The Mindfulness Series: Chapter Two. Self Care and Building Resilience against Stress

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to the Second Chapter of the Mindfulness Series. In this chapter we will discuss self-care and how to build resilience against stress.

Self-care Relaxed people can still be super-achievers, and, in fact, relaxation and creativity go hand in hand (Carlson, 2007). There are many ways to prevent burn-out and to restore a lifestyle balance that produces ease rather than stress. Self-care involves paying attention to the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of your life. The following lists include many suggestions which are adapted from a website dedicated to stress release and relaxation that is worth visiting as it has some excellent resources (http://www.nvoad.org/articles/ESCCchapterB.pdf).

Not all of these suggestions need to be applied, but one area of self-care may come more naturally to you than others. That way it will be more pleasurable to do which increases the likelihood of you doing it. Becoming less stressed involves being kind to yourself, so it is important to choose activities that do not add to a list of demands you cannot fulfill (and thus bring additional stress). Looking after yourself can be fun if you choose pleasurable and easy suggestions which may involve the body (a long, hot bath), the mind (listening to lovely music) or giving yourself the time to sing or paint. Most of these self-care activities involve some sense of personal growth, expansion and validation of your personal needs. Like any development, it needs practice. Sometimes it helps to document the journey of self-care, as a way to count blessings, to review deep beliefs and to affirm one’s own strengths and needs. It means a conscious engaging with some of the ideas mentioned above.

Some of the ‘side effects’ of the activities mentioned above will be that you are more able to:

• Set realistic goals

• Be assertive and maintain your boundaries

• Change negative thought processes into positive ones

• Avoid ‘toxic’ situations

• Engage in positive conflict resolution

• Maintain a sense of humour and good health

• Practice forgiving, also of self

• Develop positive relationships

• Improve your communication skills

Petrea King suggests that looking after yourself must be your highest priority. Do you think that it is selfish to put yourself first? It certainly sounds like that and especially women are taught to look after everyone else before taking a rest themselves. As a result, women (and men too) often from suffer stress related illnesses or feel depressed and unhappy. How productive can you be if you are not at peace, not relaxed and happy? Looking after yourself means that you can give from an overflowing well of energy, love and care. It also means giving everyone else permission to care for themselves well.

Physical Self-Care

• Eat regularly (eg breakfast, lunch, dinner)

• Eat healthy, fresh food with plenty of fruit and vegetables

• Find a pleasurable exercise routine

• Get regular medical care for prevention and health

• Take time off when sick

• Have a massages, acupuncture or beauty treatment

• Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other physical activity that is fun

• Take time to be sensual and sexual–with yourself, with a partner

• Get enough sleep

• Wear clothes you like

• Take vacations, day trips or mini-vacations

• Make time away from telephones

Psychological Self-Care

• Notice your inner experiences — listen to your thoughts, judgments, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings without judgment

• Let go of perfectionism: do something silly or be simply imperfect

• Talk with friends and have a buddy support system

• Practice receiving from others

• Write in a journal: Be curious about life

• Do relaxation exercises, get a relaxation CD that you like

• Have your own personal psychotherapy or counselling

• Read literature that is unrelated to work and uplifting

• Do something at which you are not expert or in charge

• Decrease stress in your life by removing the clutter

• Make to do lists and prioritise them giving yourself plenty of time

• Let others know different aspects of you

• Say NO to extra responsibilities 8

Emotional Self-Care

• Be kind to yourself, engage in self-nurturing, self-mothering

• Spend time with others whose company you enjoy

• Stay in contact with important people in your life

• Give yourself affirmations, praise and love

• Find ways to increase your sense of self-esteem

• Acknowledging strength, positive points

• Boundaries: learn to feel OK about saying NO and putting yourself first

• Change thought processes that are not self-affirming

• Avoid negative people or negative communication

• Re-read favourite books, review favorite movies

• Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships and places

• Allow yourself to cry

• Find things to make you laugh

• Express your outrage in social action, letters, donations, marches, protests

• Contribute to causes in which you believe

• Play with children, animals or grown-ups Spiritual Self-Care

• Make time for self-reflection

• Practice acceptance and kindness for self and others

• Spend time with and in nature

• Find a spiritual connection or community

• Be open to inspiration from teachers and people you admire

• Read inspirational literature (talks, music, etc.)

