The Secret About Self-Care – Three Points to Follow

To some of us, self-care is new concept. Most of us were raised by parents, who were not aware of the concept themselves. And some people still feel that self-care is something fluffy, something for weak people or something for women. Self-care is something new to many of us, so its important we understand what it is, so we do it right and get the effects that self-care provides.

Self-care is about making sure that you are taken care of your needs so that you are in the best health to help others (if you chose to do so). That means mentally and physically. Does that sound like wearing a face mask to you or getting your nails done? Perhaps that’s a part of it, but that’s not the essence of it. “There is a difference between treating yourself and taking care of yourself” my friend Don. “I think that’s where people get it wrong”. Because getting your nails done, although it might feel nice, will not make sure that you are mentally and physically healthy. So what does?

One: Exercise. Which is probably what feels like to some people as the opposite of a message or getting pampered but it is not. Your body is meant to move. Its here to get you through life, from point A to point B. Exercise for the love of your body. Because your body deserves your love for all it does for you. Do an exercise that you enjoy and see how you feel – you will feel better than you ever did getting your hair done. It can be a walk, it can be yoga, it can be as fast and as slow as you want it. As long as you move.

Two: Therapy. To be in the best inner state you can be, talk to someone. You don’t have to have a trauma, a mental illness or even go to a therapist. Find someone you can talk to that gives you the feeling of being understood and helps you see things in your life clearly. Someone that gives you a moments pause in this ever evolving life. This is such a vital part of self-care. Its caring for your inner health. It’s taking a step back out of your regular life to tune into how you feel and addressing any worries and concerns that may be lingering and prohibiting happiness day to day.

Three: Isolation. Spend time just with yourself to tune into yourself. To find out how you are feeling, what you want, you need to check in with yourself. You can do it while exercising, you can do it while writing in your journal, you can do it getting your nails done. Just make sure you do it. People often forget about this part of self-care. The focus on the care but not on the self. And guess what – its kind of a really important part of it. Don’t be scared to spend time on your own. Its a thing that takes training and you can start with just 10 minutes. Make sure you do it with awareness, put your phone away and try to just ask yourself: What do I need? You may be surprised what you come up with.

If you are doing one of the above but not the others, you will feel unbalanced. If you are always isolating yourself, you will feel almost depressed and cut off. If you focus only on exercise, you will not feel emotionally ok. Try to find a good mixture of the three, yet if you end up doing one more than others that is more than fine. Its about the balance.

At this point, self-care sounds like a lot of work. Yet its more of a shift of focus rather than additional tasks. When done, self-care doesn’t seem like a task or draining. In the end, it does point to what my friend Don was mentioning, it does end up feeling like treating yourself.

So go ahead. Treat yourself.

 

The Infinite To Do List

Anyone else wake up on Sunday morning and think about what they have to get done for the day? Writing it out like that just seems crazy – it’s supposed to be the day of rest. In many countries most stores are closed on Sundays, its Oprah’s soulful Sunday and instagram’s self-care Sunday. No one mentions “To-Do Sundays” – and yet, if you spend your Sundays doing no chores, not cleaning, not going to some function due to social obligations I would say you must be the Dali Lama because if you are human – 99% chance is you are working off your To-Do List with any free time you might have.

 

Most of the time we usually are working on what we must do. Even on a Sunday. Some of us write lists, others keep repeating the tasks in our head what, others use self-guilt – whatever it is, we all find ways to get stuff done. Life is full of chores and fun fact – you will never be fully free of things you have to do. You will need to brush your teeth, you will need to shower, you will need to feed yourself. Basics are tasks too. The goal is to find the balance between the things you need to do and the things you want to do. The have to is inevitable, so try to mix it with things that make you happy. Do chores with your loved ones, listening to your favourite music or podcast while cleaning, watch a TV show while ironing. Mix and match to not feel completely drained.

 

Yet sometimes we even go to the extent that we invent stuff to do. I often catch myself thinking “What else do I need to do?”. I know I’m not the only one when I talk to people around me. We are constantly thinking about what needs to be done and when we should do it with the limited free time we have. Instead of making sure in our free time we recuperate, we fill it with more energy draining tasks. Do we even know how to do nothing? People go on vacation and fill it with things to do. People can’t imagine meditating, or just waiting for the bus without checking their phones. I wait for the bus and think about what I can get done so I have less to do, by for example answering work emails, which just creates more email flow. Have we gotten to a point where we don’t know any more just how to be? In a society where functioning and delivering is a highly valued commodity, we fear being lazy, we fear not producing.

