Self-Care Series pt. 4: On Connecting With Others

When I’m depressed, I tend to isolate.

I feel ashamed of my depressed feelings and apathy, I feel insecure and anxious, and I don’t want anyone to see me in this state. Unfortunately the impact of self-isolating is cyclical: I isolate to avoid others, avoiding others makes me feel isolated, and it repeats and repeats and repeats.

One of the best pieces of advice my therapist Chelsey has ever given me is to connect with others when I’m feeling down, even if my mood begs otherwise. When I am down and isolate, I just feel even more crummy and anxious and devastated. But when I’m down and surround myself with my community, my spirit is lifted (even if only just a little bit) and I feel less alone in this battle with my mood disorder.

It can be tough and hard to balance. I do think there’s a fine line between pursuing community in a healthy manner and forcing myself to be around others in an unhealthy way. But what it comes down to is trusting myself to make decisions that are best for me. It definitely helps to seek wisdom in prayer and advice from mental health professionals, to be aware of my sleep, mood, and energy, and how I am feeling.

It’s important to be self-aware.

When we can identify our thoughts and feelings, when we can identify when we are experiencing a dip or feeling down, we know better what we need and how to meet those needs.

I talk a lot about sleep, mood, and energy checks, because I think they are very effective. I look at my rest and sleep patterns, what my mood has been lately, and the energy I’m giving off.

When I realize I have had a crummy amount of sleep, my mood and energy are low, I recognize I may start wanting to isolate. But then I can say no to my mind and body and seek out the community my mental health needs.

It certainly isn’t easy or natural to seek out community when I’m feeling down and numb and apathetic. But it certainly is good for my soul to do so: I feel more connected, more at ease, and more supported when I do. Sometimes it’s a matter of having a healthy, honest conversation with friends that I’m feeling low. And they usually respond with grace, kindness, and encouragement.

Dear friend,

If you have been feeling down or depressed lately, know that you are not alone. Identify what you need, seek those needs out, and lean on your community. That’s what they’re there for. That’s what I’m here for.

With kindness & love,

Mae

Self-Care Series pt. 3: Find What Fuels You

Self-care is important.

And part of self-care is just finding out what fuels you — what gives you energy, life, and rejuvenation. In the first two parts of this series on self-care, I walked you through the importance of rest, and then exercising & eating well.

Today we are talking about the things that not only bring you peace, but also joy. Things that not only make you feel rested, but also make you feel motivated.

A few things that give me life are spending time outside, meditating on scripture, and connecting with others (more on the last in a post-to-come).

Opt outside

I love to be outside. Whether it’s a hike or a bike ride, a climb or a picnic, I love to soak up the sun and breathe fresh air. There is something about spending time outside that makes my soul sing.

Unfortunately, the greater Dallas area does not have much (or really anything) to offer in terms of mountains. But when I am able to escape the 214 and hop on a plane to Colorado, or most recently Utah, it’s always time well spent.

While I prefer mountains, I’m not too picky — I also appreciate the piney woods of East Texas, or the simple parks in DFW. Thankfully, being a happy dog mom means going on a minimum of two walks a day. At times they are short and sweet, but I always treasure these times in the morning and evening.

Meditating on scripture

Spending time alone with My Heavenly Father also fuels me. It both brings me peace and lifts my spirit. I will admit I am not the most disciplined at my daily quiet time, but when I prioritize a slow morning with God, I notice a tangible positive difference in my energy and attitude the rest of the day.

I have found that having a designated devotional helps me be more dedicated when reading scripture. It gives me direction and focus, and it overall helps me have deeper, more intentional time spent with The Lord.

Find what fuels you

Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe the great outdoors or a spiritual relationship don’t speak to you. Maybe instead you’re fueled by alone time, volunteer service, or long car rides. We are all different and that’s okay! We can all like different things and have different environments, activities, or relationships that fuel us.

During times of apathy or lack of inspiration, I encourage you (and myself) to find things that motivate you. I encourage you to find what speaks to you, what gives you life. Find what gives you joy and pursue it!

Self-Care Series pt. 2: Exercise Often & Eat Well

Taking care of your body is important.

Often times I focus on the mental aspect of self-care: last week I talked about rest and the importance of setting time to re-energize yourself. But this week, I’m breaking down the more physical side of self-care, which includes exercising often and eating well.

On Exercising

I’m not a natural fitness junkie. I wouldn’t call myself a gym rat — I’m not a lifter or a runner or anything in-between. But several years ago I found a form of exercise I love and stuck with it: rock climbing.

I love rock climbing because it’s a great way to get my heart pumping, but it feels like a less traditional workout. It’s an easy way for me to make new friends and connect with others. It’s strategic and fun and not like any other workout I have ever done.

