Tag Archives: wellness

6 Actions to Increase Self-Love

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Self-love can be a difficult thing to find when you have spent your life feeling “less than.” A history of traumatic events can lead a person to erect a concrete wall around their heart. Love for others is difficult, but love of self can become nearly impossible.

Short of breaking out a jack hammer, how do we overcome the negative thoughts and emotions that hold us back from loving ourselves?

Get to know yourself

Who are you really? What do you like? What are you really good at? Imagine all the questions that you would ask a person you’ve just met and want to get to know better.

I am a writer, a therapist, a sister, a traveler, and an activist. I am friendly, funny, curious and sometimes silly. I like coffee (and tea), fluffy dogs, and the beach. I love camping in the woods and luxurious high rise hotel rooms.

Take responsibility for your life

Wherever you are today is where you are today. While you cannot change what has happened to you in the past, you can take full responsibility for the choices you make today. Your decisions today are not the fault of your parents, teachers and others that shaped your early life.

Begin a path of healing by seeking out respected therapists, clergy, or healers who can support you in taking responsibility. Create a circle of friends who will hold you accountable to your choices.

Set and maintain clear boundaries

Loving yourself means protecting yourself. Teach others how to treat you by setting clear boundaries. Practice saying “no” to events, activities, or requests for help that don’t fit in your schedule or interfere with self-care or important relationships.

Nurture yourself

Most children have caring adults devoted to cuddle, nurse, teach, and play with them. These loving adult relationships fill the heart and nurture the soul. As an adult, the responsibility to receive nurturing falls on you.

Create a list of enjoyable and soothing activities to try. Some ideas? Take a walk early in the morning before the neighborhood wakes up, slip into a warm bath with scented bath salts, savor a piece of dark chocolate alongside your favorite coffee, or slip into your favorite pajamas and fluffy socks before curling up on the couch to read.

Manage your health

Taking time to manage your health creates more time to enjoy your life. Loving yourself includes taking yourself to the doctor and dentist, taking medications on time, eating healthy foods, and getting adequate physical activity.

Create personal affirmations

Like anything else, learning to love ourselves is a process. Affirmations are a beautiful way to help us remain focused on the path we have chosen. Create your affirmation by thinking about what you want to manifest in your life.

Not sure where to start? Spend some time writing in your journal about how you want your life to be. While you are working on your own personal affirmation, practice one of these:

  • I am deserving of love.
  • I am at peace with my past and enjoy a life of balance and harmony.
  • I love myself; I am growing and healing everyday.

Several years ago, I spent a day writing a personal affirmation. I had been on a retreat that inspired me to accept myself and begin to thrive. Each year since, I have revised the affirmation so that it continues to be my guide. Below is my current version:

My life is an adventure and I seek new experiences.

I do not put off doing something until “later.”

I live my life to the fullest everyday.

I am healthy, beautiful and fit: I spend time doing rather than watching.

I am a warrior: I control the direction of my life.

I can accomplish what I set out to do.

I love myself and deserve to be treated well.

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A Cup Full of Self-Compassion: Kindness Challenge Reflection

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Is your cup half empty or half full?

More important than how full is your cup, is WHAT is your cup filled with? There have been times in my life where my cup has been filled with negative thoughts, poor self image, and painful memories. When our cups are filled with negativity, self-compassion is impossible. Anything can become a weapon to tear away at our spirit.

Anyone who has travelled by air has hear the flight attendants give the standard safety message:

“Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss, stay calm and listen for instructions from the cabin crew. Oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat. Place the mask over your mouth and nose, like this. Pull the strap to tighten it. Please make sure that your own mask is on first before helping those seated next to you.”

The message is clear. If you don’t have anything to give, you can’t be of help to anyone else.

I have found that in order to give of myself to clients, family, and friends, I must consistently check the status of my cup and purposely fill it with love and compassion. Taking time to care for my body, mind, and spirit is a necessity. And so is forgiving myself for the days when I am not my best self.

Those days that I don’t get everything done that I thought I should or when I said something that I later regretted, aren’t who I am. Compassion includes gifting myself the same compassion that I would offer someone else. I acknowledge my strengths and my weaknesses. I forgive myself. I care for myself. And when I do, my cup is filled with love and compassion which can freely flow out to those around me.

Kindness Challenge

This post is from Week 1 of the 2017 Kindness Challenge. For more information or to view other participants’ submissions, please click here.

Making the Shift: An Evening Ritual

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Making the Shift: An Evening Ritual

harmony-1229893_1920In a recent post I discussed the value of a morning ritual to support focus, creativity, and peace. I have found that a brief evening ritual can support the transition from work to home.