 

Perhaps its time though, to practice not adding to your To do List. Even machines need maintenance – take the time to give yourself some maintenance. You are your most valued commodity. What’s the worst thing that can happen, if for one Sunday, you just decide to do everything you felt like doing and nothing of what needs to be done?

Go on, give it a try and let me know what’s the worst thing that happened.

Fun Fact: Mental Health Is Not about Being Calm

Last week it was mental health awareness day and what it did for me is make me aware of how little people know about mental health. Talking to people, conversations were about people needing to be more calm. People needing to “calm down” or “chill out” more. Ah yes, correct, we all do, but that is not really the point of mental health. Mental health equal being calm. It is a way to minimize the seriousness of mental health. To be honest depressed people are actually some of the most calm people I have met. What people perceive as calm and really actually feeling peaceful inside is totally something different.

I would actually go ahead and say that pretending or forcing yourself to be calm is a way of deflecting. A way of not dealing and not feeling what is going on inside. A way of deflecting. Which is, believe it or not, not healthy for your mental health. Its like keeping a coke bottle that has been shook to sit around for months and months (hint- eventually it will explode). If someone is balanced, they have no issue of addressing their feelings or feeling them. That is a strength. Even the Dalai Lama admits to feeling angry. Feelings are a part of us and showing them takes more courage and control than concealing them.

I don’t think most people are aware of the fact that calm and mentally healthy are not really correlated. Some people of great mental health might be loud, enthusiastic, passionate about life. Saying mental health is when you are chill is an easy way to not admit to yourself that mental health can affect you more than you think. Its a simple way to brush it under the rug and not address it. When doing that, should make you aware this is exactly why you should start looking into your own mental health.

But its normal that most people avoid it. People don’t want to associate themselves as mentally unstable or unwell. People that are described as such, are not seen as functioning, integrated parts of society. We tend to shun them out, or at least we used to. People of mental illnesses were pushed away, we didn’t talk about them at family functions, we would look at them awkwardly. Hopefully with time that changes – we all suffer from anxiety at times, feelings of inadequacy, thoughts that follow us into the night. Our mental health is like our physical health, sometimes we get ill – we get a cold and we need some healing. The earlier we accept that the healthier we can be. First step towards it, is understanding that calming down is a childish way to not dealing.

Purpose Integrated

Purpose seems to be THE millenial word. Somewhere I read we are called the purpose generation – the first generation who care more than just having a day to day job with a good income. We have had the luxury to not grow up in times of strife, with parents who already had steady lives and were able to give us a comfortable, steady life. The last generation built a stable foundation. They got to enjoy the fruits of a growing economy and a long time of peace. And as humanity has this ever growing need of development – our generation has developed past this. We no longer care for ourselves and our families but look beyond. We are set, our loved ones are set, now how can we do more?

No wonder older generations have a hard time with that. They didn’t have the luxury to think beyond their immediate needs. Hence we should not feel bad for looking for purpose or say you want some more in your life. Being able to look beyond your existential needs is what the world is currently lacking. Yet – with such a globally accessible world, with so many problems, its hard to know where to start. And at the same time, you are still expected to live up to the basic expectations of society – job, income, stability and now on top of that you also strive for purpose and dare I say fulfillment?

Most try to combine the above – a job that gives you lots of income AND purpose. Yet – there are probably three of those in the entire world. You might find it – and if you do I would greatly salute you and tell you that its ok to develop and find something else after that. What drives our purpose may change over time. You are not bound to life to one purpose.

Its an ideal case and a dream to find a job with a good income and purpose. It really would be great if there were more of those jobs. But I will have to tell you – most of us won’t find it. The difficulty to find your purpose, but believing you should is what has caused our generation a lot of anxiety, pressure and depression. There is a pressure to always do better than the last generation – always do better than your parents. And then we put all the pressure on ourselves to do better and find a purpose and then there are such few jobs that can give us that – its a cocktail that can only lead to disappointment.

