“A therapist is not someone you pay to care for you; it’s someone you pay to teach you how to care for yourself.”
This is one of the best quotes I’ve seen in a long time. It’s the best way to describe one of the many things that therapists are trained to do.
Self-care is a trendy word that’s been thrown around a lot in the last few years. Unfortunately, I feel it’s become so overused that it may have lost its value. You’ll often see the phrase used to signify more surface activities such as a lavender bath or a message, which by the way, I am not trying to diminish their value as I incorporate these activities in my own monthly self-care package.
However, self-care for true and lasting mental health involves a few deeper levels. In order to avoid writing a book, as I often find myself doing, let me try to simplify the thought process by introducing a few ideas behind this:
- EVERYTHING you engage with on a daily basis will affect you physically and/or emotionally.
- Is either Productive or Unproductive, (meaning it gets you closer or farther away from your goals).
- Will have a Positive or Negative effect on you, (it will either fill your energy bucket or deplete it).
- Will either lead or sustain your growth and development or it’s destructive and harmful.
- Anything and everything you subject your senses to (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell) will leave a mark on your physical, emotional, and mental state.
Yes, I mean EVERYTHING! Your food and drinks, the music you listen to, your hobbies, the type of TV and movies you are watching, the posts in your Facebook feed, the quality and quantity of sleep, and equally important…every interaction you have with another human being.
On that note, let me share the 3 steps to a happy life:
- Set goals: Figure out your goals and what you want in each area of your life: health, relationships, career.
- Self-awareness: Be aware of what you are exposing yourself to and engaging with. Are they getting you closer or further away from your goals; are they depleting your energy bucket or are they filling it up?
- Take action: Do more of what fills your bucket and eliminate or put boundaries around things and people that dip your energy bucket.
Easier said than done? I get that. Change is never easy, but once you adopt a self-care mindset, things will slowly come into place. It may feel like doing a 500-piece puzzle, but if you stick to it, it WILL happen….and then, there’s no going back.
To jump-start your self-care journey, here is another list that will hopefully spark some action:
- Surround yourself with positive people (that includes family members).
- If you can’t avoid the negative, critical people, limit the amount of time you spend with them.
- Catch yourself when you are ruminating unproductive thoughts and distract yourself by engaging in a positive activity.
- Stop comparing yourself to other people on social media.
- Learn how to be radically honest with yourself and emphatically honest to everyone else.
- Learn how to assertively (firm but kind) say NO to anything and anyone that is not supporting your journey to self-growth.
- Don’t engage in arguments with people who are not even remotely interested in seeing your point of view—you’ll have an aneurysm before you’ll change their minds and this could severely affect your physical and mental health, so DON’T engage!
- For workaholics, pay attention to your physical problems. They are usually a sign that you need to slow down and that your immune system is compromised. Be aware that your overachiever brain feels guilt when you slow down, and physical signs are your body’s way of yelling “code red”!
- If you grew up with negative and critical caregivers, it’s hard to even recognize the positive. It can feel like the brain doesn’t register those moments and if it does, it feels like they are fake and someone is trying to trick you. Therapy or a really good friend you trust can help with this. Are you open to that journey?
- When feeling overwhelmed, there’s only ONE answer: SIMPLIFY! Get back to 2-3 things that matter and give you joy.
- Lastly, if you feel your blood pressure going up for whatever reason, pause, put yourself in time-out (you can quietly use swear words while you are there), and breathe until your cortex (that’s part of the brain in charge of better decision making) catches up and helps you choose the healthy, productive response.
Are you one of those overthinkers that pay attention to ruminating thoughts and are more comfortable with negativity than positivity? Do you feel as if anxiety is always with you, and wish there was an easier way to live? Are you ready to try something different?
If you’ve answered yes to one or all of those questions, I want to invite you to join us for our beginner training, “The Overthinker’s Guide to Managing Anxiety”. It’s a short and sweet course that is packed with effective ways to give you some short-term relief and get you on this new journey of self-growth. Don’t wait another day to start the life you were meant to live and enjoy!
ABOUT: Dr. Ruxandra LeMay is a private practice psychologist in Litchfield Park, Arizona with experience in family therapy, ADHD, and stress and anxiety management. She is the author of My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: The 2-Minute Solution For a Happier Marriage. Sign up to her free Wellness Library HERE for more resources on effective communication, emotional unavailability, intimacy, and anxiety management or visit www.ruxandralemay.com for monthly blogs posts.