7 Steps That Will Enhance Self-Care

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Matthew 22:39
                                                                                       Jesus

What comes to mind when you read the words Self-care or Self-Compassion? Are you aware that one of the components of resilient, successful people is they practice self-care?

For many people, the first reaction self-care is often one of concern, misgiving, or uneasiness. They believe that being kind and gracious to themselves might make them weak, more vulnerable, or even snotty (a clinical word that could mean arrogant, puffed up, or aloof). They erroneously think self-criticism keeps them accountable or improves their performance. They are sometimes overly concerned that letting go of the nasty habit of self-criticism will somehow cause them to appear less competent.

I believe one of the things those of us who have struggled in this area have a hard time understanding is that the reverse is true; tormenting ourselves and holding ourselves to be accountable to completely unrealistic expectations which will most likely sabotage our efforts.

I know in my own life; one of the voices that I consistently listened to, was that nagging whisper planted in my head by a teacher in high school that I was a horrible English student and that I might not make it out of high school. FYI, I got through High School and completed 2 Masters. Now in all fairness, she planted the seed, but I did a phenomenal job of watering and fertilizing it. That is until I made a choice to turn the volume down and begin to write. Just so you know, at age sixty-seven and still learning and growing.

News Flash! 

If you haven’t figured it out yet, bludgeoning yourself with self-criticism compromises your goals, impairs your pursuits and steals your dreams, whether they are mental, physical, spiritual, academic, health-related, or professional.

In my work as a therapist and as a Crisis Response Specialist I have learned that self-care, self-compassion is a must if I want to provide adequate care to others. Likewise, self-care, self-compassion is not an option if I desire to impact this world.

I love this story in the New Testament book of Matthew 22: 35–38, One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question; ‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses? “Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Let me be clear, we are not talking about some narcissistic type of self-love, but of, to use a biblical metaphor, “temple maintenance.” We cannot export what we do not have.

So, what does healthy self-care or self-compassion look like?

It brings forth resilience, and it enables you to be more flexible and agile as you face life’s challenges, it provides you the capacity to identify problems, accept feedback, both good and bad, and to modify habits that no longer serve your best interests. This type of shift in your thinking opens the doors to enhanced resilience, hope, increased strength, optimism, and opportunities.

Self-Care Explained 

Do you remember the safety briefing from your last flight? When the flight attendants get to the part about the unlikely event of sudden cabin depressurization, they explain that the oxygen mask will drop from the ceiling and at that point, they instruct you to put on your mask first, then and only then, help someone else with theirs. 

Self-care is sort of like this in a way. It is a very intentional, active choice that we make to take care of our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. It’s putting us first…because we can’t care for or be the best help to help others unless we first take care of ourselves. 

The benefits of self-care

Self-care can have the following positive effects:
– Improved self-esteem and self-compassion
– Increased insight in decision making and motivation
– Boosted immune system
– Enhanced stress management by reducing anxiety
– Improved productivity fostered by a greater ability to focus
– Deepened spirituality and sense of meaning
– Heightened connection to yourself and others
– Increased resilience
– Greater ability to set boundaries (internal and external)
– Boosted immune system
– Enhanced stress management by reducing anxiety
– Improved productivity fostered by a greater ability to focus
– Deepened spirituality and sense of meaning
– Heightened connection to yourself and others
– Greater ability to set boundaries (internal and external)

Here are seven ways to practice self-care

1. Get your horizontal and vertical relationships in order. The quote from Jesus pretty much sums it up. Love God and out of that love of God will come the love of self, then love of others.

2.  Remember, we have to all constantly fight the inner poser. We all feel like fakes and frauds from time to time. When you find yourself beating yourself up, calling yourself names, rehearsing old hurts, telling yourself you are a loser or suffering from the paralysis of analysis, STOP. Everybody struggles with this from time to time, and it is all part of being human. They are just thoughts. You always have a choice to give them a place in your brain and heart or to dismiss them.

3. Be a buddy to yourself. Would you offer yourself support and encouragement on a bad day? Would you cheer for yourself on a good one?

4. Use your meals as an act of self-care. When you eat, pause to notice that you are taking time to nourish yourself. Rather than seeing how fast you can consume your meal, a nasty habit that I picked up in the military, chew your food slowly, savor the flavor as you add fuel for your body.

5. Get the rest your body needs, 7–8 hours is a great goal and has been proven time and time again to renew and refresh.

6. Have a time of stillness and quietness in the morning. It could be a time of prayer and meditation. You could read from a daily devotional or have some type of daily reading plan. One that I have used is to read one chapter of the Old Testament book of Proverbs a day.

7. Ask for some help. No, I do not mean therapy, although a good therapist could help. Here is a thought, experiment with giving someone else a chance to help you. It might be a friend, colleague, or mentor who can come alongside you to help out, be an accountability partner or just an encourager.

Action Plan

Choose 2 of the 7 suggestions to begin showing yourself some Self-Care.

Let me hear your thoughts. 
Blessings,
John

Renew Your Vision, Revive Your Mind 2


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(c) 2014 John Thurman – Feeling beat up after climbing to the top of Nimrod’s Fortress in the Golan
Go for a Growth Mindset

by John Thurman
Have you ever had a season in your life when you felt like the biggest loser in the world. I know I have pulled more than a few “no brainers” in my life. While I am not the brightest build on the Christmas tree, I am learning new ways to psi against the “Six Big Stinking Thinking Patters.”