• Cherish your optimism and hope

• Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of life

• Practice forgiveness for self and others

• Identify what is meaningful to you and notice its place in your life

• Meditate, sing or pray

• Be open to Not Knowing and experiences of awe (http://www.nvoad.org/articles/ESCCchapterB.pdf)

A side effect of learning to look after yourself is that you learn new skills that can be used in your personal as well as in your family and professional life. For example the ability to turn adversity into an opportunity becomes a change for personal development. It also means that you are developing life skills that contribute to greater happiness and well-being of all people around you. Paradoxically, looking after yourself means becoming more able to be of service for others!

Nutrition Nourishment Hopes you’re enjoying the Mindfulness Series and taking what information is important and beneficial for you at this time in your life. It’s  never too late to begin to understand yourself better and to find happiness for your soul

If you haven’t already don’t forget to check out Chapter One in this series. Links Below.

Chapter One: Burn-out. More than a Stress Response.

https://nutritionnourishment.wordpress.com/2017/09/19/the-mindfulness-series-burn-out-more-than-a-stress-response/

Healthiest regards

Tegan, Nutrition Nourishment

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The Mindfulness Series: Burn-out. More than a Stress Response.

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to the Mindfulness Series. A holistic guide to self-care and stress management. There are five chapters in this series. The first chapter explains what burn-out is and the signs to look for. The second chapter look at how to build up resilience against stress and how to better look after oneself. The third chapter explains how meditation and mindfulness can decrease stress levels. The fourth chapter details some exercises and practices that may be useful to decrease levels of stress and increase happiness and well-being. The last chapter points to web-sites that contain relaxation exercises, audiovisuals and other interesting information.

Stress is endemic to the human condition, whether it is inflicted upon us or self imposed. Even if we take good care of ourselves, there may be times in our life where it is all too much. In fact, many contemporary issues such as information overload; news programs about war and suffering, global warming and economic down-turn all add to our stress levels. Old age, sickness, death and pain all involve suffering related to the physical body. Stress can also arise because of mental activity (our thoughts about things) and involves our needs for security, safety and relationship not being met. Although we all share these needs, the impact upon us is depends on many inter-related factors: genetic; conditional; societal.

Burn-out is the result of being exposed to undue stress or not being able to cope with the demands of work and life stress. According to (Tagar, 1999) there is a simple stress equation. The ratio between ‘demand’ and ‘stamina’ determines the stress levels. Simply put, the stress levels equate to the gap between what you can do and what is expected of you (or what you expect of yourself). However, it is more complicated because stress, a serious problem for health care workers, is not equally experienced and some people are more prone to burnout.

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Some of the risk factors are, according to Espeland (2006):

Internal factors:

  • Personality type, eg high achievers with a need for control and over commitment
  • Loss of control being with the outside world (victim) rather than with the self (capable)
  • Coping styles, eg passive or defensive rather than assertive
  • Attitudes, eg having high expectations and being negative rather than realistic and positive
  • Negative self image
  • Feeling low
  • Level of self development and self-efficacy
  • Level of leisure taken

External factors:

  • Unsupportive work or home environment
  • Stress and difficulties at work or home
  • Underpaid and overworked
  • Demands exceed possibility to fulfill them
  • Lack of intimacy with others

How we spend our days is, of course, How we spend our lives (Annie Dillard)

Some signs of burn-out and stress may include a loss of appetite or excessive eating,  Sleep disorders, Chronic feelings of ill health,  Irritation and psychological disturbances- negative emotions , Manic activity and procrastination, loss of purpose and meaning.

We know that in order to stay healthy, the body needs adequate rest, food and exercise. The body suffers under too much stress, because muscles tense, blood pressure rises, food is not well digested and sleep is disturbed. High levels of stress hormones are being released continuously. If not released, enduring stress can become ‘toxic’ with major consequences for health and happiness (Tagar, 1999). As a result our resilience, both physical and emotional goes down and we become less effective in the work we do, and more prone to accidents and eventually disease.

This all seems quite logical but, in reality, we often are not looking after ourselves well when stress mounts. On the contrary, we often become less able to do the ‘right’ thing for ourselves. We start eating more junk food, watch more TV and may even self-medicate with excessive drinking. We may sleep less, or more and can’t get motivated to exercise or do relaxations. In short, we don’t look after ourselves!

