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URMC / BHP / BHP Blog / June 2018 / Self-Care: Give Yourself Permission to Pause

Self-Care: Give Yourself Permission to Pause

By Rebecca Kalinowski, LMSW

Self-care is something that we frequently hear about. Employers, medical professionals, social media, and self-help books are just a few of the places that we hear about the importance of taking time for yourself, however, regularly engaging in self-care activities can be more challenging than it sounds. At times we may feel drained of resources such as energy, time, or money that we associate with self-care activities. Additionally, we may feel overwhelmed by the decision-making process of what will help us feel good.

Ideally, self-care should not be a reaction to increased stressors in our life. Rather, the focus should be on creating sustainable mechanisms through which we feel increased balance and pleasure in our day-to-day lives. At its core, self-care is about routinely giving yourself permission to pause. Creating a plan for daily self-care is the first step.

Developing a Self-Care Plan

Identify a list of five, time-limited activities that help you relax or promote a positive mood state. These activities will vary from one person to the next, so strongly consider what makes the most sense for you.  Make a point to select 2 - 3 of these items every day and carry them out, regardless of your stress level. By developing a consistent and brief list, you eliminate the stress of decision-making and can better believe in your capacity to carry these activities out. Consider selecting options that fall into the following categories:

Sensory

  • Use aroma therapy or a scent diffuser
  • Spend 5 minutes sitting in the warmth of the sun
  • Take 5 minutes to sit with a pet
  • Close your eyes and focus on the movements of your breathing

Emotional

  • Have a meaningful conversation with someone you care about
  • Watch a funny video or look up a joke; consider sharing this with someone you know will enjoy it
  • Keep a “one sentence journal”, identifying one emotion you experience each day
  • Spend time planning something exciting for the future 
  • Request a hug or physical contact with someone you care about

Spiritual

  • Engage in 10 - 15 minutes of guided mindfulness meditation
  • Keep a gratitude journal, identifying 3 things you are grateful for each day
  • Keep a photograph journal, taking a picture of something beautiful every day
  • Create a personal mantra or affirmation and spend 5 minutes reflecting on it
  • Turn off your screens and connect with nature

Physical

  • Take 5 - 10 minutes to stretch or do yoga
  • Take a 10 minute walk outdoors
  • Give yourself a neck, shoulder or hand massage with scented lotion
  • Work in a garden or care for your house/office plants

Social

  • Send a text or email to someone you care about
  • Briefly chat with a colleague about something not work related
  • Write a short thank you note to someone who did something nice for you
  • Schedule some 1:1 time with someone important in your life

Professional

  • Listen to music while organizing your work space
  • Eat lunch away from your desk
  • Leave 10 minutes at the end of the day to reflect and make notes for the following day
  • Leave the building for at least 15 minutes (sit outside, take a walk, go get lunch or a beverage)
  • Ask a colleague, supervisor, or mentor for support

Personal

  • Read a book, magazine or something pleasurable for 15 - 20 minutes
  • Select a desktop background that brings you peace or evokes positive memories
  • Spend 15 minutes engaging in a personal hobby you enjoy (crafting, coloring, cooking, collecting)
  • Accomplish a small task that you have been ignoring or putting off

Try to keep the list to only 5 items and practice 2 - 3 of them every day. Attempt to select items from each category, or to create lists that are specific to different areas of your life. For example, you may have a list of five activities for your workday and a list of five activities for time at home. 

Another important aspect of self-care is recognizing the times when we may need to pause and invite others into our lives to offer us support, guidance or help. Depression, anxiety, and stress may be difficult to manage on your own at times. Making time to meet with a mental health professional may help you better understand mental health symptoms and how to effectively manage them. Behavioral Health Partners is a resource available to University of Rochester employees and their dependents (age 18+) enrolled in a University of Rochester health care plan. If you are struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression or stress, appointments are available by contacting BHP at (585) 276-6900.

Keith Stein | 6/6/2018

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