Happy International Self-Care Day!

Don’t worry, it was news to me too! But here it is, so just like every holiday where a big flashlight is suddenly focused on whatever the theme is, let’s embrace this holiday week by overdosing in self-care.

Where can you infuse a little more self care in your day/week? Be really specific to this particular week. It’s easier to actually act on it when you take it day by or week by week, instead of proclaiming “from now on I will…!” And remember if it’s not on your calendar you are more likely to forget or cancel on your self-care plans.

So look at your calendar right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Look at tomorrow’s plans, is there anything on your schedule that you are excited about? If yes, great! Hold yourself to it! If no, thank goodness you are looking because now is your chance to brainstorm on how to sprinkle in a little joy tomorrow. If this is hard for you, think back to a particularly great day or week you had. What about it felt joyful or rejuvenating? How can your incorporate that or a portion of that into your day?

Just a little tip: Don’t wait for the final hour of the day to finally practice self-care. You may be too spent to appreciate it.

Ok fine, one more tip: If you’re feeling “blah” try pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Talk to someone you’ve been curious to talk to, engage that senior citizen who just smiled when you looked at them, practice random acts of kindness on someone who is also looking “blah.” Allow yourself to feel nervous or excited and push through anyway. At the very least you are shaking things up again and waking yourself up to the potential of human connection that is all around you.

Ok friends, good luck this week!

Take care of YOU!

Adults need “emotions posters” too!

Have you ever seen that poster of different emotions that kids are given in preschool so that they can better identify how they feel?  I need that poster.  Adults need that poster.

Recently I’ve acknowledged that I often get so overwhelmed with emotion that I’m not able to think clearly.  I can’t always identify what is specifically bothering me or what I need.  It has made me realize I want a better understanding of my emotions so that I can grow and not feel so overwhelmed or out-of-control so frequently.  As stated in the last blog post, the good news for me, and you if you relate, is that this is something we can get better at.  We just have to start paying better attention to ourselves.

First off, we have to start paying attention to what our bodies feel like when experiencing certain emotions.  These are clues that something is coming up for us.  For instance, when we don’t notice the tension in our jaw, or an increase in our pulse, we may say something we regret before we have even given our minds a second to process what’s actually going on for us.  Getting to know how you experience certain emotions is a crucial part of this process.  It’s a beacon signal telling us to slow down, and get all the facts first.

Anger and frustration can be all encompassing emotions that can fool you because they aren’t specific enough; they require a little more examination.  They are much more complex than “I’m pissed off” or “soooo irritated.” You can be angry and also: sad, disappointed, scared, guilty, hurt, jealous, anxious, embarrassed, worried, etc. Growth happens when you can look beyond the obvious emotion and see what’s really happening with the hidden emotion.  This is where the good stuff happens.  This is where growth happens.

The next time you feel anger surface, make a point to put a pin in that moment and re-examine what was going on later, especially if right then is not the time to process it all.  Now I know I’m a self-care nerd, but I want to get better, so this kind of homework excites me, because it means that a healthier me is on the horizon. I want the same for you.

Over the past month, I’ve started unpacking certain scenarios where my emotions surprised me and I’ve discovered so much more hidden beneath that initial reaction.  By honestly exploring what was surfacing for me, I’ve been able to see some old wounds that have needed some healing.  Some of the wounds are nearly on the mend and others need a little more TLC.  But the good news is they are no longer festering in the form of reactionary anger.

Now full-disclosure, I am dealing with this through the help of a therapist, and my own self-reflection.  I have realized that on my own, I didn’t have enough tools.  So if you need more tools, and I encourage you to reach out to a professional and seek guidance.  You’ve got this.

Take care of YOU.

Developing Your Emotional Intelligence.

Very recently I’ve had some situations where my emotional intelligence has been tested. And depending on many factors I’ve either nailed the test or failed miserably.  So I am now working on some growth in that area.  What is emotional intelligence? According to Daniel Goldman, author of “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”:

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions; to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought; to understand emotions and emotional knowledge; and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.”