Working in community mental health care can be challenging and sometimes stressful. It is important to set aside the content of the day and leave it in the office so that you can be fully present at home with family and friends.

I first recognized the need for an end of the day ritual when I was providing mental health services to children and families in their homes. I often ended my day at a client’s home before beginning the commute home.

On my hour long drive, I would find myself processing the contents of client sessions, planning my work for the next day, and reformulating treatment plans. I would arrive home worn out and mentally still at work.

After several months of my commute, I noticed a ramshackle barn about halfway between home and work. The old red barn had started to crumble and nature was doing its best to reclaim the space. Vines grew through the building, up and out of holes that had developed in the roof. I first noticed the barn when the vines began to flower in the spring. Hundreds of tiny white flowers blanketed the roof of the barn.

That ramshackle barn in the middle of nowhere became the trigger for my first evening ritual.

Rituals require structure to be effective and I created a simple rule that cared for my budding ritual. Each night as I traveled home from work, I allowed my mind to process and wander through all the sessions, meetings, and tasks of the day. However, when the old barn came in sight, all thoughts of work were relegated to the back of my mind and I turned my focus to the tasks of my life. My mind began to make dinner plans, consider the route for walking the dog, think about weeding the garden, and creating a list of things to pack on my upcoming vacation. If work thoughts crept in, they were shooed away and I refocused on personal thoughts and plans.

A couple of years ago, I made a shift in my work to clinic based treatment. This has created a number of changes in my life including eliminating a lengthy commute. However, with the loss of the commute also came the loss of my evening ritual.

My new ritual is just as simple, but takes place before I leave the office for the day. Each night after the last client has left, I straighten my office so that it is ready for the first client the next day. Chairs are realigned, toys replaced on shelves, and the markers and colored pencils are sorted back into their cups on the art table. I gather my personal belongings to take home and clear my desk of everything except my notebook. Taking a couple of centering breaths, I consider any tasks or ideas that I want to follow up on the next day and jot them in the notebook before returning it to the desk drawer. Having cleared my mind, I pull the cord on the lamp to turn out the light, lock the door and step out of my office door into my personal life.

Seeking Kindness: 2017 Kindness Challenge

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Kindness Challenge The news media, internet, car radio and even the person standing behind you in the grocery store these days can be the source of anger, frustration, fear mongering, or hate.

I grew up hearing my grandmother admonish all of her grandchildren with “you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” I never understood why I would want to catch flies, but I clearly understood my grandma’s intention: Be Kind.  A little kindness goes a long way towards lifting people’s spirits and easing difficult situations.

When I discovered The Richness of a Simple Life’s 2017 Kindness Challenge, I knew I was committed to this journey.  Below are a few of the topics we explore over the next few weeks. I look forward to walking this  path with you.

Week 1 | Self-love

Week 2 | Self-compassion

Week 3 | Self-acceptance

Week 4 | Kindness role model

Week 5 | Choosing kindness

Week 6 | Kindness without expectation

Week 7 | Grateful for kindness

PS: If you are interested in joining on your blog or on social media, click the link above and you will be routed to The Richness of a Simple Life’s blog.

Now, go in kindness

A WARM Morning Ritual

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IMG_0409Those who know me well are cognizant that I do not naturally lean towards rituals, habits and organization. I thrive in creativity and fluidity.

However, in my professional practice, I have discovered the value of daily rituals. I have come to discover that well planned rituals can create smooth transitions from home life to professional life and back again.

My morning ritual has metamorphosed over the years and settled into a simple four part practice: WARM.

Write

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way encourages a daily writing practice she calls “Morning Pages.” Part journal, part mind-dump, these three pages of long hand writing help to clear the mind of all the extraneous information, fears and concerns. It creates a clear space to begin the day.

Affirmations

Affirmations are an effective way to focus our intentions for our lives and our work. They support healthy change affecting mind, body, and spirit. I use a combination of 2-3 affirmation statements each day which correspond with my desired growth in my professional life, personal life, and physical health. Affirmations can be modified as needed to support current goals.

Read

Knowledge is power. While working to establish the University of Virginia in 1817, Thomas Jefferson wrote “that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, and tht knowledge is happiness.” Reading a variety of materials increases knowledge. I encourage reading of professional journals, novels, literature, non-fiction, meditations, spiritual texts, and more. An additional benefit, according to the University of Sussex, is that just 6 minutes of reading per day can reduce stress levels by 68%.

Meditate

Meditation reduces stress, increases clarity and creativity, as well as increasing mindfulness and tolerance. Meditation does not have to be a complicated process. There are numerous articles and books written on beginning meditation, but a couple of simple ways to get started is by setting aside five minutes to focus on deep breathing, listen calming music and focus on one element of the music, or combine with affirmation work by focusing on your affirmation with each breath.

