By: Ellie Miraftabi, MFT. Ph.D.
Director of Counseling & Career Services
Today I want to discuss self-care and turning stress into Strength. More psychologists recognize that self-care helps them be better caregivers.
There are self-care basis –eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly – and more luxurious ones. Using them all
If you do just one thing, make it exercise. Psychologist’s research and clinical experience show the critical importance of weaving exercise into your life. Research on the topic overwhelmingly points to its physical and mental benefits: Not only does regular exercise improve physical problems such as high cholesterol and diabetes, but it has distinct mood and cognitive advantages as well, including ability to combat depression and anxiety. Treat yourself to a massage and /or learn to massage your neck, shoulders, and feet.
Do any one of your favorite sports, especially one that involves a pretty setting such as skiing, sailing, or horseback riding on scenic trails. As you engage in the physical activity, pay special attention to the sensory experiences that are involved. Be conscious of every sense –sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
Cultivate your mind, bodies and spirits through exercise, meditation, a balanced diet and self directed thinking, instead of reacting to outward pressures to advance professionally. This approach comes from various aspects of Buddhism, including:
- Nonjudging. Get beyond thinking of people and situations as good or bad. Achieve a more neutral, observant state, often with the help of meditation.
- Patience. Set a steady pace. Think before acting, Avoid quick or automatic reactions.
- A beginner’s mind. Open your mind. Listen to and learn from others.
- Trust. Start by trusting people. Only distrust them when you have valid reason to.
- Acceptance. Recognize that some people and things will be as they are.
- Letting go. Know when to rest, to withdraw or to stop, and allow yourself to do. Nonstriving. Focus less on the future and more on the present moment and the job at hand.
Here is a collection of simple, common-sense strategies for transforming mental and physical tension in energy that is creatively and efficiently expressed.
- Take time to be alone on a regular basis to prioritize your activities, reevaluate your goals, check your intentions, and listen to your heart.
- Take a deep slow breath often, especially while on the phone, in the car, or waiting for something or someone. Use these moments to relax and revitalize yourself.
- Do something each day that brings you joy, something that you love to do and that leaves you refreshed.
- When you’re concerned about something, talk it over with someone you trust, or write down.
- Say no when asked to do something you really don’t want to do.
- Appreciate how everything changes from moment to moment. Welcome changes as an opportunity and challenge to learn and grow.
- Take yourself to a beautiful natural setting such as a park, the beach, a lake, a river, or mountains. Focuse your eyes on the beauty around you. Pay attention to the array of colors in nature.
- Visit a public garden. Let your eyes roam over the flowers and exotic plants. Go up very close to the flowers and examine the petals and leaves. Look for the intricacy of design which is the hallmark of natures’ work.
- Go to a movie or rent a video that has been praised for its cinematography. Pay particular attention to the scenery, the costumes, and the technical mastery of the film.
- Go to a concert of your favorite music. Close your eyes and marvel at the blending of sounds and rhythms.
- Learn a variety of relaxation techniques and practice at least one regularly.
- Become more aware of the demand you place on yourself, your environment, and others to be different than they (you) are at any moment. Demands are a tremendous source of stress.
- If your schedule is busy, prioritize your activities and do the most important ones first.
- When you read your mail, act on it immediately (e.g., files it, send it back, toss it, etc.)
- Create and maintain a personal support system –people you trust and feel as ease with.
- Take a soothing bath by candlelight and listen to your favorite music softly. Perfume the bathwater with warm, scented bath oil or bubble bath. As you immerse yourself, focus on the pleasurable sensations you are experiencing
- When sleeping, keep the room as dark as possible.
You don’t need to wait until you are in the mood to do these activities. Stimulate your sensory path ways precisely when you are not necessarily in the mood –when you are feeling down. By putting the behavior first, your mind and your mood will follow.