Sounds great right?  And here’s the good news, this is a skill you can get better at! So if you are someone who feels all fuzzy in the brain when stress hits, getting more in touch with your emotional intelligence is a good place to start.  Or if you fly off the handle at the first sign of frustration, or internalize everything (and often get sick) or emote everything or very little this is a good area to begin.  In general having a high EQ will only help you.  Now I am no expert, so I will get you started by passing along some information I’ve learned and then share some resources so you can continue your research.

Now for some folks emotional intelligence may have been mirrored to you in childhood.  You saw healthy examples of expressing emotion.  For others, you might have been told that “crying was only for babies,” that any display of anger was “acting out or disrespectful” etc.  If this was the case, it’s going to take a little more work to rewire your brain, but it’s not impossible.  In fact, you’ve probably been working on this, well before I wrote this post.  So let this be supplemental info to the work you’re already doing.

Every day our rational mind and emotional mind are in battle. The issue lies when we are not aware of it. Now there are times when a quick reaction is key to your survival. Fight or flight. If you are alone on a dark path and you sense danger, I don’t recommend processing it. Take care of yourself, and do it fast. However, there are going to be other times when it’s crucial that we do some inner checking in before we react and let whatever emotion we are feeling overtake us.

In fact, I had to work on that just now in line for the ATM. I’m pretty sure the guy in front of me was using every function the ATM is capable of.  And while my New Yorker impatience started to kick in, so did my ability to notice my emotions instead of letting frustration take over. This doesn’t mean I then imploded internally. Instead I took a beat, assessed the situation and paid attention to what I was thinking. As I felt my blood pressure rise, I paused and noticed my thought.  Are you ready for it?  It was pretty lame.   I was thinking, “I have to get to my nail appointment, I really don’t have time for this, why is he doing this to me?!” Yikes. C’mon Esther. But that’s legitimately where I went. Once I paid attention to my thoughts and my heightened emotions, I was able to come back down to earth and look at the facts. I was not late, and if this made me late, there were 5 more places within walking distance.  I also reminded myself there is no time limit at the ATM so it was time to let it go.  Also, this wasn’t personal, he had stuff to do!  I then took a couple of breaths, and suddenly he was done.

Can you relate to this?  When was the last time you almost popped off on some unsuspecting stranger because you let frustration take over?  This is a small example and I’m not going to really be able to tap into this topic without going on and on so I encourage you to research further.  I might also dive in a little deeper on my podcast in an upcoming episode ( Self-care with Esther on Apple Podcasts, Spotify etc).  But if this has you intrigued at all, here are some resources:

“Emotional Intelligence: Use CBT to understand and manage your emotions and live a happier life” by Christine Wilding

“The Emotional Intelligence workbook” by J. Dann

“The Art of Happiness” by H.H. Dalai Lama

“Brilliant Emotional Intelligence” by T. Hasson

Good luck on your emotionally intelligent journey!  And be kind to yourself, every incident you come across is a learning experience.  Allow yourself to investigate your reactions and emotions and be fascinated by your thoughts instead of appalled.  We are still students of life, whatever our age.

Take care of YOU.

Hi everyone,

I’m taking a break from writing this week.  But I do have a new podcast episode up about protecting your energy, geared especially towards empaths and those that love empaths.

You can find the episode on Apple podcasts or just google Self-care with Esther and something will come up.  In meantime don’t forget:

protect your energy

Take care of YOU!

Ahhhhh wanderlust.

Well folks, I was away on a much needed vacation to Sweden.  And at one point during the vacation I thought…I should blog about all this!  But didn’t.  So you are getting my post-vacation thoughts instead.

First, when you feel like you are starting to feel “blah” about everything, take a vacation. When human interactions feel like a burden, take a vacation.  When you realize you mostly notice the negativity amongst humanity, take a vacation.

