Self-care vs. Caring for Myself

Words matter, often more than we realize.
Take the wildly popular term: self-care
What does it conjure up?
When I hear it I think of:
Bubble baths, massage, pedicures, glass of champagne with the girls?
Does it evoke any sort of resistance for you like it does me?
Thoughts like, that feels impossible in the midst of this shit storm happening in the world.
Who has time for “self-care?”
It seems “selfish.”
Selfish for me is where my brain says ok, “we are SO done here.
I was raised to believe that prioritizing myself was selfish.
Any word with “self” attached was not a good word.
And it wasn’t my mom’s fault.
It was what she learned.
So, for me, the term “self-care” evokes a cringing response and then an inner rant: “Why do we have to call out taking care of ourselves as women when men do it in a way that seems guilt-free?”
Don’t get me wrong:  I staunchly believe that we ALL should all prioritize caring for ourselves.
So, I call it “caring for myself” because then I get to count all of the ways I find joy, which, in turn, nurture my heart, body, and mind: 
Going to see my grandkids evokes the child in me; the curious, playful explorer of possibility
Creating healthy meals that make my body burst with energy
Writing 3 pages of handwritten work each morning, “morning pages” to clear my head
Singing and making up ridiculous lyrics that make me laugh
Talking/texting with friends
Crocheting a blanket for a soon to be born baby
Doing a “tapping” meditation that reduces anxiety and opens possibility
Reading books that challenge my biases and help me learn how I can be a better human.
You see: caring for myself includes all kinds of activities, some directly turned toward me, and others that involve the beauty of relationships and growth.
What do you think about this distinction?
Which word combo helps you nurture and nourish yourself more?

Take Care of the Skin You’re In! Discover Safer Products with EWG’s app

Photo by Audrey M Jackson on Unsplash

Not only is it critical to put clean, safe foods in our bodies, it’s essential to read labels and learn what ingredients are in our personal care products.

When I learned that 30 other countries ban ingredients that cause cancer and other endocrine disruptions, but the US does not, I was shocked. At first, I felt overwhelmed and wanted to go into “head in the sand” mode and tell myself: “But I can’t afford to go through and throw away all of my personal care and cosmetics.” After my health coach training where we dug into the medical conditions related to everyday ingredients in consumer products, I realized that I needed to get educated: about what goes on my body, my skin, one of the key components of my immune system. 

I decided to make one small swap at a time and discovered that not ALL of the items I was using were problematic. Phew!

I started using the Environmental Working Group’s Database to evaluate my daily products. It’s amazing, and a free resource that benefits all of us! 

Just yesterday, I discovered this amazing tool:

The Environmental Working Group, (EWG), has a free app that you can download and scan more than 12,000 food and personal care products.

Here are 3 things I love about the app:

  1. You can scan a product in the store or in your cabinets and get an instant readout of its safety levels in terms of : allergens/sensitivity, cancer, or developmental concern. 
  2. You can type in a product’s name on the app if there’s no available barcode.
  3. The app gives several alternatives to the product so you can choose something safer.  They’ve thought of everything! 

So check it out, and go through those bathroom cabinets and drawers to see which products are safe! Let me know if you have questions and what you discover along the way! 

What Fuels You? Find out With a Food Journal

Maybe your energy isn’t where you need it to be? Maybe you’re completely confused about choosing the right diet plan to lose the pesky pounds that won’t go away? Or maybe, like me, you’ve suffered from innumerable bouts of bloating, perhaps alternating constipation and diarrhea and you wonder if there’s a connection to food.

Of course, always seek medical help for any issues with gastrointestinal symptoms, but when you walk out of the doctor’s office with no help, it doesn’t mean you have to live in discomfort.

Many people find success using a food log or food journal to make connections between what they’re eating, their energy level, hunger, and any associated symptoms. 

Just find a spot that makes the most sense, and write down what you eat throughout the day along with how you’re feeling before and after.   

Some options on how to do it:

  1. Write in your planner. This way you don’t have to use another notebook or journal. Simply record what you ate, when, and how you feel at the end of the day (or anytime you notice a symptom, jot down the time) 
  2. Add to your online calendar: Google calendar works for some! Just add it at the time you ate and then later, at the end of the day, add notes about how you felt.
  3. Use an app that makes recording food easy. I use one called Loseit but needed the paid version to add notes. When I was going through a lot of issues with bloating, being able to record notes about when I was experiencing my symptoms helped me track some of the trigger foods. 
  4. Find a pretty notebook that you’ll want to write in. Even better, get some smooth pretty gel pens. They make everything more fun! 
  5. Set a timer to check in with your body. It’s easy to forget how we felt yesterday 2 hours after eating, but having this info will help you be a better detective for yourself. 

Eating the way that’s best for you is a key factor in your health and well-being! Remember: little experiments and detective work can lead to big wins in understanding what foods fuel you to be your most energized self. 

Pre-empt the Doughnut Monster

You know the drill. You’re tired, it’s raining, and your usual self-control has left the building. You’ve committed to cutting down or even cutting out the sugary, processed treats because they make you feel like crap, but you walk into the faculty room and there they are: cronuts, maple bars, and brownies, oh my!  One bite turns into twelve and suddenly you’re sluggish and feeling blah. 

Although we may think self control is endless, and that we should be able to resist temptation through sheer willpower alone, many experts in habit change, such as James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, write about ways we can set ourselves up for success. (Check the link at the end of this post to read Chapter 1 for free!)

Here are a few ways we can pre-empt the negative choice and set ourselves up for a better day:

  1. Make another choice readily available. A few treats I stash in my office are RX bars, (current favorite flavor: blueberry), Autumn’s Gold Grain Free Granola Bars, granny smith apples, and Lilly’s stevia sweetened chocolate bars. 
  2. Have a snack buddy who you can keep you accountable, and share healthy treats with!
  3. Have a mantra for those moments like: Is this worth it? If it is, then be sure to slow down and savor every bite! 
  4. Ask yourself: How will this make me feel? For how long? Often times those impulse bites are joyful for a few moments but our bodies let us know later with a vengeance that they need different fuel!
  5. Start a movement for healthy options for all! At my school this year, a team of kind folks added some gluten free options whenever they put out treats. I certainly appreciated their efforts and hope to add sugar-free to the options this year as well! 

I’m not suggesting that you can never have treats at work, just be prepared so you make an intentional choice that doesn’t derail your day. How do you proactively prepare for the donut saboteur? 

 

Looking for those resources I mentioned, check out:

Chapter 1 Atomic Habits free download 

Lily’s Chocolate Bars

Autumn’s Gold Granola Bars

 

Little Changes go a Long Way

It’s not always easy to look at food as energy! We’ve been conditioned to see our food as “good” or “bad”, instead of necessary fuel to enjoy. Let’s take a look at what you put in your body each day, and how it makes you feel and function. You deserve to feel your best and absorb the goodness of what you eat.

Sometimes we think we need to make a huge change in our diet to make a difference in our health. We don’t!  Start small and begin to enjoy the benefits of better choices. Why not make a choice today to include one nutrient dense food in one of your meals?

Here are a few items I included in my meals today! Click the links to learn about the benefits of each:

As you can see, none of these took extensive planning and I am enjoying the benefits of feeding my body the nutrients that helps it thrive!

What can you choose the next time you’re at the grocery store?