Take some time this week and begin to develop or refine your own morning routine. Add or change one element at a time to make sustainable changes. Feel free to comment below on your current morning ritual or on the impact of any changes you make.

Creating a Culture of Wellness: Occupational Wellness (Part 2)

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img_0244A few weeks ago, I wrote about Creating a Culture of Wellness in your life. Part one focused on improving emotional wellness.  Today’s post will explore the concept of occupational wellness.

University of California, Riverside defines occupational wellness as:

“the ability to achieve a balance between work and leisure time, addressing workplace stress and building relationships with coworkers. It focuses on our search for a calling and involves exploring various career options and finding where you fit.”

In my pre-therapist life, I worked in real estate marketing. I dreaded going to work. I spent most of my days working on tasks that I didn’t enjoy and wasn’t certain that they mattered to anyone except my supervisor. I worked long hours, spent little time with my family and drank more lattes in one day than anyone should drink.

Then in 2001, the book Good to Great came out and blew through corporate America like a Kansas tornado. My manager was no exception. One day he came into my office and asked me one of the most popular questions that percolated from that book: “Are you in the right seat on the bus?” My answer bubbled up before I had a chance to contemplate it. “I’m not sure that I’m even on the right bus.” Within two years of that conversation, I had left corporate America and entered the world of non-profit social work.

In short, occupational wellness is about loving what you do, doing what you love and loving yourself along the way. Here are a few questions to help you determine your level of occupational wellness.

1.   Do you enjoy going to work most days?

Is heading to work, just the next thing on your daily to do list, or do you start dreading the beginning of the work week on Sunday morning? Are you wasting your downtime lamenting how much you detest your job

2.  When you leave work, do you continue to think about clients, tasks or paperwork into the evening?

Do you find yourself thinking about the difficult client or the unsigned contract while your partner is talking to you? Do characters in your favorite television program remind you of clients or coworkers.

3.  Do you regularly work more than your scheduled work week.

Are you regularly scheduling an afterhours appointment because there was no other time to fit them in? Or do you stay just a few minutes late daily to catch up on routine paperwork, phone calls, and emails?

4.  Do you feel that your workload is manageable?

Do you cringe when you open your daily schedule and see your client load? Do you wonder if you are going to be able to eat lunch today? Or when you might use the restroom?

5.  Do you have at least one coworker that you can discuss non work related topics with over lunch or a break?

Is there someone you can talk to about anything other than your difficult clients, frustrating supervisors, overbooked schedule, etc.? Can you talk to others about books, family, hiking, or other personal interests.

6.  Do you feel that you can go to your supervisor or a coworker for guidance with a work-related problem?

Does the thought of asking for help strike fear in your heart or do you feel that your supervisor and coworkers are available for support and guidance?

7.  Do you feel that your work matters?

Is what you do important to somebody? When you think about the work that you do, do you have a sense of accomplishment?

Americans generally spend more than one-third of their waking hours engaged in occupational activities. During the work week, this is often more time than we spend with our friends and families. If you feel uncomfortable with your answers to the above questions, it is likely time for you to develop an occupational wellness plan for your life. Watch for an upcoming post: Creating a Personal Occupational Wellness Plan.

3 Ways to Improve Wellness Today

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Small steps forward are more productive than immobility.

The last few weeks, the Pacific Northwest has been hit by several unusual weather events. Many areas of the country are accustomed to dealing with snow and ice and life continues to move forward, albeit a bit more slowly. In Oregon, anything resembling a white flake in the sky is cause to shut down schools and send people running to the grocery store in a panic. You must stock up now for Snowpocolypse 2017.

Tens of thousands of people become immobile. People cancel medical and mental health appointments. They hole up in their homes, drinking hot chocolate and hoping that the weather will return to normal by tomorrow and secretly praying for another snow day.

Choosing wellness means choosing to move forward, even with the smallest of steps. In fact, experience shows us that small steps are usually more sustainable than giant leaps forward.

Wellness is the fruit of planning and commitment to the plan. You must make time to create wellness in your life:

to think

to play

to do

Think

Slow down. Stress and burnout is fueled by over action. Take time each day to simply think. Develop a daily ritual which includes meditation, prayer and journaling. Read deeply and widely about many subjects. Give yourself time to reflect on your reading, your wellness, your relationships, and your community.

Time to think gives you space to work through problems, generate ideas and just be.

Play

Play and fun are the fuel of creativity. Dance, sing, skip, exercise and move your body daily. Draw, paint, color, cook, and dream. Take vacations, travel to cities and countries that you haven’t visited before. Attend community theater, poetry readings, and art gallery receptions.

Fill you mind and body with color, light and energy.

