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Featured Self Help

Note to Self: Committing to Self-Care

There is more to self-care than just sleeping in during the weekends or coloring your hair in an attractive shade. Real self-care is the consistent practice of caring for not only your physical needs, but also your emotional, and psychological well-being; when you take care of all these aspects, you are physically healthy, more confident, more productive at work, and can better manage life’s stressors more effectively.

Unfortunately, today’s society values productivity over taking rest; any attempt to slow down, seek assistance, or do anything for one’s self is regarded as a luxury or, worse, as being selfish. But the busier you are, the more self-care should be a priority; otherwise you will end up feeling overwhelmed, tired, and stressed.

The Self-Care Plan

A Self-Care Plan is a written guide, created by yourself which is filled with your favorite self-care activities and important reminders. It aims to help you balance your mental, physical, and emotional needs and bring you back “home” whenever you are feeling lost and overwhelmed.

Other benefits of a Self-Care Plan include:

  • It’s a preventive measure. Make the self-care plan when you are NOT stressed, anxious, or angry, so that you are calm enough to be able to properly reflect on what you may need or have access to when you are going through a tough time. When the said time comes, at least you already have an idea of how you can cope or feel better.
  • From a mindfulness point of view, having a self-care plan helps you respond instead of react to the situation at hand. When you have a plan in place, you’ll feel that events are controlled and less chaotic.
  • Having a plan helps you establish routine, so you don’t wind up feeling isolated,unsupported, or unloved.

How to Create a Self-Care Plan

Step 1: List

List the different parts of your life that you need to show care. For example — Work, Physical Fitness, Emotional Life, Spiritual Life, etc.

Step 2: Categorize

For each of these categories, write down the activities, strategies, or coping mechanisms that you feel will help you manage stress better or contribute to your overall well-being.

For example:
For self-care in the workplace
  • Engage in regular supervision or consulting with a more experienced colleague.
  • Set up or join a peer-support group.
  • Set up stricter boundaries between yourself and clients/customers.
  • Attend professional development programs.
For self-care for the body
  • Sleep and wake up by a certain time
  • Eat more of a certain food group, less of another
  • Take a one-hour lunch break, which includes time for a walk after eating
  • Exercise regularly
For emotional or psychological self-care
  • Keep a journal
  • Engage in a hobby
  • Turn off your email or work phone by a certain time at night and/or weekends
  • Talk to your friends/family/mental health professional when you are going through a hard time
For spiritual self-care
  • Meditate
  • Go for walks, hikes, trips to the beach, or anything that puts you closer to nature
For relationship self-care
  • Aim to arrive at work and leave at a certain time every day
  • Prioritize close relationships in your life i.e. with partners, family, and children
  • Attend the special events of your family and friend
Step 3: Share Your Self-Care Plan

When you share this plan with your closest friends and loved ones, they can help you in giving reminders (i.e. “Did you remember to meditate today?”) as well as hold you accountable (i.e. “You’re extra irritable yesterday because you stayed up all night watching Netflix instead of going to bed early.”)

Step 4: Remind

Keep your plan in a place where you can see it every day. Doing so will help you commit to the strategies you listed.

Step 5: Practice the activities regularly.

Just like an athlete doesn’t become fit by merely ‘thinking’ about fitness, you also can’t expect to perform effectively without putting into practice all your plans for your well-being.

Step 6: Assess your plans regularly.

Remember that your Self-Care Plan is not written in stone; you are free to make changes or adjustments depending on your life circumstances. Learn to find what works for you.

A Self-Care Plan can help you enhance your health and well-being, manage your stress, and maintain good relationships with others. Learn to identify activities and practices that support your well-being and help you cultivate self-love.

Written by Jacq of Mindnation

Categories
Featured Self Help

Note To Self: Practicing Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is often interchanged with self-care, but while the two are related there is a distinct difference. The former is regarding yourself compassionately, while the latter is treating yourself compassionately; one is a thought, the other is an action.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D, widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion, defined it as “being understanding towards one’s self during times that we experience perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.” She adds that it is composed of three main components:

1. Self-kindness

This entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or beating ourselves up with self-criticism. Dr. Neff says that self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing difficulties are inevitable aspects of life, so they treat themselves gently when confronted with painful experiences, rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals.

2. Common humanity.

Dr. Neff explains that when something bad happens to us, we tend to feel frustrated and even isolated, i.e. “I’m the stupidest person in the world for doing this,” “Why is this happening to me?” or even “No one else understands what I am going through.” But in reality, all humans suffer and make mistakes, so self-compassion means recognizing that problems and trials are things that everyone in the world goes through and not just “me” alone.

3. Mindfulness

This is a non-judgmental, receptive state of mind in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. If we take a balanced approach or our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed or exaggerated, then we are practicing self-compassion.

Self-compassion and mental health

If you practice self-compassion you will tend to have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Self-compassionate people recognize when they are suffering and are kind to themselves at these times, which reduces their stress. Luckily, self-compassion is a learnable skill.

Here are some ways:

1. Comfort your body.

Anything you can do to improve how you feel physically is already self-compassion. Eat something healthy. Lie down and rest when you feel tired instead of pushing on. Get a massage or massage different body parts on your own. Take a walk.