One of the principles for reviving your mind is personal responsibility and agency, which simply means you are an active player in your individual recovery. It is important for us to focus on responsibility and to be forward-looking. Seeing ourselves as perpetual victims of childhood or adult trauma tends to make us a prisoner of the past and gnaws at our sense of responsibility. All successful counseling has two things in common: It is forward-looking, and it requires assuming personal responsibility.

A person with a growth mindset begins in a different place. When you have a growth mindset, you see yourself and others as more flexible, adaptable, and hopeful. Way down inside, you see the potential for growth and development. With the right motivation, effort, moral compass, and concentration you believe you can become better at almost anything. A person who has a growth mindset does not take failure so personally. That individual tends to see failure as an opportunity for growth. If one path does not work, then the person will try another.

As a Christian therapist, I believe that the Bible continually teaches the benefit of being growth-minded. I believe God is active in time, space, and history and that He has an active, life-fulfilling purpose for each of us. The Bible gives us truth, hope, and stories of those who have gone before us and have found such meaning.

From my struggle with depression, I know that working toward a growth mindset in the middle of depression may seem close to impossible. However, the truth found in the Bible is, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NLT). This confidence is not some magical incantation or mystical, spiritual event, but it is a process or a journey.

In the next few posts, you and I will begin our journey of understanding these negative approaches and taking strategic, kinetic steps to replace these with more productive thinking styles.

I am very grateful for the work of Dr. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, I highly recommend her materials for your reading plan. 


(c) 2014 John Thurman

Renew Your Vision, Revive Your Mind 

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Revive Your Mind: It is Cheaper Than Therapy
by John Thurman

Your future is not defined by your past. Your thoughts can change, and consequently, so can your future. Stinking thinking corrupts your brain and triggers harmful neurochemicals and dangerous mental states such as anxiety, anger, and depression. One of the proven ways to revive your mind is to get a grip on your “stinking thinking” styles and make the necessary adjustments. Unless you are willing to do some constructive re-engineering, your thinking becomes automatic, impulsive, and often wrong by bending, deleting, distorting, and exaggerating the truth. Over the next few posts, I will show you the secrets to renewing your mind. 

The first shift is to move into a “growth mindset.” Dr. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, spent her life researching the origins of mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Her findings give us two options, a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. The Bible contains numerous other passages that deal with managing our thoughts. For starters, I’d suggest reading the New Testament book of James 1:1-8

A fixed mindset is one in which you believe you are born with a changeless set of talents, abilities, and intelligence—all of which are unchangeable. Some people with a fixed mindset may find it more difficult to experience life change and growth. As a result, a fixed-mindset person fails to develop his potential and is more likely to give up or become distracted and feel depressed when he fails to make the grade in his own eyes.

One of the ways to engage these thoughts is to give you some descriptions of how stinking thinking works. Knowing that, you will be able to push back the lies and replace them with the truth.

Stinking thinking traps undermine mental toughness and performance and lead to an inaccurate understanding of the situation. You can use some of these critical questions I’m going to talk about in these thinking traps to help you clarify a situation. In the following blogs,  we’ll talk about developing resistance, resilience, and getting stronger.

In the next few days you will begin to revive your mind with the new truths that you are beginning to implement. Let me know how you are doing.

To learn more about the “Stinking Thinking Traps,” read Chapter 4 of Get a Grip on Depression.
It may also be ordered through Amazon


(c) 2014 John Thurman


Recapture Your Vision through Gratitide

Experience Gratitude

“Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done…” are words from a hymn I remember from my childhood while attending the First Baptist Church of Fort Valley. It is an old song with modern psychological and spiritual implications.

G.K Chesterton said, “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” — Rabbi Harold Kushner

Gratitude makes your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event. In addition, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them.

An exercise called the Gratitude Visit will help you experience relief from depression.

Close your eyes. Imagine the face of someone still alive who did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Got a face?

Your task is to write a letter (handwritten) to this individual and deliver it in person. The letter should be concrete and about three hundred words; be specific about what they did for you and how it affected your life.

Once you have completed the letter, call the person and let them know that you would like to visit them, but be vague about the purpose of the meeting. This type of exercise is more fun when it is a surprise. When you meet with the individual, take your time reading your letter. Notice their reactions as well as yours. If they interrupt you, gently tell them that you want them to listen until you are done. I promise you that you and the recipient will be much happier and less depressed.

Of course, if you cannot hand deliver the note, mail it, but follow up with a call.

Added Monday morning

My pastor, Todd Cook, Senior Pastor of Sagebrush Church in Albuquerque, shared a message Sunday on Psalm 90. One of the quotes I took away was, “If God leads you to it, he will lead you through it. Here is a link to the message, Boom Box if you want to hear it all. It was timely. Warning: this my be a little “out of the box” for you.

You can find this and more tips in my book Get a Grip on Depression.  Obtain a personally autographed copy from me. In Albuquerque, you may pick up a copy at the Sagebrush Church bookstore, or order a copy through Amazon/Kindle.