Is it Selfish or is it Self-Care?

I’ve been spending a lot of time helping my mom, who was recently hospitalized for her mental well being. It has been a stressful time for both of us. I am an only child, so all the burden falls on me. My parents are divorced and both remarried several years ago. Unfortunately, my mother’s husband died four years ago, and ever since, I have noticed my mom has struggled to find herself again and function properly. I’m sad to say, she has lived with bi-polar disorder the majority of her adult life. As a young teen, I witnessed her go through a couple nervous breakdowns and battled alcoholism. My father traveled a lot for his job. Early on, I assumed on the role of a co-dependent. As I got older, and finally moved out of my house at 26 years of age, I started to live my life and discover who and what I wanted to be. I had fantasies of moving out west or somewhere else to spread my wings, but I just didn’t take the chance on myself. I was too concerned about my parents and didn’t want to abandon them or be that far away. It was quite the challenge because no matter what, my focus circled back to my mom.

picture of mom and me a week after she was in the hospital. Look at her smile!

Fast forward 25 years and I am married, have 2 teenagers, work part-time as a caregiver and am learning to make more time for myself. I am finding it difficult to do it all. It isn’t in my nature to put myself completely first because I want to help others around me. However, I find I desperately need to take more and more time for myself and relish being alone, enjoying simple things like watching the sun rise, or taking a walk on a trail. I love taking pictures and enjoy crafting or making art. Most of those things have fallen by the wayside. I have gotten into a horrible routine that is most likely hindering my overall health, physically and emotionally. I try so hard to do simple things, like getting a good night’s sleep, breathing, stretching, eating well, etc. But, no matter how much I try, my desire for a healthy and self-caring lifestyle is trumped by outside factors I allow to disrupt my day.

picture taken of sunrise on December 11, 2020 Milford, CT

Is it so bad that I want to take care of myself before putting the needs of others right now? I was taught, especially through my Christian faith, that selfishness is wrong. That we must think of others before we think of ourselves. However, I have also learned we have to love ourselves before we can love others. We have to take care of our well being so that we can be there for our loved ones. My mind is confused. Putting myself ahead of everyone sort of goes against my giving nature. Yet, deep inside, I know that if I continue this path of caring for others and put myself at the back-burner, I will be a miserable person. I battle my own thoughts and feelings everyday. I am exhausted. I know I cannot keep up this pace much longer.

I listened to an episode of Coffeetalk with Liquidshano1973 recently and the topic was Self-Care. It really hit home and I have to admit, I was in tears after listening to the 31 minute segment. I realized then that I haven’t fully invested in MYSELF. I always say I do things to enjoy the little things in life. I pause and breathe. I try to soak in those rays. I do try to smile and be grateful. Yet, all of these things I do is not enough! It is very hard to admit I am my worst enemy and do not completely follow my own advice. In the episode, Shane mentions some tips he found while researching the topic of self-care. He chose to highlight 7 of them, and when I reflect on these tips, I know this is something I can incorporate into my daily routine, provided that I am intentional.

I found the original website and read a total of 27 ideas of self-care. In a similar manner, I am listing a combination of what Shane highlighted in his podcast, as well as others that the author mentioned on how we can take just 5 minutes to practice self-care. Before I list these tips, I have something to share that brings this all home.

My job can be stressful at times. My client has specific needs and over the few years I have worked for her, I have slowly changed how I manage my outside life. I stopped using my favorite scents in laundry, or in the shower because of her chemical sensitivity. I also stopped wearing makeup when I go to her home, including facial lotions because I was afraid she would get ill from any scents she might pick up. For a long time, I wouldn’t dye my hair. These simple things, these ways of taking care of myself or doing things that brought a little joy, were almost completely abandoned because I wanted to do the right thing and please my client.

I realize now, I was neglecting myself. I needed to stop. I needed to put my needs ahead for a change or else I think I would explode. The other night, I decided I was going to pamper myself and enjoy a little in-home spa treatment. Wow! Can I just say, this was a much needed mini “getaway” in my home. I took the time to dye my hair, give myself a facial and even put makeup on so I could feel good! By no means was this a selfish act. It was an act of self-care! I needed to do this so that my spirits were lifted and so that I can continue to be there for everyone else, while feeling happy with me! It may seem obvious to do these kind of things, but I have been so consumed with being a caregiver, that I have forgotten to take time for me.

this is me after my little “spa” treatment

Below are a total of 10 tips that you can do to practice self-care. These are inspired or paraphrased from the website linked above. I discovered within these ideas, is something to think about, too. In order to get a full experience of self-care, we need to address each of our Five senses of Sight, Touch, Hearing, Speech and Taste! I put the sense in parenthesis.

