Notes and Mentions
The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There For Yourself and Your People by Rachel Wilkerson Miller
CTAC (Community Technical Assistance Center) Worksheet “My Self-Care Plan” https://bit.ly/3nfACFh
Emergency Self-Care Worksheet from University of Buffalo School of Social Work https://bit.ly/3b7W1xz
Wellness Compass Assessment from Compassion Resilience Toolkit for Parents/Caregivers (WISE Wisconsin) https://bit.ly/38bU5Cq
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Serena: Hey Everyone, I’m Serena.
Tina: And I’m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.
Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as the parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.
Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You’ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: Tina! It’s a brand-new year! I’m curious. How do you feel about New Year’s Resolutions?
Tina: It’s interesting. For about 10 years I worked for an international weight loss corporation and I watched so many people get caught up in resolutions because it was the new year. And while the new year is a turning point for many, and it might be a motivational time to set a goal, I have not been much about New Year's resolutions. What about you Serena?
Serena: Yeah, I think that the new year, it’s a bit arbitrary. I think we could set goals at any time, right? I have certainly made resolutions before and there’s a lot of power in goal setting, but I think that often resolutions tend to be pretty extreme and sometimes I think, honestly, we set ourselves up for failure. And I think we know that in many ways. So, I would say, in recent years, I’ve thought about it more as an opportunity for a fresh start and to maybe focus on something I’d like to improve on. So I’m thinking this year, at least for the first month; what about self-care? Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, we could do a self-care revolution.
Tina: I love that! Self-care, please, more self-care. So let’s talk about the most important thing we can do for ourselves. And the unintended benefit is that while we’re taking good care of ourselves, we enhance the ability to take care of our people.
Serena: Absolutely! Yeah, the idea of self-care has been around, I would say, for a long time, but it does seem to have become a bit of a buzz word in recent years. When I think about the traditional use of this term, my mind goes to the medical community.
Tina: And I assume you are talking about the physical medical community, right? Taking good care of your physical body, right?
Serena: Absolutely. Like the things you’re supposed to do. Right, so the things that we try to instill in our kids as they grow older and develop more independence. Like taking regular showers, eating healthy foods, getting exercise. And of course all of those are important and that is the foundation of self-care, but Tina, I think when we talk about it, I think we’re talking about something a little bit different.
Tina: Yes. Yeah. I think of it more like renewal and rest. An image that is very strong in my mind right now. I’ve seen several on YouTube and on TV. Our health care workers are working so tirelessly right now. And I’ve seen these moments that I love and always makes me smile when a few nurses or firefighters take a moment to dance or sing, which are both excellent moments of self-care. Something to do to just kind of “reset” in the right now.
Serena: Right. That’s a good way of thinking of it and I have yet to come up with a term that really sums up how we think of self-care, so I think for now, we’ll just stick with calling it self-care since that’s what everybody knows.
Tina: Mmhm. So, how do we move away from the idea that it’s selfish or self-indulgent?
Serena: Yeah, I definitely struggle with that idea and I think for me it’s about reminding myself what I’m like if I don’t take care of myself, if I don’t take time for myself. I’ve mentioned in a previous episode that I have a pretty high need for space, both physical and emotional, which is more of a challenge than ever right now. And when I don’t get the space that I need…
Tina: OK, it is not good. I will attest to not good.
Serena: Yeah, it’s not good. We all suffer and Tina, obviously you’ve experienced that in me, right?
Tina: I for sure have. I can hear the change in your voice. We do not even have to be on Zoom. I don’t have to see your face. Although your face has a recognizable look on it, I would say. Maybe irritation?
Serena: Hmm. Yeah, and maybe this sounds weird, but I can feel it on my face and I know when I look like that and I’d say I’ve seen it on yours as well.
Tina: [laughter] Yes.
Serena: You know, I also think it’s important to model self-care for our kids. As much as I’d like to be, I am not superhuman just because I’m a mom. Imagine if we took care of ourselves in the same way that we care for our kids?