When to Seek Help

Stress is prevalent in modern life, especially in health care. This is ironic, as health care workers are trained to look after others, but often not themselves. It is recommended that you seek assistance from a counsellor, your medical doctor or from a mental-health professional who is skilled in the treatment of stress if:

  • You are experiencing high levels of distress
  • You are experiencing significant changes in relationships
  • You are not functioning well at work for longer periods
  • You are self-medicating with alcohol, too much sleep or drugs
  • You are unable to find relief with self-help strategies
  • You are experiencing physical problems

Barriers to Seeking Help/ Helping loved ones dealing with stress include the following:

  • Some people may feel that they are better off than those more affected and that they, therefore, should not be so upset or seek help
  • Some may not seek help because of pride or because they think that distress indicates weakness of some sort
  • Some individuals may not be open to support, if the intervention was not requested (eg a lecture, sermon or rituals)
  • Many individuals are more apt to seek informal support from family and friends, which may not be sufficient to prevent long-term distress for some

This can be an isolating condition and it’s important to know you don’t have to do this alone. Remember to speak up and seek help.

Healthiest Regards

Tegan, Nutrition Nourishment

References

Espeland, K. (2006) ‘Overcoming Burnout: How to Revitalize Your Career’, Continuing Nursing Education, Vol. 37, Issue 4, pp 178-185.

Tagar, Y. (1999). Stress. Medicine of the Mind. I. Gawler. Melbourne, The Gawler Foundation.

Bad Eating Habits- How to Break Them

Hello everyone,

Would you believe it if I told you it is possible to eating deliciously satisfying foods, that are also good for your body, without experiencing the feeling of restriction? Perhaps not. Media advertising, social media and society has pushed us into believing we will not be happy until we reach a particular size/weight/look. This is often a sensitive topic for a lot of people, so a little warning in case some of these eating habits below are a little upsetting for you. Nutrition nourishment wants to send out messages of encouragement and support to anyone out there who is struggling with their diet/eating habits, or feeling confused and unbalanced with their relationship with food. We all deserve to enjoy food in a way that makes us happy-both mentally and physically.  So if you’re interested in learning how to break some of the most popular bad eating habits experienced, keep reading!

 

Bad Habit to Break: Keeping Tempting Foods Around

It’s hard to resist temptation when it’s staring you in the face. When office workers were given candies in clear dishes to place on their desks, they helped themselves to candy 71 percent more often than a similar group that was given the same candy in opaque dishes so that the candy wasn’t visible, according to research by Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab in Ithaca, New York. “We’re all on the ‘see-food’ diet,” he says, “so don’t let yourself see what you don’t want to eat.” Do yourself a favor and keep tempting foods out of your sight. If you’re going to keep snacks at home, stash them inside a cupboard; keep apples out on the counter.

Bad Habit to Break: Skipping Breakfast

You might think that skipping breakfast—a whole meal!—would help you cut calories, but the research says that eating breakfast can better help you lose weight. Breakfast eaters tend to weigh less and are more successful at losing weight—and keeping it off—than those who skip the meal. What’s more, people who typically eat breakfast also get more fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, zinc and iron—and less fat and dietary cholesterol. Perhaps it’s because they often eat cereal, which is fortified with vitamins and minerals, and fruit, which is naturally nutrient-rich. Not hungry when you first get up? Don’t worry. Eating breakfast doesn’t have to be the first thing you do each day. Just make sure that when you do eat, your meal is something that will sustain you for a few hours—it should include some fiber and protein.

 Bad Habit to Break: Distracted Eating

You’re eating alone, so you reach for your smartphone and text, scan social-networking sites or play games. Or you read the paper, watch TV or use your computer. All of these distractions take your attention away from eating and make it harder for you to really experience and tune in to how satiated/full you are. That can lead you to eat more than you’re really hungry for, either now or later. A recent study showed that playing solitaire (on the computer) dampened people’s memories of lunch, which, in turn, may have caused them to eat 530kj more when they snacked later.

Bad Habit to Break: Eating Straight Out of the Bag

If you’re noshing directly out of the package—whether you’re eating chips, crackers, cookies or ice cream—it’s easy to eat several servings without realizing it. A key step when you’re trying to lose weight is literally watching what you eat—being aware of what and how much you’re eating. That’s why keeping a food journal is so effective. Get a handle on runaway portions by measuring out a serving…if you want more, measure that too. Being conscious of what you’re eating will help you meet your weight goals.

Bad Habit to Break: Eating on the Run

Eating in the car, snacking at your desk, drinking a high-calorie smoothie or latte while walking around—it’s all too easy to take in excessive calories if you’re eating on the go. To curb this type of distracted eating, sit down to eat.

Wishing you the best of luck with creating health eating habits that work for you and your body while making you happy. One good question to ask yourself before you reach for the junk food is..  “Is this (food) really what my body needs right now? or Am I just eating out of habit/boredom/emotions?”

Would love to hear from our readers, please leave a comment below if you have experienced any difficulty with eating habits? Know that you are not alone and you do not have to suffer.

As always Healthiest Regards

Nutritionnourishment