Keeping It Together: Self-Care A to Z **Previously Posted**

Self-care is everywhere these days. It is a buzzword that keeps popping up across social media and in different articles. While some might consider it a trend in wellness, self-care is really important to everyday life. By taking care of yourself on the good days, the bad days might be a little bit easier to manage. During these past couple months, I have finally starting taking care of myself better and implementing my own self-care routine. So, today I am going to share with my A-Z on self-care and hopefully there is something to help you! But just remember these five things when developing your routine:

  1. Recognize that you need to take care of yourself in many different ways. Often, there isn’t a one-off solution. Self-care can manifest itself in a wide variety of ways; that’s why we’re doing an A to Z! By first recognizing that taking care of yourself is key, you’re already on the right track.
  2. Everyone’s self-care spells out differently. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to do this, excluding unhealthy coping mechanisms such as abusing alcohol, drugs, etc. But my K and your K could be total opposites, but we could have the same B’s.
  3. Do what works for you. Don’t let anyone put you down for taking care of yourself. If it’s working for you, don’t knock it. It is no one else’s business.
  4. Keep trying and stay hopeful. It doesn’t always work on the first try. It can be a long process. But you’ll find what works eventually and just keep at it. You’ll put your puzzle together soon enough.
  5. Make it a regular habit. Don’t only start self-care once you’re already struggling and it’s too late. Taking care of yourself now will help you when you need it later.

And now…here is my self-care A to Z!

A. Alone time: For me, time by myself is crucial. There are times when I definitely just need to be alone with my thoughts and maybe my cat. Even now, sometimes crowd interactions or being social can really overwhelm or exhaust me, so my time to myself is very precious to me. I need those resets.

B. Books: I love reading. I have for as long as I can remember. There’s just something about immersing yourself in a good book. I primarily read historical nonfiction, and I just love reading about the past and how certain events unfolded. Reading a book transports you to another world.

C. Crafts: I love being crafty. I do a variety of crafts, but primarily I like to make wreaths, ornaments, and knit. Knitting is a big one for me; it is a very mindful hobby and helps calm my anxiety. But taking the time to craft can be very relaxing or is a good way for me to unwind. And then, you get something out of it because you made something!

D. Dreams: What’s life without dreams? Take time to reflect on your dreams, where you want to go in life. Dreams don’t work unless you do.

E. Exhale: I totally underestimated meditation and how simple it actually can be. Learning some basic meditations – which often can involve focusing on breathing – can make a huge difference in your stress levels. Just a few, slow, deep breaths can make a difference for you physically and mentally. Ever since I started meditating, I pay a lot more attention to my breath and know that I need to take these deep breaths at times.

F. Face masks: There is a newer obsession of mine, but it is also a nice way to treat myself at times. I love putting on a sheet mask and taking the five to fifteen minutes to close my eyes and relax. And I love how my skin feels afterwards! Not only are getting some mental care by taking a time-out, you’re treating your skin and helping keep that healthy as well. Now, I always have a few sheet masks on hand.

G. Get rid of clutter: For most of us, it is pretty much a guarantee that we have unnecessary junk at home that is just taking up room. Sometimes, a good cleaning can make you feel better. And this also doesn’t just apply to physically getting rid of junk – there’s probably some worry in your mind that is taking unnecessary space in your head. Let it go! Recognize that it’s there, but recognize why it doesn’t matter, and then let it go. Just like you need to clean out your closet every now and then, you need to do the same with your brain.

H. Hugs: Sometimes you just need a hug to know things will be okay.

I. Ice cream: Do I need to explain this? I love ice cream.

J. Journaling/self-care journal: The last few months journaling has become a big part of my treatment plan. I try really hard not to censor myself and just write out my feelings. No one will ever read it, so I can say what I want. It kind of goes hand-in-hand with the mind clutter; by putting those thoughts on the page, sometimes I’m taking them out of my mind and no longer worrying about them. Another thing I did was create a self-care journal. It’s kind of like a bullet journal, but I don’t use it as a planner. I just trying to fill it with things I think will help on bad days, like some of my favorite quotes, lists, meditation tips, etc.

K. Kettlebells: Exercise is a huge part of self-care and works great for your mind and body! And for me, kettlebells are one of the best workouts. I don’t know what it is, but I just love them. For me, it is a full body workout guaranteed to make me work and feel it the next day. And as I start to use heavier kettlebells, I feel a sense of accomplishment too.