Tina: That would be amazing and I agree. I am not sure I really appreciated this whole concept when my kids were little. I am now constantly talking to them about how to take care of themselves, you know, how to take that time out because there’s a lot going on. And I think they see me doing it more and more.
Serena: So I’m curious if there was a specific point at which the idea of self-care became clearer to you? Or became more important? So, was there a, maybe a turning point or was it more of a gradual shift?
Tina: So I would love to tell you that I had this all figured out when my kids were little and the truth is, I totally did not. I didn’t take good care of myself until I was an empty nester. I took the time to take care of myself because I simply had the time. And since you are still in the throws of small kiddos, has that shift happened for you?
Serena: So, I think that self-care became more of a priority for me, I would say, about 6 years ago when we started working together. And working in a job where we were actually expected to take care of ourselves and put ourselves first, that was a huge shift for me. I can’t say that I’m always great at it, but, you know, I guess it’s a work in progress.
Tina: ALWAYS a work in progress, for sure.
Serena: Yeah, so hopefully we’ve convinced you about the importance of self-care. So, the next question is...how do we do it? Where do we start?
Tina: So I love the “worksheets” we used with some parent groups last month. We can put those in the show notes for you. These sheets, in various forms, spoke to various styles, invited you to think about what you’re doing for your mind, your body and your spirit. There was another that invited you to think of self-care very methodically and I love this image of thinking of it like you might think of a safety plan for a struggling child. We often know what to do but we cannot access those things to do when we’re super stressed. So if we, you know, those are the moments we need self-care more than ever!
Serena: Right and that’s such a good point that we need to be able to access it in the toughest moments. So, a number of years ago, perhaps it was about six years ago as I mentioned before. I was in desperate search of the “perfect” self-care. You know, like a formula or a plan. The thing I needed to do that was “right” and it would make everything magically easier. And then I had a bit of a lightbulb moment that seems so obvious to me now. I was attending a workshop about self-care in my quest to find the perfect self-care and someone mentioned cleaning as self-care. Uh, cleaning?!
Tina: I take it cleaning wouldn’t be self-care for you?
Serena: Uh, no. Although, having a clean environment IS self-care for me, the process to get there is not. SO what about you, Tina? Is cleaning self-care for you?
Tina: Yeah, so I would say there are times when neatening up my environment does give me satisfaction and perhaps enhances my ability to relax, but when I think self-care, cleaning is not the first thing I think of. Does that make sense?
Serena: Yeah. I think that really what I finally came to understand, which seems so obvious now, is that real self-care is different for everyone and there’s no one right way to do it.
Tina: So, what is, what would, not your perfect self-care, Serena, but what would self-care be for you?
Serena: So, I think a piece of it is in the intention and I feel like I’ve been using that word a lot this year. But there are things that I never used to think of as self-care that now I am much more intentional about. So an example of that is, maybe stopping and taking some deep breaths. And of course we breathe all day, but how often do we stop and intentionally take some deep breaths? And that right there, yeah that’s self-care!
Tina: And it’s amazing that it can really be that simple!
Serena: Yeah, it really can be that simple. There’s a book that I read recently, it’s a really great book, and it’s called, The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People and the author is Rachel Wilkerson Miller. The first half of the book is all about showing up for yourself and I have found this book to be a really great way to delve into what self-care might look like for you. The book includes a lot of prompts around identifying your values, your preferences and the things that make you comfortable and happy. And there’s also a section on doing an audit of your time, money and energy to look at the ways you’re spending each of these in your life and to kind of look at if that’s in alignment with what you want to be doing. So I’m curious, Tina, along these lines, what are some of the things that perhaps you want to do less of this year?
Tina: Less of. You know that’s a bit of a hard question for me. I had traumatic loss when I was in my thirties and really promised myself that I would live my life very intentionally. There’s that word again, right? I am not always good at it but really do try to be positive and try to think in terms of “more of”, and not “less of” That being said, I have been working on letting go of anxiety that doesn’t belong to me. Thank you to my therapist, again. I tend to hold on to things for others and these are things that I cannot really change or fix. So, I would say, yeah, that’s what I’m working on. What about you?