Many of us, and that I fear my generation doesn’t understand, will not be able to combine income and purpose that easily. We will have to do jobs that will not make many people happy, that will not have impact on many lives, endangered animals or the planet. But that doesn’t mean we have to be without purpose. Enter your purpose into your job. If you are in charge of printing – make sure to use recycled paper. If you are passionate about women’s issues – start a women’s club at work. And if your work doesn’t allow it – balance it with your free time. Volunteer at a dog shelter, volunteer at the suicide hotline from the comfort of your home, or start a blog. Be driven to action by your purpose, don’t let the lack of it drag you down. Its amazing you are looking for it and don’t forget, it can really change over time. It shouldn’t be an additional pressure but should be a joy in your life. If you can’t find something today – doesn’t mean its not right around the corner.

When Your Guts have Feelings of their Own

Gut feelings. I wish they had a better name referencing to some organ that could be associated with something more delightful. Probably its named after where we feel we notice the feeling the most. The soft feeling we are biased towards one direction or have a feeling something is wrong. We often don’t know where the feeling comes from, yet it is present. Gut feelings can up in various forms – some people call it intuition. It doesn’t always have to be in a negative such as twinging or tension in your gut or chest but also in the sense that you are able to breathe easier, or feel your shoulders relax. Or even perhaps you hear yourself say “this doesn’t feel right” or “I don’t know why but I like this”.

 

Research says that often we know things in the back of our mind – our brain is like a sponge, it picks up on all kinds of information yet to not overwhelm us, it filters out a lot of information as well. It’s like a google search, that only shows us the top results but actually there are 500 other pages you could click through for information. It is believed that the gut feeling is an aggregation of these pages. As it is hard to summarize, sometimes it is not clear. But a feeling is there.

 

I believe that not having a clear message is the main reason why we question our gut feelings – they don’t speak to us clearly “Don’t do this because XYZ has happened before”. We just get a feeling: Something is wrong or something doesn’t feel right. As we have no logical explanation why we feel this way – we disregard it. We question why it’s even there and if we should listen to it. Instead to consider it a valid guidance, we instead enforce self-doubt. It also makes it hard to also justify to other people why you made certain decisions. Telling people we quit a job because you didn’t like the vibe or decided to pursue a big investment due to a good feeling will make people think you are reckless. Can you imagine making all your decisions about your life based on your gut? Providing no rational explanation for any of them?

 

I haven’t yet explored living a life just following my gut. I wonder if I could – a tax paying, law abiding citizen. But one thing I do know for sure, we should all stop doubting our gut feeling. It is there for a reason and it doesn’t need to be interrogated as if it did something wrong. It is your mind, your body telling you some information that you already know, but can’t recall. Give it an ear, don’t ignore it. Perhaps don’t let it make a decision on its own but let it guide you as you would be guided by a trusting friend. At the end of the day, the only person that has lived our whole life, knows our experiences and how we handle them is only us. Remember to be your own best friend, trust yourself as you do others.

Please Don’t Always Be Happy

This morning I was reading an article in the New York Times about dropping your kids off to school (bear with me, this article is not about that topic). As many children start going to school, they are introduced to a new world of structure and obligation that they will be a part of hence forth. One of the things that really stuck with me in the article was the point about how draining the day might be for children because they are expected to always be “on” and that’s new to them. The honesty of that hit me because yes, we are always expected to be “on”. To participate in class, to deliver at work, to be social in our free time. Where does the expectation come from that we feel we always have to be “on”? Every second that we are outside of our house, we are deemed to be wanting to deliver.

 

My first assumption would be that when you are happy it means your life or you in a good place. In a place where you are able to give to others. Looking at it from that perspective, of course the world would want you in that capacity. Society is extremely functionally driven. When in a mental health class the instructor asked what does it mean to function in a society having a job and getting a paycheck were the first things mentioned. We see getting paid and paying taxes means you are an integral part of society. You play your role. The more you deliver at work, the more successful you will become. The more friends you have, the happier your life is. Everything is presumed to function on the ability of you to be able to give – your energy, your time, your

 

This leads to a dangerous fact – namely that it is not appropriate for people to be down, or sad, or just have a day where they don’t feel like delivering. Can you imagine getting called out in school and being like “I don’t feel like answering this question today I just feel low on energy”. Or at work asking to move a meeting because you don’t feel up for it and are worn out of being social? Its unimaginable. I wouldn’t have the guts, I would just say I am sick or pull it together. Which makes the world very black and white – either you are fully in and functioning to your max, or you are totally out of it.