Do

Create a plan to accomplish the tasks on your wellness plan, to build relationships, manage self- care, and achieve your career goals. Use a planner or bullet journal and identify 2-3 tasks that you can accomplish each day to move you closer to your wellness goals.

What Give You Hope?

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to cherish a desire with anticipation”

“to expect with confidence”

“the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best”

“to look forward to with desire and confidence”

“to place trust, rely”

“He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything.” ~ Proverb

Hope is not mystical, ethereal or magical. Hope is that small thing that makes life worth living. The thing that keeps us moving forward even when the days are dark and the nights are long, when the pain in our hearts feels unbearable.

There have been times in my life when it was difficult to hold onto the thread that connected my to my hope. Knowing what fills my cup with hope is critical for my sense of well-being.

Nature:  A walk in the snow, digging my toes into the sand at the beach, gathering leaves in the fall, deep breaths of cool morning air.

Faith: Believing in something greater than myself.

Optimistic people: Surrounding myself with others who have hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Create a greater sense of hope in your life.

  1. Take action: Engage in your community and meet people.
  2. Share the Love: Volunteer for your local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, food bank, animal rescue.
  3. Educate yourself: Learn a new skill or topic.
  4. Practice Gratitude: Be thankful for what you have already received and achieved in life and it will open doors for more in the future.
  5. Let Go: Let go of fear, anxiety and sadness. Find a good therapist who can help you build a bridge to hope by working through the history that holds you back.

So, tell me. What gives you hope?

Creating a Culture of Wellness: Emotional Wellness (Part 1)

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Wellness is a holistic way of managing life. When health permeates every part of the human experience, wellness is present. The National Wellness Institute (www.nationalwellness.org) identifies six dimensions of wellness including:

  • Emotional
  • Occupational
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual

As we move into this new year and look forward to what will unfold for us, focusing on creating a culture of wellness will enrich our lives in 2017. Over the next several weeks, we will explore each of the dimensions of wellness, beginning with our emotions.

Developing Emotional Wellness

No matter how mature or “together” we appear to the world, each of us has the ability to improve our emotional intelligence.

  1. Set and maintain clear boundaries

The foundation of emotional wellness consists of setting clear boundaries. It is easy to agree to take on projects, join committees or do favors for others without thinking through the impact of the commitment on your time and energy.

Practice saying yes only to requests that you want to engage in and are willing to participate in. A firm but polite “no” will be accepted by most people without question.

  1. Know your emotions

Take time to identify the emotions behind your response. When you are tempted to react in anger, check to see if the anger is fueled by fear or sadness. When you recognize the underlying emotion, it is easier to advocate for yourself and get your needs met in a healthy manner.

Tend to the root of the emotions. Take time to journal, exercise, garden or spend time with caring people. Nurture yourself.

  1. Advocate for your needs

Sometimes you need a break or a helping hand. Asking for support when necessary reduces stress and helps to reduce emotional roller coasters. Ask early, ask often.

  1. Practice Radical Acceptance

Sometimes situations are beyond the scope of our control. Acceptance doesn’t mean approval or giving in It is recognition of the facts of a situation. We can rail against the rain and wind, but the storm will continue because it is out of our control. Acceptance is choosing not to fight the storm and invite more suffering into our lives.

  1. Resolve trauma history

If you have a history of trauma or abuse, find a qualified mental health practitioner to support you in breaking down the barriers to emotional health. Learn to tell your story, acknowledging painful times and joyous times.

  1. Give yourself grace

Healing, like life, does not progress in a neat orderly fashion. We move forward and make progress only to be tripped up and lose ground. If today was not your best day, be gentle with yourself, treat yourself well, and begin again tomorrow.

2017: The Search for Wellness

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2017: The Search for Wellness

The New Year’s festivities have wrapped up and like everyone else, I am beginning to slide back into that normal routine that existed before the holidays. Laundry, work, writing, groceries, the to do list has changed considerably from two weeks ago when it read: wrap gifts, make pie, find holly.

It’s time to pack up the Christmas ornaments and slide them back into the back of the closet for the next eleven months. It’s time to start the new year, with its mixture of hope and fear.

Like many, I have set intentions instead of resolutions as resolutions are often dissolved by mid February. Intentions have a way of moving us forward without us even realizing that we have moved.

It has become my practice to set my intentions for the year by choosing a single focus word. More on how to choose a focus word can be found at OneWord.com or MyOneWord.org and also at OneWord365.com.

And so this year, I begin the search for Wellness. In my search for wellness for myself and my community, I plan to explore the many dimensions of wellness including emotional, physical, social, intellectual, occupational and spiritual.

Many times I have heard “begin as you want to finish.” So, let’s begin strong.