Serena: Yeah, you know, that’s such a good one. I think Moms do that a lot. We hold things for other people.
Tina: Literally and figuratively!
Serena: Yeah, absolutely. So, getting back to what I want to do less of. I have a habit of getting really worked up and frustrated over issues with technology and when things aren’t working and I don’t understand why and clearly we’re all entrenched in technology constantly right now. I know that this is wasted energy so I’m working on letting go of some of that and along those same lines, I am really trying to put less energy into any of the things I can’t control and, well, that’s a long list.
Tina: So, right now that is a long list. And let’s flip things around. What are some of the things you want to do more of this year?
Serena: Yeah, so, this year I want to do more reading of actual, physical books. As you know Tina, I do a lot of listening to audiobooks while doing other things but to take the time to sit still to read a book; it’s something I’m not very good at, yet I enjoy it so I want to work on that. And I also want to spend more time outdoors. It’s really something that really resets me, if you know what I mean. It becomes tougher in winter and requires me to, perhaps, there’s that word again, be more intentional about it. What about you Tina? What do you want to do more of this year?
Tina: As you know, I have a “new to me” house with this beautiful garden and I would like to spend some time planning and tending to my garden! And I know how much you love your garden and I really think I need your help. Would you help?
Serena: Of course! Yes. You know I do love gardening and really one of the best things about it is that you can start planning it right now when it’s dark and cold and snowy. Just honestly thinking about the new growth in the Spring and what I want to plant when I’m able, it makes the winter a little more manageable. So, for those of you who don’t know, we live in the Northeast and winters where we are can be particularly brutal. And so I think we think a lot about how to, sort of, get through the winter and it can feel very isolating and I’m thinking that is more true than ever this year. So, Tina, are there things that help you get through the winter?
Tina: Yes, so we’ve talked a lot about this in other podcasts. It has been a particularly isolating year and we live in a very dark place in the northeast, not a lot of sunshine and so I’ve tried light therapy. It’s rather inexpensive and I do find that it boosts your mood. I am one of those people that when the sunshine is out, I just feel happier. I also have very intentionally, again, started taking vitamin D. Always check in with your doctor before you add any of these. They work for me and I am not a doctor so I cannot prescribe anything. And I’m curious, Serena, what gets you through these cold dark winters?
Serena: I really spend time thinking about winter-type stuff, if that makes sense. So I kind of shift into things that are “cozy” that you wouldn’t do in warmer weather. So, you know, warm drinks. Coffee is year-round but I drink a lot more tea in the winter. It’s just very comforting to hold a warm drink and you know, curl up under a blanket on the couch and watch a movie and eat good soup which is not something that feels particularly good in the summer so I like to take advantage of that in the winter.
Tina: Yeah, so you kind of are, let’s talk a little bit about what we would call our toolbox, right? We have our toolboxes for getting through and I’m curious, what kinds, if we were to build a self-care toolbox in the same way that we do for our stress and anxiety and depression. What might be in that self-care toolbox for you?
Serena: Hmm. I’m picturing the box in my head and I’ve got knitting supplies. I find that calming and especially in winter, that’s a nice time to do that. A variety of teas, a favorite mug to put it in, warm socks and a good book. How about you Tina? What’s in your box?
Tina: I think we are the same person! I am echoing all of those, giving a shout out to my niece who made me a lovely new mug for Christmas that I love sipping warm tea out of, and I would add a fuzzy blanket to snuggle with.
Serena: Yeah. So, we have added a page on our website and you can find our website at NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com. There you will find some of the books and products we love when it comes to self-care. These are affiliate links which will take you directly to Amazon, but you should know if you make a purchase via one of these links, we may receive a very small percentage of your purchase. It does not cost you anything extra to use these links but it does help us continue producing this podcast and we really do appreciate your continued support.
Tina: So podcast friends, if you like what you’re hearing, please leave us a rating, subscribe and share with others. We would love to hear your best self-care ideas and thoughts. You can find more content and can email us from our website, NoNeedToExplainpodcast.com.
Serena: So, this is our gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while also taking care of your people.
Tina: Thanks so much for listening! Bye!