 

The best approach would be to have it all more balanced. Do you find sometimes you start off the day on the wrong foot and by the afternoon you are full of energy again and ready to be social? Life is not linear, no matter how much we want it to be and comes with it ups and downs. You can be down, just as much as you can be happy. A life without any downs is not possible. Don’t even start with expecting that kind of life from yourself. Accepting that there are times you won’t feel like functioning, that there are times that you almost can’t is the first step to have a more balanced life. And that way you can save yourself some energy and not be drained by the end of the day like children after going to school on their first day.

 

You’re toxic I’m slippin’ under

The world is is full of toxins – pollution in the air, chemicals in clothing – yet the one that probably effects us more directly is other people. To define what toxic people are is rather difficult, the characteristics are as diverse as the people that come carrying it. Generally I would summarize toxic people in two simple symptoms:

  1. They make you feel bad about yourself. Something they said or how they said it leaves you feeling bad about yourself, perhaps doubting yourself or thinking negative thoughts.
  2. You leave them feeling drained. Rather than feeling it was a good encounter, you feel used and low on energy.

Sounds familiar? I would say each one of us has this in our lives, or perhaps had it in our lives at one point. If it was a hobby and it made you feel that way- you would give it up. So why do we keep toxic people in our lives and secondly, why is it so hard to get rid of them? Here are some theories I have gathered:

The Social Factor

These days the sheer amount of friends you have seems to be a driving motivation in keeping people around that might not be of service to you. How many likes you have, how many experiences, how many followers or friends on facebook, this all determines your value in society. Quantity seems to play a higher value than quality. People you did stuff with, people you have made experiences with, that’s all that matters. Not the discussions and talks you have had or how you lifted each other up. Its more important to show that you are a functional, popular participant of society, since this is what determines your place in it. Or so it’s believed. “That’s why I believe we keep toxic people in our lives. They usually bring some other value, so you focus on that. For example they are your active friend who’s always doing stuff, or the friend who joins you for concerts” says my friend Jimmy. I guess we weigh out the pros and cons, and decide the toxicity is worth it.

The – They bring out the worst in me and I like it – Factor

In psychology they speak about three types of friendships – you are either friends with people who you deem as better than you, to constantly work on yourself to become better, people who are your equals or you have people around you who are not doing as well as you so you feel better about yourself on a continuous basis. I found this a little hard to understand, so I asked my friend Jacky to elaborate: “I think people keep toxic friends around cause they make toxic behaviors acceptable, like comparison, recklessness, disregarding relationships etc”. “Its hard to recognize them because toxic people usually comfort those bad behaviors you have yourself”. In other words, its like that girl or ex you stay friends with on social media just to see how they are doing and feel better about yourself because you are convinced you are doing better. A sort of feeling good about something negative. We all do that. We meet people and after we think: Wow am I better off than they are. A sort of very unhealthy pep talk.

The Not Notice Factor

Often when I talk to people, I don’t realize in the moment that they are toxic. But after I find myself pondering over why they said certain things or I ask myself why I am feeling down after I saw them. It only hits me later that perhaps their intentions were not coming from a good place. I tend to think people don’t mean no harm, that their negative behaviors come from insecurities that were brought upon them because life is hard, so I don’t go around assuming people mean ill. But it still has the same effect on me, toxic is toxic no matter if the person notices they are being toxic. Generally you should surround yourself with people that motivate you to be better, not make you feel drained and immobile.

The – They are Family or Coworkers – Factor

After asking around and causing a lot of bewilderment in the people around me, my friend Jay simply pointed out that a lot of people are toxic and we can’t avoid them. Simple as that. Family might even be easier to avoid than co-workers you have to see every single day. Like pollution – there’s just not much you can do about it.

So what can you do about it?

