6. Give yourself options when you don’t want to do something
Something sounded like a good idea two weeks ago when you were drinking or having an on day and now it looks like you’d rather chop a finger off rather than do the thing. Or you never wanted to do something in the first place but you said yes, because you didn’t want to come off as a negative nelly.
Often, stress happens when we commit to something to please others. We have a hard time saying no or backing out of our commitments because we don’t want to be perceived as unreliable. But the reality is that sometimes we change our minds. Caring for self means we recognize that and try to honor that.
So what is one to do? Find and offer options that align with what you want to do. The reality is that no one likes to say no to others, so offer things that you can say yes to. I always tell clients. Don’t tell me what you don’t want to do, tell me what you do want to do and let’s figure out how to make it happen for all parties.
Offer suggestions and solutions, instead of just going along with something that you don’t want. Maybe you fess up and admit you said yes in the moment but really meant no. Maybe you said yes when you were well rested and now you’re exhausted after a long week. Look for options that honor where you are in the moment.
7. Get comfortable with the phrase “I don’t know”
Whether it’s with your kids, at your job, with your friends or even with strangers, we all want to come across as intelligent or knowledgeable or competent. It’s why we supposedly spend all of this time going to school, watching the news or keeping up with the latest trends on social media. Because we need to know, so that we can stay on top of things.
But that kind of pressure to know it all is killing the process of learning and discovering and curiosity. You don’t have to know all the answers to everything all the time. And that’s ok. In fact, it’s better than ok because now you can be curious.
Needing to know also covers up the uncertainty of life. When we are faced with emotionally charged topics such as illness or the pain of a loved one, we want to have answer and we want to “fix it”. We want to know everything we can so that we can avoid the suffering and sadness that inevitably exists. And while knowledge is great as a defense mechanism, it can not take away the pain that comes when the heart is involved.
By admitting that you don’t know something, you can be present emotionally for yourself and others. You are not Google. And I’m sure there is probably something out there that Google doesn’t know, like is God real? Why did that person hurt me? And there are things that Google does know, like how to boil water or how to cook a lobster. Ask questions, be curious, admit that you don’t always have the answer.
8. Create a vision board.
As a therapist who has been trained in Jungian theory, there is tremendous significance placed on symbols and images. Images go to the core of who we are and are much more important than words could ever be. Imagine I say to you, “what makes you happy”. Your first inclination is to come up with an image…one of your child, your pet, a childhood memory, etc. And then you verbalize the image that came up in your head. The same goes with care for yourself.
By creating a vision board, you can flood your subconscious and imagination with images of who you want to be or things you want to do to take care of yourself. Stop talking to yourself, trying to convince yourself about what you need. Your mind will always find excuses for you NOT to take care of yourself. BUT, if you see images of things you do want, you will know that care is possible.
If you can see the images of things that you enjoy or things that give you peace, you are more likely to reduce any stress or anxiety that is present, because you are seeing what you need.
I’m all for vision boards to establish goals, but I’m also a fan of just ripping out pictures and putting them in a journal to look at throughout the day or week. And if you don’t have access to magazines or images, draw them.
As an alternative, I would also suggest drawing on post it notes and posting these images throughout your house. Just seeing them, can be
a great reminder and can trigger a memory or an image in your mind’s eye.
9. Incorporate the five senses into your day.
Like I described in the tip above, I believe that we respond more powerfully to things that activate our five senses. Have you ever noticed that you can think about the ocean and it brings you peace, even if you haven’t been to the beach in years? Or do you recognize how soothing a warm blanket feels against your skin. Or how tasting something from your childhood can bring you instant serenity?
By finding items that activate the five senses, you can bring yourself away from stress and anxiety and into care for yourself, your nervous system and your thoughts.
Try listening to sounds of the ocean or a white noise machine. Try listening to binaural beats which help process the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Go enjoy a meal that brings you some calm. Or better yet, imagine tasting something pleasant, like your favorite store's famous cookies. Touch something soo
thing or go get a hug from something or someone you love. Watch a lazy river on Youtube for a few minutes. Find a pleasant smell which brings you a sense of calm. Lavender essential oils are great, but so is the smell of vanilla or orange. Some people have even described the smell of bacon to be pleasing and calming. Find what works for and incorporate them into your day throughout the day.
10. Diversify the everyday.
Part of what provides us purpose is our ability to experience new things. We lament the fact that we may not have the funds or the time to go away on vacation. But sometimes you can derive the same sensation by travelling to another town and discovering the quirks right in your own state.
Explore online to do lists or check out sites like Trip Advisor to see what’s ranking in towns near and far from your house. Is there a kick ass pizza place in your state that everyone raves about? Is there a concert venue where the best bands play? Is there a national park in our state that everyone says you should go and visit?
Check out lists for best bookstore, best pizza, best hiking, whatever it is and make a day of it. Create bucket list items of things that you can do by your house. And you open yourself to things that fill your well and foster a sense of well-being.
In conclusion, be open to expanding what it means to engage in self-care. Find hope that you enjoyed this list, and ultimately, that you expand your definition of what it means to engage in self-care.
My name is Eddie and I am a mindfulness-based therapist in Bordentown, NJ who specializes in trauma, anxiety and Mom stress. I provide online counseling throughout the state of NJ and specifically in Mercer and Burlington County, NJ (Bordentown, Chesterfield, Robbinsville, Hamilton and Princeton). Find me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.