2. Write a letter to yourself

In the letter, describe a situation that caused you to feel bad (a breakup with a partner, losing your job, receiving negative feedback). Write how the events occurred in a factual manner, without blaming anyone. This is a good way to help you unburden and acknowledge your feelings.

3. Give yourself encouragement.

If something bad happens to you, think of what you would say to a good friend if the same thing happened to him or her. Then direct these compassionate responses toward yourself.

4. Practice mindfulness.

Observe the direction of your thoughts, feelings, and actions after a particularly stressful event, without trying to suppress or deny them. Instead, accept the bad events in your life (as well as the good ones) with a compassionate attitude.

5. Practice self-forgiveness

Stop beating yourself up for your mistakes. Accept that you are not perfect, and be kind to yourself when you are confronted with your shortcomings.

6. Employ a Growth (vs. Fixed) Mindset.

This means viewing and embracing challenges as opportunities to grow rather than as impossible obstacles (fixed) that should be avoided.

7. Express gratitude.

Instead of constantly wishing for what you do not have, find strength in appreciating what you do have at the moment. By focusing on your blessings, you move the focus away from your shortcomings and to all that is good in your life.

The next time you do not meet the expectations you have for yourself, resist the urge to feel sad, angry, or inadequate. Instead, take a moment to pause and reassess, then forgive yourself and recognize that you are only human.

Written by Jacq of Mindnation

Categories
Featured Self Help

Note To Self: Believing in Myself is Key

When you come across a challenging situation, how do you react?

Do you feel confident that you can eventually figure out a way to accomplish it?

Or do you feel intimidated and want to throw in the towel without even trying?

Your answer lies in how much self-efficacy you possess.

Self-efficacy is defined as a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. It may be a general kind (i.e. Your overall faith in yourself) or be more specific (i.e. Academic, parenting, or sports).

Self-efficacy is related to but NOT the same as the following concepts:

Self-efficacy and self-esteem.

Self-esteem is defined as a general or overall feeling of one’s worth or value. It is focused more on “being” (i.e. the feeling that you are perfectly acceptable as you are), while self-efficacy is more focused on “doing” (i.e. the feeling that you are up for a challenge).

Having high self-worth can definitely improve your sense of self-efficacy, while high self-efficacy can contribute to your overall value or worth.

Self-efficacy and self-regulation.

Self-regulation involves controlling your behavior, emotions, and thoughts on the pursuit of long-term goals. In short, it is a strategy for achieving your goals, while self-efficacy is the belief that you can accomplish those goals.

Self-efficacy and motivation

The former is based on your belief in your capacity to achieve something, while the latter is your desire to achieve it. Those with high self-efficacy often have high motivation and vice versa, though it is not always the case.

Self-efficacy and resilience.

Resilience is our capability to recover quickly from difficulties. People with a high level of efficacy are more likely to try again after encountering failure, thereby increasing their resilience.

Self-efficacy and confidence

In his book “Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control” Canadian-American psychologist and one of the world’s leading experts on self-efficacy Albert Bandura defines “confidence” as “a non-descript term that refers to strength of belief but does not necessarily specify what the certainty is about.” On the other hand, self-efficacy is more specific — it is the certainty that one can deal with any situation handed to them. Someone who is highly confident in his abilities will be more likely to succeed, thereby providing him with experiences to develop his self-efficacy. This high self-efficacy, in turn, gives him more confidence in himself.

Self-efficacy and mental health

According to Dr. Bandura, “a person’s self-efficacy influences what coping behavior he will utilize when he encounters stress and challenges, along with determining how much effort will be expended to reach one’s goals and for how long those goals will be pursued.” He adds that people with a strong sense of self-efficacy remain optimistic and confident in their abilities even when things become difficult. They treat problems as challenges rather than threats, and if they fail, they redouble their efforts and look for new ways to succeed. They also tend to be more interested in the tasks they pursue.

On the other hand, Dr. Bandura says that those who are low in self-efficacy tend to avoid difficult tasks and set goals, and have low levels of commitment to the ones they do make. When setbacks happen, they tend to give up quickly. Stressful situations become hard to deal with and they are more likely to experience feelings of failure and despondency.

How to develop self-efficacy

You can improve your sense of self-efficacy by learning how to minimize stress and elevate your mood when faced with challenging tasks. Below are some ways:

Observe others.

According to Dr. Bandura, vicarious experiences obtained through peer modelling is an important way to establish and strengthen self-efficacy. Keep company with people who have high self-efficacy so that when you see them putting in effort and succeeding, you increase your belief in your own ability to succeed as well.

Seek positive affirmations.

Hearing constructive criticism or positive feedback from others can boost your confidence in your abilities and help improve your sense of self-efficacy. In this regard, avoid asking feedback from people who you know are more likely to have a negative or critical view of your performance.

Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions.

Do you find yourself getting stressed out or nervous before a challenging event?

Do negative thoughts enter your mind when you struggle to accomplish something?

If yes, you might feel less sure of your ability to cope with the task at hand. Look for ways to ease your stress levels so that you feel more confident; also, replace negative thoughts with positive self-talk to promote self-belief

Because life is full of stressful moments and challenges, having a high level of self-efficacy can help you deal with these difficulties more effectively. Your belief in your abilities can influence your motivations, the amount of effort you will put into accomplishing your goals, and your personal sense of well-being.

Written by Jacq of Mindnation