For one, avoid avoid avoid. I know negative comparison (They bring out the worst in me and I like it – Factor) might feel like its making you feel better – but its really not. Anything that comes from a negative space will not make you feel better in the long run – and won’t help bring out the best in you. Rather learn to accept that sometimes you have behaviors that are perhaps not explanatory – but that you are human and comparison, jealousy and other less ideal behaviors are just a part of you (hmm might make my next blog post about that). If you can, avoid the toxic people. You cannot change them and they will do you no good.

If you can’t avoid the people, because perhaps they are your co-workers, try to focus on how you are when you are around them. Whatever your protection strategy is – either being mindful and focusing on the emotions that arise inside, making jokes to deflect the situation, or put up a wall – do what you need to do to protect yourself. Just because someone else has issues with themselves does not give them the right to make you feel less worthy or used. You are not here to carry their luggage.

Adjusting Ice Cube’s lyrics to this situation: Protect yourself before you wreck yourself.

Perhaps- You do say it best, when you say nothing at all

Ever said something wrong and have it bug you longer than a Stranger Things Episode? Happens to me all the time. It’s not always due to social anxiety – of which I believe I have as much as the other rational human being. Sometimes we say things, mean it in the best way and it comes out so wrong. Either we hear it ourselves or we notice how people react to it – and that can be not in a positive way. It happens to all of us all the time, and can be driven by the situation – we could be stressed out, sad or just simply overwhelmed. Considering the amount of words we speak each day, saying something perceived as “wrong” is highly likely. Throw a bunch of social norms and I’m surprised we don’t go around saying awful things to each other all the time.

So what do you do once you realize you let something slip? You made a joke at a party when you’ve had too much to drink and you can see your friend get upset about it. Or you were in a meeting and you mentioned a project isn’t going well when the project manager is sitting across from you looking distraught?

Best thing to do is take a step back. Take a moment and check in with yourself – how are you feeling? Are you stressed, under pressure, feeling overwhelmed or just really relaxed? Gather yourself, take a breath. Social norms require a lot of self-control, so take a moment to take control of yourself.

Once you have gathered yourself, recover. Either apologize on the spot if you can, or take a second and clarify what you had actually wanted to say. There is nothing wrong with saying: “That came out wrong, I apologize, what I was meaning to say was…”. It shows you are level headed, in control and that you have the strength to admit you were wrong. If you leave the statement you made hanging in the air, people will assume it’s what you wanted to say. Take the chance to clear the air. I usually deal with things with humor and admit “wow that sounded harsh” or “gosh that was a bad joke” – honesty can be a good policy at times. It certainly helps people forget what I had said.

Confronting yourself gives you a chance to set the record straight. But that’s not the last step – the last step is forgiving yourself. People say stupid stuff all the time. Most of the time, they aren’t fully listening anyway. You can’t go back in the past and change it anyway. What’s done is done – what’s been said been said. Let it go, move on, be brave and forgive yourself. Once you do that, you just might find you are forgiving others for their mishaps as well.

YES to Life, YES to Boredom

Remember the last time you were bored? Could be that you don’t remember it, because I often can’t remember the feeling. Boredom seems to be a distant memory of a feeling I often felt as a child. These days we have our phones to bridge any moment I find myself waiting and I don’t really know what to do with myself. There are always plenty of apps that I find I can scroll through and get lost in – Instagram, Reddit, 9Gag – you literally have to stop yourself because the content will not stop for you. It is an unless feed with constant updates. And then there are games, quizzes, everything to keep you entertained. If you are looking to fill your time, it is literally in your hands. Boredom is a feeling we want to avoid. It leaves us feeling empty, and rather lost what do with ourselves. If we knew, we probably wouldn’t be bored. And in a day and age where you could always be working, learning, growing, studying, interacting with friends, gaming, working out, living your best life – it just seems like we did something wrong if we are bored. That we are not living our lives right.

