up.

Consider your paper a blank canvas onto which you’re going to spill every thought, no matter how small or unimportant. This can look like a laundry list, a jumble of words, or a paragraph.

Don’t focus on how it looks or how well it’s organized. The idea is to give your thoughts an exit. Once they’re on paper, they’re no longer swimming in your head for attention.

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Once you have them written down, leave them as they are. We have a tendency to want to fix our thoughts. Instead, allow them to simply exist as they are—they’re not right or wrong. Consider coming back to this exercise daily or whenever you feel like you have a lot on your mind.

2. Sweat It out

There is nothing more therapeutic than moving the physical body when it feels the weight of stress. Energetically, we carry our day in our body, mostly in our neck, shoulders, and hips. If we’ve had a particularly difficult day, that energy is going to feel tense and unsettling. This is why it’s so important to move and really break a sweat!

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America[3]:

“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.”

Find what exercise regimen works for you, and commit to it for a few days per week for your mental and physical health. Scientists have also found that even 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a tremendous effect on your body. Go for a run, take a spin class or a power yoga class, or dance the stress away in Zumba. Whatever gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat is one of the perfect self-care ideas to keep the stress away.

3. Seek the Care of a Therapist

Sometimes writing out our thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem quite enough. This is common and to be expected. After all, we are complex human beings who want to understand and process our emotions on a deeper level. This is why spending time in a regular therapy session is so beneficial!

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In the presence of a professional, we can open up about what stressful situations we’re going through. We don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up, and we know that our honesty will be protected and safeguarded.

Additionally, when we’re feeling stressed, we often want to simply vent and get things off of our chest. Having someone on the receiving end who will simply listen and hold space is a truly healing gift. We can often leave the session feeling more empowered, seen, and offloaded of the stress we brought in.

Lastly, we may be able to receive guidance from our therapist on a particular situation we’re struggling with. Having someone else’s perspective on something we’re too emotionally close to can be just the right solution and a great addition to our self-care routine.

Here are more self-care ideas from a therapist: Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

4. Interrupt Your Day

When it comes to self-care ideas, this may seem like a derailing technique, but give it a shot! Interrupting your day means introducing something entirely new or random into a routine that is very monotonous or typical.

If your work or school day is the same sequence of events every single day, bringing in an interruption can be quite conducive to your productivity and creativity. This can look like pausing in the middle of the day for a yoga stretch at your desk or in your office. It could be playing your favorite playlist in-between meetings or taking a walk outside for lunch. Not only does this stir up new energy for your day, but it can also help you de-stress

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As I said above, when we’re too close to a situation or conflict, we have a harder time breaking away. We’re so emotionally and mentally invested that we don’t see how that proximity is affecting our health. So, interrupt yourself when you’re feeling stress coming on, and do something fun, random, and refreshing to feel good.

5. Get Some Energy Work Done

Energy work is anything that is being done to improve the circulation and energetic flow of the body. This could be a massage, a Reiki session, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture[4].

Moving the body helps move the energy that is blocked or stuck. This is why exercise is so important. However, sometimes we need a session where that work is done for us by a licensed professional.

In such treatments, we have the luxury to relax and receive the benefits of the treatment, making it a beautiful way to squeeze in self-care!

You can find even more stress management techniques in the following video:

Final Thoughts

Stress is, unfortunately, a common part of every life. It affects everyone, but to what extent it affects you is personal. One thing is for sure, and that is that stress has a tremendous effect on our physical, mental, and emotional state.

This is why regular exercise is so important, as well as mental stimulation and emotional release. These self-care ideas won’t necessarily guard you from ever feeling stressed again, but they will certainly help you manage it better and offer amazing health benefits along the way.

More Self-Care Ideas

Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
[2] The American Institute of Stress: How the Fight or Flight Response Works
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress
[4] Medical Acupuncture: Does Acupuncture Reduce Stress Over Time? A Clinical Heart Rate Variability Study in Hypertensive Patients

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