L. Learning: I’m a nerd. I’m a lifelong learner. It is important to work out your brain too, or at least try and keep it occupied for awhile. I do this by reading, but for some, puzzles are another great way. The possibilities are pretty much endless. You can take opportunity to learn damn near anything. That’s one of the great things about technology.

M. Mindfulness: I practice mindfulness meditation. It has only been a few months, but I’ve noticed a difference. It helps to keep me calm before I completely lose control of my emotions. In some ways, I don’t think I can explain it. It is the strangest feeling, but I feel so much more in-tune with myself. I am finding that I do not get as upset as easily, and that there are times when I’m upset or feeling some type of negative emotion where mindfulness gets me through the moment. It is a fascinating thing. There are many apps available to practice meditation, but I use the 10% Happier by Dan Harris.

N. Naps: Sometimes you just need EVERYTHING turned off. It might just be a quick nap, but it’s like restarting your phone or computer – helps get everything back in order. I have had times where all I’ve needed is a ten or fifteen minute nap and I’m energized for the rest of the day. It can make a difference.

O .Open up: I know that this one can be really hard. But keeping things bottled up isn’t going to help you either. Talk. Speak. Someone is going to listen. A therapist, a friend, maybe you just decide to talk to your dog to say the words and get it out. That’s key, getting it out there. Keeping it inside you is just going to make things worse.

P. Plan: Ever since I started feeling better, it has been much easier for me to be organized. I’ve also realized how much I enjoy planning. It might be the anxiety, but I feel much better when I have a plan in place and direction. There have been times where I’ve been upset and reevaluating where I am at and reorganizing myself makes me feel better. One of my goals for this year is to stay organized and stay dedicated to my planner, but I also use apps like OneNote and Trello to keep my thoughts organized too. Every now and then you just have to ask yourself, where the hell do you plan on going and how are you going to reach your goals?

Q. Quiet: I like background noise like the TV or music. But sometimes the background noise drowns out my thoughts, and I find it best to go in the quiet for a bit so I can settle my thoughts.

R. Run: A lot of people really hate running. At times, I’m one of them. But you can’t deny the runner’s high. I always feel good after a run. It feels like I’ve accomplished something, and it helps me clear my head. There are many physical and mental benefits to a good run. You don’t have to go fast, and the only person you should be competing against is yourself.

S. Sunshine/rise/set: I have a great view of the sun. I am lucky to see such beautiful sunrises and sunsets day after day. They never get old either. And nothing really beats the feeling of warm sunshine against your skin. Although it can be difficult to do in Pittsburgh (especially during the winter months!), take some time to enjoy the sun – the beauty of it, the feeling of it. It really is amazing.

T. Take a chance: How many of us are guilty of this? We let something, some unknown, just eat away at us? Sometimes going after that unknown is self-care. At least you’ll have your answer. And it might be the one you want. But you aren’t ever going to know if you don’t go for it. Why let yourself fret over the unknown when you can either put it behind you if it doesn’t work or move forward with it? Either way, you can feel better by approaching it.

U. Unwind: Taking walks relax me. I would walk around in circles in my backyard around my pool listening to music. Knitting relaxes me. What relaxes you? Everyone has that thing that just works for them. Hold onto to it.

V. Victories: We say don’t sweat the small stuff. Well, we should celebrate the little stuff. Every victory is still a victory. Even if it is just getting out of bed, some days that will be a victory. Accomplishments don’t have a significance requirement. Give yourself some credit.

W. Writing (creative): I like to write poetry. Thinking creatively and creating a new world within my poetry can distract me for a bit and take away some of the tension, or it can be an outlet for my feelings.

X. Xerox: This one is kind of odd, but stay with me, X was a difficult letter. Look back on memories. Replay (copy) them in your mind. Look back at old photos. Remember why and what made you happy. Revisiting old memories can do a lot for you occasionally.

Y. Yoga: Another exercise that has mental and physical benefits, but this is often misunderstood. A lot of people get stressed at the idea of doing yoga and making fools of themselves, but honestly, everyone is in their own little world minding their business and trying to figure out if what the hell they’re doing is right. Keep your mind on you and in the present. You don’t have to be flexible either; yoga itself is flexible and adaptable to different fitness levels. Meditation is incorporated into yoga, and you’ll find yourself feeling better after a yoga session. Soon, you’ll see the sessions get easier and look forward to them!

Z. Zoo trip! I love the zoo. That’s pretty much it.

I hope these helped you some, or at least gave you ideas for your own self-care activities! Everyone is different. But you can’t help others if you aren’t helping yourself, and you can’t grow if you aren’t taking care of yourself. One of my favorite sayings – be always blooming!

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