 

Yet a while back, I stumbled on a theory that boredom is vital for various things in life. It shocked me a little, is it really boredom that we need? The unenjoyable feeling of restlessness? The presence of boredom has led to room and time for many of humanities creative gems (readSusan Sontag) – novels, movies, paintings – many of them stem from people being bored and having the time and openness to try out things they never have before. It makes you look for something new, something to pass the time and often it is a basis for many beautiful things we have created in our time on earth. Many discoveries in science, or books on philosophy have their roots in many hours spent wondering what to do in one’s life. When you think about it, it’s actually really logical. How will you have time to experiment, to think outside of the box if you are constantly thinking about something else and your mind is preoccupied with another stimulus? Would you pick up a pen and start to try writing poetry if you are looking at youtube videos? The first thing I do is consider what I haven’t done yet on my phone, before I get so bored I actually consider doing something completely random.

 

Not only does boredom build a fruitful ground for creativity, many scholars go to the extent to argue that boredom in fact, is essential for our everyday happiness. Being bored helps create a kind of openness to new things, like for example new ideas or new thoughts. It makes you present in your surroundings – aware of your feelings and thoughts, as well as what is going on around you. If you are constantly distracted, it is hard to touch base with your inner self and actually check in with what you want to achieve and where you think you stand. Kierkegaard argued that escaping the present by keeping ourselves busy is the greatest source of unhappiness for people. Boredom enforces mindfulness – a free meditation lesson so to say.

 

So what can you do with all this information? Next time you find yourself waiting – say at the doctor’s office or at the bus stop. Just let yourself wait. I’ve don’t it a couple of times now, and to be honest, I don’t even get bored. It’s so refreshing just to check in with myself and think – it feels like a novelty. Give it a go. After hearing all these benefits – don’t you want to get bored?

The Good Side of Jealousy

Just like anything, too much of something is never good. That doesn’t just count for sugar, shopping and alcohol but also for human emotions. Too much anger, or jealousy can be a negative influence in your life to the point it hinders you from living a fulfilled life. Yet a little bit of jealousy, could be a driver for you to take action and enforce a change you need. It can help you reflect about things you may have not before – a mirror that is forced upon you. For example if you do want to finally quit a job that may not be paying you well, or you do want to go to Paris on vacation or even that you want to start dealing with your family issues. It can force a reflection in your life that you may have not been driven to otherwise.

At the same time, a complete lack of jealousy doesn’t sound too good either (just like a lack of sugar, shopping or alcohol in my case). It might perhaps highlight that you are not surrounding yourself with things or people that challenge you and inspire you to do better. We could all use a little nudge to help us live an easier life as life continuously brings challenges, doubts and issues with it. Learning from other people and being driven to improve or change could be a massive aid in figuring life out.

It’s easier to do something when you are forced to do it externally. Hence why people have personal trainers or the tax authority. Jealousy of another person can act as that driver. The general definition I found most interesting online was that jealousy is the feeling evoked when someone seems better off than you. You see something better than what you have – you look for ways to get it. I guess a kind of comparison comes into play, which can be a dangerous field. Often it can lead into a helpless cycle. Try shifting your thoughts, don’t go about it as “Why don’t I have what they have” but rather “Why do I want what they have and why haven’t I worked on getting it?”.

As of now, all I have listed are good things about jealousy – improvement, growth, things turning out for the better. If it’s such a good driver – then why does jealousy have such negative connotations? Why is it so frowned upon? Because a) it’s a negative/ painful feeling and b) it doesn’t often lead to action. That is because we are told it is a negative thing. We are not taught “Oh you feel this way? Do something about it!”. Instead we are told not to feel it. Often even worse, we do not address it, with others or even ourselves. I’ve even heard it being called an ugly emotion. Jealousy makes you ugly. Yet I would argue that there is no good kind or bad kind of jealousy.  Just like there is no good kind of happy or bad kind of happy. It’s just another emotion and does not need to get judged. Perhaps if we learned to navigate or manage this emotion in a sense that it helps us do better and be better, it would indeed be quiet helpful. It could be an asset to get to know yourself from another angle and lead to action about it. Listen to it as if it was someone else’s voice and ask yourself what you are actually trying to tell yourself. Therefore I ask you, just like any emotions that arise, accept jealousy without judging yourself.

Sage Burning

A therapy blog

I refuse to give up

Spiritual journey through life lessons

Emma Ortega Negrete

YOUR EMPOWERMENT COACH TRANSFORMING YOU TO YOUR AUTHENTIC HIGHEST SELF!

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