Now I’ve talked about taking breaks whatever way you can, staycations, weekend getaways etc.  But today I want to be that reminder for you, that vacations abroad can be life-changing.  If money feels like a barrier to you, but you’ve been able to take a cruise, I assure you that my trips have rarely costed as much as an all-inclusive cruise does.  So before you write me off, I totally understand the money concern.  However with Airbnb now in most countries around the globe, affordable places have opened up to us in ways they weren’t previously.  Now instead of staying in a hotel or hostels, we have the Airbnb option.  This allows you to live like a local.  Trying locals cafe’s, restaurants and grocery stories, that aren’t in the tourist areas.  You are forced to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and be vulnerable as you attempt to navigate another language and culture.  (With that being said, I fully acknowledge that times can be tough financially and personally, so if this post feels like salt on a wound, no need to continue reading, I get it. xoxo)  Also I am not getting paid by Airbnb, but honestly…I should be!

For me, this push, this chance to observe another way of living, is life giving.  I love that reminder that how I do things, how New Yorkers do things, is just one way of doing it.  It’s not the right way or the only way, it’s ONE way.  This reminder is crucial for me, because I can start to believe that stress and anxiety is the only way to go if I want to survive.  And many many other countries would say that actually stress and anxiety are the problem.

One of the things I took away from this trip was very few people took coffee “to go.”  Coffee is meant to be enjoyed and savored.  Not thrown down your gullet like a shot.  Can you imagine this?  Do you already do this?  Good!  Because what’s the hurry?  Yes, we need to get to work on time.  Yes, we have “things to do.”  But we always will.  Might as well, stop and smell the coffee in the meantime.

Nature is appreciated, valued and incorporated into every day life.  Even though we were staying in the gorgeous city of Gothenburg, we still managed to get a ton of nature time.  Our first day there we hiked in a nearby forest, (a 5-minute walk from our Airbnb I might add!) we spent time by the water and we explored a botanical garden. Now you’d expect this of us tourists because you do that kind of thing when you’re a tourist, right?  But these areas were full of locals.  Locals enjoying the outdoors around them, incorporating nature into their daily lives.  Taking a lunch by the gardens, finishing their day by hopping a tram or taking their bikes and heading to the islands.  I took one photo of an older woman sitting on a bench in the gardens, her head back with a slight smile, eyes closed as she took in the sun.  She epitomized being present and grateful.

And lastly, I encourage foreign travel for the people you will meet along the way.  My boyfriend and I were in Sweden to celebrate the wedding of one of my most favorite people on this planet.  I met her 17 years ago in Ireland, when we both worked as volunteers at a homeless shelter.  The experience was intense but vital, and our friendship born from that time in Ireland has been a gift to me every since.  If you’ve ever felt like a weirdo or misfit based on where you’re from, go travel.  You may discover your people are not necessarily where you grew up, or where your passport states you are “from.”  Instead your people may be but tucked away in various places all around the globe waiting for you to find them.

Take care of you.

 

 

 

The right time is NOW!

So last month, I started a podcast.  This has been a dream of mine for YEARS. Yet I just couldn’t get started.  If you asked me why, I would have given you some very compelling reasons for this, and you might have even bought them!  In reality, I was so focussed on why now was not the right time, I didn’t stop to think about why now was the right time.

Do you have something you want to start, try, explore, get off the ground?  How much time and headspace are you spending on why it won’t work?  What if you flipped the script and instead imagined how it could work?

