Self-care is NOT Selfish

Before you dive into these words, take a look at this image.

Look at the water, replenishing this beautiful, living, growing, life-giving plant.

Is the plant selfish for being watered?

I think not!

Selfish is a word that is loaded with a ton of shame, at least for me.  And that, in turn, can add stress to an already difficult time we are all facing during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Do any of these resonate for you?

  • You need to take care of everyone else first.
  • Get all your work done, and then, maybe you can play.
  • You’re not allowed to rest until you collapse in exhaustion or sickness.
  • Taking care of yourself first brings shame.
  • Saying no is selfish.
  • When you do try to do something for you, your family seeks you out like a fierce game of hide and seek!
  • When you manage to sneak away, even to the bathroom for a luxurious solitary pee, or even bath, you feel reenergized, yet slightly guilty.

Here’s the truth:

(aka what I’ve learned in all of my training, research, and the school of life!)

You’re no good to anyone if you’re exhausted, sick, fried, resentful. 

Repeat after me: I am not my best self when I play the martyr.

Your loved ones deserve your mentally and physically healthy, refreshed self, and if you don’t put your own oxygen mask on first, you’re heading down a slippery slope without a helmet! And then, who’s going to be the superhero in your family?

Trust me. I was trained to care for others first. From a very early age I felt it was my job to be sure others were happy and not in conflict.

It’s not served me well. Autoimmune illness, check. Crash and burn, check. Shame spirals that overcome me at times, check. 

At 55, I am learning that caring for me is not selfish, it’s essential. I hope you learn this sooner, and have some extra bonus years of joy!

What will you do today for YOU? 

It can be as simple as finding a quiet place to drink your coffee and savor the birdsong, waking gently before diving into your to-do list! 

It can be a short mindful breathing practice, or maybe even a loving kindness meditation!

It can be treating your body with some gentle stretching and movement.

It can be slathering on some beautiful fragrant (safer skin care of course!0 lotion

It can be baking something that makes the house smell like your favorite holiday. 

It’s really up to you!

Let me know your thoughts on this concept of self-care/selfish?  And let me know what you will commit to today, even if it’s something that takes under 5 minutes! 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Coaching in this time of “new normal”

I’m not even sure what “normal” is anymore, but I do know that many people are being challenged beyond their limits, knowing that they’re not quite functioning they way they’d like to be, but not sure what to do about it.

I’d like to share that I’m part of an incredible group of coaches, Health Coaches Without Borders, and we are offering free individual and group coaching for a 4 week period beginning soon!

Check out their site, and check out my group offering! Spaces are still available! I’m offering a 4 week group for women who fall into any of these categories:  moms, helping professionals, teachers, and basically anyone who could use a little bit of time, support and compassion at a time when life is anything but “normal.” We’ll work on building hope, confidence, realistic optimism and come away with a feeling and deep knowledge that we are not alone.

Please reach out at contact@joanyounghealthcoach.com with any questions! Registration ends April 22nd! My group begins May 2nd!

Laughter IS The Best Medicine

You may notice that you feel your best when you’re around those who make you laugh. Sometimes, though, it’s easy to get too serious or so stressed that you don’t take the opportunity to laugh at the situation, or even at yourself.

Here are some of the benefits of laughter, along with some tips to intentionally make humor a bigger part of your day!

 

5 Benefits:

  1. Makes you calmer. Laughter gets the oxygen flowing and increases blood flow, leaving you feeling simultaneously energized and calm. 
  2. Improves our immune system. Say what? Yep, laughter has been proven to increase the activity of our fighter cells. 
  3. Relieves pain. Laughter has been shown to reduce pain by increasing endorphins. I know that for me, when I am not feeling well, comedy also distracts me and also helps me focus on something other than how crappy I feel. 
  4. Connects us to others. When we share a moment of laughter with someone, it’s a positive connection that can lead to better cooperation and mutual understanding.  
  5. Improves our positive feelings and decreases depression. Laughter increases the release of serotonin and dopamine, which can lift our mood. 

 

8 Easy Ways to Laugh More: 

  1. Be on the lookout for funny signs during your errands. I can almost always find a typo or sign that somehow makes me chuckle. 
  2. Trade that serious nighttime show for a funny one. Blackish has become one of my faves recently. It’s humor is intelligent and filled with messages to make you think. 
  3. Recall a funny story from your day. Share it at dinner or in the lunch- room! 
  4. Share a funny image with someone.
  5. Keep a folder of funny images on your desktop or on your phone.
  6. Write down funny things kids say. 
  7. Be able to laugh at your mistakes. Having a lighthearted attitude about making mistakes frees us from the feelings of shame and self-loathing that can take over if we feel embarrassed. I still laugh about the time a kid sat in a bean bag chair right behind me and I tripped, nearly falling on him and showing what was underneath my dress! 
  8. Listen to a comedy podcast on your commute. Start your day laughing and notice how it impacts your stress during the day! 

Resources 

Check out this short article from the Mayo Clinic. 

Here’s a list of comedy podcasts from Happy Human.