  1. Write down 3 things you are grateful for in your life (touch)
    • By writing down things you are grateful for, you are putting those thoughts directly in front of you and from pen to paper, it will resonate into your mind.
  2. Breathe deeply
    • You’d be surprised how much we hold our breath throughout the day. By doing that, we are depriving ourselves of much needed oxygen and the release of toxic carbon dioxide. Plus, intentionally taking deep breaths can help relieve stress and can be calming.
  3. Get outside (seeing)
    • Going on the same lines of taking deep breaths, going outside to breathe the fresh air really can be an uplifting experience. Also, observing bits of nature can relax you and even make you smile.
  4. Drink a glass of water (taste)
    • Water is essential to a healthy body. We tend to not get enough water on a daily basis. Make it a habit to have a glass of water first thing in the morning so that you can awaken our body after a night’s sleep.
  5. Eat something you enjoy (taste)
    • Eating something we enjoy doesn’t mean binge eating. It can be as simple of having a piece of fresh fruit or one small piece of chocolate. Even drinking a hot beverage can be very satisfying.
  6. Walk Around
    • Moving our bodies helps to lubricate our joints and circulates our blood throughout our body. Walking also gets the heart pumping and doing the job it is meant to do.
  7. Stretch
    • Sometimes a nice, long stretch is all we need to feel rejuvenated. Taking time to stretch our backs, legs, neck, shoulders, etc. also helps relieve stress and tension. Go on YouTube and find a 5-10 minute yoga routine that focuses on stretching.
  8. Listen to a favorite song (hearing)
    • A friend of mine said that music soothes the savage soul. I couldn’t agree more. And when we listen to a favorite song, we immediately feel good. It can be uplifting, calming, and spark good memories!
  9. Put on some Aromatherapy (smell)
    • I mentioned about scents earlier. I love the smell of citrus or fresh scents. They make me happy. Aromatherapy is another way to touch our senses and can make us feel good.
  10. Apply face or body lotion (touch)
    • Don’t neglect your biggest organ of your body…the skin! Treat it well. Put lotion all over, especially the face. You will feel better and look good, too!

How are you going to start taking more time for yourself and practice self-care?

Please drop a comment and share your ideas! I’d love to hear what you do to be a better version of yourself!

Patience certainly is a virtue

The definition of patient means bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint or steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity, as per the Merriam Webster Dictionary website.

The topic of patience has been on my mind lately. I’m not sure if it stems from what we have all been experiencing throughout 2020, or is it because of my own personal situations? All I know is that patience is a challenging attribute to achieve. It can be as simple as being patient while waiting for that perfect brew of coffee in the morning to start off my day. It can be waiting in line at the grocery store while there are 5 people ahead of me. How about sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office?

Those are just a few examples, but probably the most trying part of patience is dealing with people. I am at the point in my life where I am done with negativity and craziness around me. I have only recently learned to set boundaries to keep me away from the negatives in my life so that I learn to be more patient. I also give myself permission to “just be”. I am ok with taking my time to ease into my day and be gentle with myself when I don’t accomplish everything on my to do list. If it isn’t urgent, then it just gets added to tomorrow’s list.

It has been shown that having patience has health benefits! From reducing your stress levels to feeling more calm, having patience is one of the keys to living a good life.

What are our biggest stressors in life? Certainly our jobs, financial worries, family obligations and our health most likely top the list.

My job can be challenging. I am a caretaker. I need to be extremely patient with my client. They have special needs and demanding criteria to be met and even though I know I do a good job, I make mistakes and I can get on their nerves at times. They will lose their patience or get annoyed and I have to just listen and keep quiet and just continue doing my job. It can take a toll on me sometimes. There have been days I have left feeling upset or exhausted not just physically, but emotionally. It takes a very patient person to do what I do. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the right person.

Despite my doubts, I love what I do because I am helping another person. However, my patience has been put through the wringer and what happens is that I keep it all bottled inside and later lose my temper or become irritable later after leaving the job for the day. It’s not healthy because my family gets the short end of the stick. I am working on improving and be more intentional on to not take my emotions home with me. I have incorporated tools to help me start my day off on the right foot. Some of that is having certain rituals, like making a good cup of coffee, sitting on my deck and doing some yoga stretching. I also try to just sit and listen to the sounds around me and breathe. These little things have helped ground me and I do find that I’m not as irritable.

My afternoon routine is a bit different. Because of Covid, everyone is home…my husband, my kids. I don’t have a quiet space to just relax and unwind anymore since the self-quarantine began in March. After work, I tend to take a drive, grab something to eat, run errands if needed, but more importantly, find a place for me to just sit and decompress. Part of that does involve checking my social media, but sometimes it’s walking at a local trail, garden or just sitting in my car and listening to some tunes.