Here are some ways to get started:

  1. Acknowledge your fears out loud, to someone who is a cheerleader and not a naysayer.
  2. Address the perceived barriers with your cheerleader friend.  Brainstorm on ways to overcome and push through areas.
  3. Just start.  You don’t have to take a massive step, baby steps towards your goal count too.  But nothing will happen without a little momentum.
  4. Let go of why it’s taken you so long, or the years you “wasted.”  These thoughts are not going to get you motivated.  Instead you might go down the rabbit hole and never act on your dreams.  (If you have a timeline in your head of when things were “supposed” to happen, I encourage you to google inspiring folks who found success later in life.  That’s a rabbit hole I encourage!)
  5. Visualize your dream.  Olympians do this.  NBA players do this.  They visualize getting to the finish line, making the game winning basket.  They let themselves feel all the excitement that comes with that win.  Use your imagination for good, and not for all the ways it could not work.
  6. Set aside regular time to work on your goal.  Make it a habit.  And don’t cancel on yourself.  Enlist others to hold you accountable.
  7. Don’t keep it to yourself.  You may discover you have more resources available to you once you say your dream out loud.  I found that once I talked about wanting to start a podcast with more and more people, I was in the company of folks who knew just how to help me!
  8. Don’t start or stop based on people’s approval.  While it feels great when everyone is on board, it also can’t be your motivation.  Approval comes and goes, and if you grow dependent on it, it will be the driving force which can be dangerous to your dreams.

I want to end by reminding you, that there is room for you and your dream/goal in this world.  Don’t waste any more time telling yourself it’s too late.  Don’t spend another minute comparing yourself to someone else who got to where you want to be, faster.  You bring your own unique “you-ness” to whatever you want to accomplish.  And we all can’t WAIT to see what you’ve got the courage to show us!

Take care of YOU.

P.S. You can find my podcast on Apple Podcasts, Anchor, Pocket Casts, and Overcast: Self-care with Esther

 

You don’t have to do this alone!

I’ve had a hard couple of weeks that have really forced me to practice what I preach.  Let’s be honest, I can talk about self-care all day long but if I’m not really having to test it, then it’s just words.  I’ll admit it’s been simultaneously humbling and exciting to have folks give my advice (or more accurately, the advice I’ve gathered from soooo many books) back to me when they see I’m struggling.  It’s humbling because I sometimes feel this self-imposed pressure to have it all together and I do NOT.  And it’s exciting because at my job we are starting to have a common language to help us through the rough times.  We no longer talk about self-care as an after thought, but a priority.  In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined a work place attempting a transformation like this, and that’s so exciting!

I have a couple of folks I have lunch with regularly and from day one, these lunches have been crucial to my health.  We talk out our frustrations but try not to dwell on them and instead remind ourselves of what matters, remember to be grateful, and leave the diner ready to handle the rest of the day.  Now let me be clear, we  don’t say, “Okay and now is the time in our meal where we say what we are thankful for.”  Instead, we just start to notice that it’s time to shift our focus back to the good stuff and we do it.  There’s no competition about who’s has it worse or who’s doing better.  It’s just a time to reset ourselves before we return to work.

Having a self-care buddy who checks in with you during a particularly hard time is crucial, it can make all the difference.  Do you already have one of those but never thought of them that way?  Do you want one of those?  Make sure they know and agree to having that role in your life and vice versa, because knowing that can help redirect you both during rough times.  Whether they are connected to you through work or your personal life, it’s so helpful to have someone who looks out for you when you are starting to drown and throws you a rope.  Also when you are not struggling share with them what’s are things that bring you back to life, so that they can remind you of those things when needed.

This week one of my friends did just that, he brought me out of my downward spiral and reminded me of things I love doing.  *Reminder: when you are in the “red zone” it is hard to remember what gives you joy.  So make sure you have a list to refer to or a buddy to remind you so that you don’t spin out completely.  I actually have a notecard in my wallet that I look at when all I can see in front of me is frustration.

One last little note, having a hard week does not necessarily mean you are burned out.  It may just mean that a lot happened all at once and it was a lot.  Also we are going to have times when it’s easier to let things slide off of us and when it’s not.  Don’t judge yourself.  I’m always surprised by what really gets to me and what doesn’t.  Allow yourself to explore that when the dust settles, but in the stressful moment practice love towards yourself.

Take care of YOU.