You’ve Got to Move it Move it

You know stress is an issue for you, and your doctor may have even talked about getting a little more exercise. Exercise promotes the production of endorphins, our feel good chemicals, sometimes referred to as a “runner’s high.” Exercise also holds the power to reduce anxiety and put you in a better mood for the rest of your day!

The good news: you really don’t need anything fancy to reap the benefits of exercise.

Here are 7 tips and tricks for getting more active and lowering your stress! Of course, before making any changes in exercise routine, always check with your doctor. The current recommendation for adults is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as brisk walking or swimming, per week or 75 minutes of more vigorous activity such as running, per week. We often make it harder for ourselves by thinking it’s got to be in one continuous period, but lots of varied movement throughout the day is beneficial as well! 

 

  1. Don’t park in the closest spot! I often park my car just a bit farther away wherever that may be. Whether it’s school and I have things to carry in, or the shopping center, I park and add at least a few hundred extra steps each time.
  2. . If you sit a lot at work, set a timer (or if you have one of those fancy watches, even better because they tell you when to get off your butt and move!) Right outside my office door I have a little mini-station with a weighted medicine ball, very light dumbbells, and resistance bands. Each time I go to  the restroom, I come back and do 10 squats with the medicine ball. When a colleague comes to chat with me, I ask if they’d like to throw the weighted medicine ball back and forth as we brainstorm.
  3. Find a friend or colleague who likes what you do! There is nothing more fun than going to a Zumba class or yoga with a friend. It’s a built in accountability partner and then you get the added stress reduction of connecting with someone who knows you and sees you! This year I’m planning on pitching a yoga time before school for all who want to join in. 
  4. Mirror the little people. If you have little ones around the house, you know that they rarely stay in one place. Try to keep up with them! My grandkids love to “fly” on my legs, chase me around the house, and run down the street to the neighborhood park. If you don’t have any little people around, think about a friend who is always on the move.
  5. Start meetings with 10 minutes of intentional walk and talk time. Give everyone a topic to discuss and see how that leads into a more productive working meeting! 
  6. Put on some music and dance! Nothing gets the feel-good hormones going than some good music and some silly moves. 
  7. Bike to work! Several of my colleagues bike to work every day and they all report that it prepares them mindfully for their day. I live too far away from school for this option, or I would try it out!

References: 

 

  1. Seaward BL. Physical exercise: Flushing out the stress hormones. In: Essentials of Managing Stress. 3rd ed. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Publishers; 2014.
  2. Sood A. Integrating joyful attention. In: The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press/Lifelong Books; 2013.
  3. Hegberg NJ, et al. Physical activity and stress resilience: Considering those at-risk for developing mental health problems. Mental Health and Physical Activity. 2015;8:1.
  4. Silverman MN, et al. Biological mechanisms underlying the role of physical fitness in health and resilience. Interface Focus. 2014;4:1.
  5. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/PAGUIDELINES/guidelines/default.aspx. Accessed March 10, 2015.

 

5 Tips to Survive and Thrive in May: The Longest Month in Teacher Life

If you are a teacher, I don’t have to tell you about May! It’s just past the mid-month mark, and I find myself counting down the days until the school year ends.

Don’t get me wrong! I absolutely adore what I do, and yet, the lure of peeing anytime I want, working out at any time of the day, and easily prepping and eating the delicious food that truly nourishes me without the temptation of sugar-laden goodies calling to me from the faculty room..these are some of my favorite things about summer!

Ok, so what am I here to say?! I’m here to share my top 5 list for surviving and flourishing with your students during this longest month ever!

  1. Don’t forget to breathe! I know it sounds superficial, but seriously, learning to stop and take deep, nourishing breaths has saved me on numerous occasions, from saying something I might regret to a student or in an email to someone, to helping me to take a moment to gain perspective. If you’re an iphone user, check out the app, Oak, which has a variety of breathing exercises you can do in under a couple of minutes.
  2. Have someone you can vent to or share humor with? Let them know that you might be sending a few additional texts their way! My coaching partner is absolutely hilarious, and sends me texts often. Yes, my abs hurt from laughing, but the endorphin boost? I’ll take that too!
  3. Get some sleep! You’re nodding off at your computer, hell-bent on getting those report card comments done. Guess what? You’re probably going to be more efficient by waking up at a decent time, getting to work, and cranking them out while you are more alert.
  4. Start a new habit that nurtures you: for me, it’s morning mindfulness practice, right when I get to school. I made a pretty sign for my office door, and put it up each morning while I take 10-15 minutes to breathe and settle. I use calm.com as it’s easy and free for educators!
  5. Practice gratitude! I know you’re shooting daggers my way right about now, but gratitude practice, during the toughest of times, is a powerful one. Check out Greater Good Science Center’s 3 Good Things practice and each day find 3 good things that happened.
  6. I know.. I said 5, but here’s a bonus: move! Yes, I said it, get moving! Walk, dance, run, skip if you must, but don’t let yourself get too sedentary. Walking boosts endorphins, and you need them at this busy time of year. Put some music on in your classroom and get those kiddos moving too! You’ll be amazed at how they’ll calm down afterward.

I’d love to hear your tips for thriving through the end of the school year! Please share!