Self-care: a few things I do when stress shows up in my life


Kenny and the Dragon, Tony DiTerlizzi, illustrator
He illustrated and co-created the The Spiderwick Chronicles, a book series. 
Find him on Facebook and Twitter



One of those potentially stressful life changes is on my radar so I'm reminding myself to practice extra self-care.

Self-care is personal wellness maintenance. I think of it as those things I mindfully choose to think about or do to care for myself when I am stressed, upset, or facing a difficulty. 

Here is a short list of self-care ideas. I keep my list and objects that relate to them in a basket. 

When I need to pay attention to the needs of my body, mind, and spirit, I do a lucky dip!

1. I remember to meditate. Often.

2. I phone a friend.
I have a FAVE 5. I can immediately call to ask one of them to listen. If a person does not answer, I call the next person. My phone list is wrapped around that darling big-eyed doll. If no one is home, sometimes I talk to her.

3. I cover my eyes with a pillow.
I lie down and place a lavender eye pillow over my eyes and take deep breaths while saying “I breathe in. I breathe out.” I count my breaths to 10 and start over.

4. A balance ring
It looks just like a level. I wear this ring to remind me to live my day with balance. For example, I balance busy with still, work with play, time with children and time with my partner.

5. I eat an orange, slowly.
It’s so easy for me to gobble or skip a meal when life gets busy. An orange helps me to eat mindfully and with gratitude for the food and all it took to get to my plate. I think about how kindly I’m treating the house of my spirit (my body) with my nourishment choice. I peel the orange attentively. I chew slowly thinking of the rain and sunshine it took for that orange to grow and the care and time to tend and harvest it. I breathe in deeply and then out while saying yummmmmmmm. Next bite, the same thing.

6. I wash the dishes.
I aim to become aware of my thoughts. If I’m worrying, feeling overwhelmed, obsessing, I say "thinking." Then I do the dishes and focus on my breath coming in and out.

7. I record “favorite poems” in a book.
I usually start with Mary Oliver, Rumi, e.e.cummings, and Billy Collins.

8. I make lists of what I like or appreciate.
I sometimes listen to the Romantics song, “What I like about you” while listing the things I like about my life. Then I list the things I like about others.

9. I do a smile experiment.
When I'm at the airport or grocery store I seek out the eyes of others. I let my eyes light up as I smile from my heart.

10. I write three gratitudes a day.
And I don’t repeat them. I write what I’m grateful for on little slips of paper and keep them in a pouch. Sometimes, I empty the pouch and read them.

11. I carry a pebble in my pocket.
Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh's book, A Pebble for Your Pocket, I put a small stone in my pocket. During the day I stick my hand in my pocket and hold the stone as a reminder that all is well.

12. I tie a string on my wrist.
I invite a friend to make a friendship bracelet. We tie them on each others’ wrists and say something that we appreciate about our friendship. We think of each other when we notice the string bracelet.

13. I journal.
I write about the things that happened and my feelings about them.

14. I make and exchange little booklets with people I care about.
I find opportunities to make simple books. I fold copy paper, punch two holes on the folded edge and tie the book together with ribbon. At family or friend gatherings, we exchange them and write caring messages to each other.

15. I memorize verse.
Memory is my weakest attribute, so it’s slow going for me. But Holy Cow and Toledo! Is it ever fun to pull one up from memory.

16. I fold hope into a paper crane.
Fold a paper crane while making a wish. Give it and the wish to someone. 

17. I answer eight, open-ended Wonder Anew questions to process my stress.
These questions help me pause and respond rather than react. I write the answers because writing brings a clarity that supports wakefully working with my experience.

What happened?
What feelings am I having about what happened?
How does what happened affect me?
What is my part in what happened?
What am I learning about myself, the situation, and others?
What can I shift in my view about this difficulty?
How do I choose to respond to or work with this difficulty?
How might I use what I learn from this experience in the future?

18. I tell the truth.
I keep a Pinocchio icon in my basket. Pinocchio? This reminds me to tell the truth, even if it’s just to myself. For example, when there is a lot to do and my body aches with tiredness, rather than push myself to exhaustion and pretend I’m superwoman, I stop and rest.