By Barbara Gruener
Part of our Counselor’s Corner series. Click to read other posts in the Counselor’s Corner.
The other day, a friend said something that gave me pause: “We can’t overflow where there is no flow.”
Wait, I wondered, was he talking to me? And then I realized I wasn’t creating as much flow as I was accustomed to or would have liked. Was it possible that I’d been working so hard caring for my students, staff, family, and friends, that I’d neglected the self-care habits and routines I learned in my counseling classes all those years ago?
So I started working on my self-care rituals. Here are some of the ingredients in my Plan “BE.”
In order to BE well, I choose to BE:
Childlike & Courageous
Affirmed & Adaptable
Relaxed & Reflective
Inspired & In the Moment
Nourished & Nurturing
Generous & Grateful
BE Childlike. When was the last time you took time to play? On purpose. With intention. To be playful in a childlike way and have some fun. A board game here, a game of freeze tag there. Dodge ball, darts, a bike ride. When we channel our inner child, magical things happen. Charades, anybody?
BE Courageous. Maybe it’s time to be bold, to take a risk. Is there a courageous conversation you’ve been putting off that might be a brave remedy for a relationship? Make advocating for yourself a priority, an integral part of your self-care routine, and watch those worries melt away. Speak the truth in love; you’ll love the difference it makes.
BE Affirmed. If you’re the kind of person who can dish out compliments but can’t take them, your spirit might be on a crazy starvation diet. A heaping helping of affirmations serves as comfort food for our souls; it feels good to know that we are treasured and loved. So next time someone affirms who you are or what you’re doing, instead of saying that it’s no big deal and batting away the compliment, simply say, “Thank you.”
BE Adaptable. The ability to adapt is an important skill. Learning to go with the flow is a powerful wellness strategy. Everyone wins when we let go and embrace change as an opportunity to learn and grow. Always remember that if it doesn’t challenge us, it doesn’t change us. So when tough stuff happens, reframe your thoughts by asking yourself this: Have I been buried or planted? Then get growing.
BE Relaxed. Think about what relaxes you. For some of us, it’s listening to soft piano music. For others, it’s soaking in a hot bubble bath. Maybe it’s enjoying a cup of warm tea while spending time on a hobby like knitting or painting. Once you figure it out, enjoy breathing in the relaxation. Want something a little less tangible? Try doing nothing for two minutes and see what that does for your well-BEing.
BE Reflective. A huge part of self-care is personal growth, and since most of our learning happens during reflection, it’s important to reflect. Maybe it’s journal writing or blogging, drawing or conversing. A lot of my reflecting happens when I’m on a morning walk. Our summertime break from the stress of the school day is the perfect time to start a reflective practice that will help you look back to bounce forward.
BE Inspired. What are your sources of inspiration? I know that going through my Smile File, where I keep the thank-you notes I’ve received, is often the inspirational fuel that I need to keep my engine running smoothly. Maybe you have a favorite movie that inspires you. Hallmark Channel, anyone? The more we’re inspired, the more we can inspire others. So grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.
BE In the Moment. It has taken me a lifetime to realize the life-changing value of being present, of staying in the moment with my thoughts and feelings, breathing in light and exhaling dark. How do you stay mindful when we live in such mind-FULL times? Try yoga stretches, purposeful meditation, or calming coloring. Center your deep breathing by repeating a mantra of positivity like this: Today, I will choose joy.
BE Nourished. With so many things on our plates in the busyness of life, it’s increasingly important that we be well fed—in mind, body, and soul. Stretch the muscles in your brain to stay mentally sharp with puzzles or a new hobby or craft. Exercise the muscles in your body to stay in shape physically by working out regularly. Get outside for some coveted sunshine and vitamin D. And to make sure that you’re eating balanced meals and hydrating well, keep a food journal.
BE Nurturing. Do you know about the helper’s high? When you do a kind act or witness a kindness, your brain gets a dose of a chemical called dopamine, which puts you on a natural high. Plain and simple, it feels good to do good. Summertime is an opportunity for us to do that volunteer work we might not have time for during the school year. Start small by signing up for a day or two at a local vacation bible school, community education class, or community library.
BE Generous. Generosity brings us satisfaction not only because it feels good to give, but also because it generates emotional warmth by releasing a hormone called oxytocin. Maybe you know someone who could use some tutoring for an hour a week? Or maybe you want to invite your neighbor’s children over for a swim while she grocery shops? A generous act doesn’t have to be grand to be great.
BE Grateful. Sometimes showing gratitude in all things is easier said than done. Author Douglas Wood wrote, “We don’t give thanks because we’re happy. We are happy because we give thanks.” Try this: Carry blank thank-you notes with you to follow up a kindness, and see if Wood is right. What are some other ways that you can show gratitude not only to others, but also to yourself, to increase your HQ (happiness quotient)?
Self-care is a choice, and CARING is always in season, especially in summer when we have some extra time to devote to taking care of ourselves. Which of these Plan “BE” suggestions might you adopt this summer?
Currently in her 33rd year as an educator, Barbara Gruener, a school counselor and character coach at Bales Intermediate School in Friendswood, Texas, has had the pleasure of working with kids from every grade level. Author of the blog The Corner on Character and the book What’s Under Your Cape? SUPERHEROES of the Character Kind, Barbara enjoys positively influencing change through her inspirational keynotes and interactive workshops. When she’s not working, you can bet Barbara is knitting, baking, writing, reading, walking, gardening, napping, or spending time with her husband and their three children.
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