My family is sort of polar opposite of me and that can drive me a bit nuts. I am a talker, dreamer, and gal who thrives on interaction with others. They, on the other hand are quiet, reserved and keep to themselves most of the time. This environment tests my patience in a different way. Therefore, I find outlets to keep me going and try not to get upset if no one feels like talking to me. I rediscovered new hobbies and have made new friends. I don’t ever give up and continue to do what makes me happy. If I find myself losing my patience, I try some of the tips below. The key is to be mindful and intentional. As with anything, practice makes it better.

Here are tips to practicing patience:

  1. Write down your “to-do’s” in order to have your tasks in front of you and you can mark them off as you complete them. Many get satisfaction checking off their tasks as “DONE”. Visuals help!
  2. Reduce your expectations and be gentle with yourself. Once we let go of expectations, we don’t have anything to be disappointed about if things don’t work out how we hoped. And without that disappointment, we can then feel calmer, therefore, be more patient when life throws us those curveballs.
  3. Start your day off by doing something good for yourself. Exercise like walking or yoga, having a coffee date with a friend, writing in a gratitude journal or just listening to your favorite music are just a few ideas that can help. They can make you feel grounded and ready to conquer the day!
  4. Smile more. No, I’m not quoting from “Hamilton”, but smiling and laughing helps release endorphins, which in turn, reduce our stress. And if we don’t feel stress, we have the ability to have a clear mind and in turn, be more patient.
  5. ENJOY THE LITTLE THINGS! This is my mantra for life. Enjoy the little things or moments. Love nature? Go out in your yard or visit a park and stroll around, observing the colors, scents and sounds. Tuning into our senses does wonders for our soul.

So, what are some ways YOU are striving to be more patient? Please leave a comment and share! I’d love to hear from you!

Sense of Humor

image taken from web

I have always considered myself someone with a good sense of humor. Not only do I make jokes, hoping for a reaction, I also can take jokes from others who may poke fun at situations or even me. However, there are times when making a joke can go too far and be hurtful. I call it the Will Ferrell syndrome. I love Will Ferrell, don’t get me wrong, but there are times in some of his movies that his characters go a bit too far and the funny becomes idiotic or too crass.

I have been the butt of many jokes with my friends and family and I typically have a thick skin and can laugh at myself. Heck, if you can’t laugh at yourself, then someone else will laugh at you anyway, so might as well have 1st crack at it, right? Yet, being the punch line of every joke can cause a person to be self conscientious or dig up memories that are painful. As a young kid and then middle school teen, I experienced a lot of bullying. It caused a lot of hurt for me for a long time, but I kept on trucking and eventually got away from the bullies once I began high school. It was like a clean slate and I was able to be myself again.

This post isn’t about bullying…I will save that for another time. I want to focus on our sense of humor.

This year is probably the perfect year for us to have a good sense of humor and laugh at all the situations we’ve experienced. I am not minimizing the tragedy of the pandemic, but trying to highlight how we have been able to handle the situation without going insane. I saw a quote saying “if we cannot laugh at ourselves, then we will all go insane.” I truly believe if we cannot laugh at ourselves or our situations, then we are lost. 2020 has been a test for us…how resilient we are and how kind we can be to others. Most of all, we can laugh at just about anything now because we have no other choice but to find a light side to this dark time.

I follow a few comedians who really get me laughing out. I love when you laugh so hard that your belly hurts. I find myself having just experienced the same exact situation and can nod my head in agreement and then just laugh! Boy, does it feel good! What is the old adage…laughter is the best medicine? It is certainly an endorphin booster!

Laughing out loud can help you relieve stress, lift your mood, help you forget your troubles and maybe even help you see a different perspective in what would not necessarily be considered a funny situation. For as long as comedians have existed, one thing has remained…making light of a serious situation to help us get through the day. Sure, we can wallow in our self pity and be angry at the world for throwing us another curveball to deal with and crawl back into bed. OR, think about this…we can take the circumstance, look it straight in the eye and LAUGH at it until we don’t even know why we were so angry!

There are serious things that we cannot laugh our way through and there are people out there truly suffering that need our help. I am merely pointing out that without a sense of humor, we can be pretty boring and sad souls. If we weren’t given the gift of laughter, then why do we smile or giggle? We have the ability to feel all kinds of emotions, including humor. And if you are easily offended, try looking at things differently before lashing out to the world. There’s enough negativity out there already. Instead of pointing out what are the downsides of something, let’s showcase the beauty of what brings happiness. Today, start with smiling and laughing. You will feel better that you did!

 #laughter #enjoythelittlemoments #somethingtothinkabout