I have close friends who feel the same way about running — it’s a good way for them to break a sweat and also build relationships. Or some friends feel the same way about group workouts like Camp Gladiator, Crossfit, etc.

In my non-expert opinion, I think as long as your body is moving and you’re frequently active, it doesn’t super matter what kind of workout you’re doing. I notice differences in my energy level and overall psyche on weeks when I don’t climb. I feel more lethargic and less connected to my climbing community.

Exercising often is important for your body (and mind). If you don’t have a favorite workout or workout often, I would encourage you to try to find something you enjoy that simultaneously challenges you. I’d encourage you to find time in your schedule to workout, and stick to it.

On Eating Well

I’m also not a natural health junkie. I don’t count calories or weigh myself often, I’m not into fad diets and cooking is a struggle for me. But when I do eat well — which involves less sugar, less junk food, less eating out, and more fruits & veggies, more healthy snacks, more homecooked meals — I notice a positive impact on my energy level. It also helps me have cleaner skin!

My schedule doesn’t allow me to cook every night, nor do I really have the energy to. But I do like to carve out a few nights a week where I cook a healthy meal. Lately I have been on a salmon kick and throwing salmon and veggies on a sheet has been easy and delicious. I personally haven’t dived into the meal prepping game, but I hear that is a great way to avoid unhealthy or impulsive eating, too

Once again, I have a non-expert opinion, but I do think it’s important to remember you are what you eat. When I eat junk food, I feel like junk. When I eat healthy, I feel healthy. Eating well is important for your body and mind, too. We have to treat our bodies well, and a part of that is caring about what we consume.

Self-Care Series pt. 1: The Importance Of Rest

Rest is important.

Boom, bang, done. If there’s anything I want you to glean from this post, it is the importance of rest and taking the time you need to re-energize and re-fuel yourself.

For someone who is a rest advocate, I will confess I am not great at prioritizing time to rest myself. It is easy for my calendar to fill up quickly, to find myself running from here to there, and to realize I’m drained after it’s too late.

Take it from me — don’t be like me! Carve out time to rest. Whether it’s physically sleeping, or just sitting in silence, your body needs to rest.

Some ways I rest include:

  • Power naps (20 minutes or less, or else I feel groggy)
  • Putting away social media for a dedicated period of time
  • Cuddling with my pup Jack on the couch while listening to music

Maybe some of these resonate with you, maybe some of them don’t. I would encourage you to find what works best for you, find what makes you feel rested and what helps you reset mentally, physically, and emotionally.

It is easy for us to get caught up in the whirlwind of life — to get sucked into obligations and commitments and occasions. But let’s remember that in order to help and serve others, we also have to help and serve ourselves. And part of helping and serving ourselves includes giving our bodies the time they need and crave.

Let’s do it! Let’s do nothing. Let’s rest.

The Secret to Self-Care: On Sleep, Mood, & Energy Checks

Self-care is important.

Lately I will admit I haven’t been great at it. I’ve been running nonstop and not checking in with myself. But I’m trying be better at this!

I like to check three things when I’m assessing how I’m doing: sleep, energy, and mood. Let me walk you through how I check in on each one:

How’s my sleep?

Am I getting the amount of sleep I need each night to wake up rested and ready to tackle a new day? Have I experienced any bouts of insomnia? Am I restless during the night?

It may sound extra, but ideally I need at least eight hours of sleep each night to feel fully refreshed for the next day. Sure, I technically can run on less, but it is not good for me or my mental health to do so.

What’s my energy?

Similar but not the same to sleep, I like to assess where my energy is at. Is it high or low? Do I feel like I’m bouncing off the walls? Do I feel like no matter how much rest I get, I can still barely lift my head up? Am I skipping around the gym? Or am I dragging my feet?

Ideally, I want my energy to be a healthy balance in-between high and low. An energy that’s too high might suggest I am feeling hypomanic (which is a less severe form of mania), and an energy that’s too low might suggest I’m having an off or depressed day.

What’s my mood?

How have I been feeling lately? Am I happy, sad, or mad? Do I feel excited or anxious or grumpy? Do I feel a mix of several emotions? Do I feel nothing?

Through lots of time and therapy, I have learned (and am constantly re-learning) there is no ideal emotion. Feelings are just feelings, and we are all created to feel things.

As someone who has battled bipolar disorder, I have not faced the stereotypical mood swings that many do. My moods are often somewhat steady and may dip or increase over days, not within hours or moments. But changing and unstable moods are something I still need to monitor.

Another lesson that has come through time and therapy is the importance of allowing myself to feel my feelings: to just sit and soak in whatever I’m feeling. Usually I like to journal or pray or pause and reflect. It helps me validate my feelings, assess how I am feeling and why I am feeling that way.

I hope you take care of yourself.

I hope this little breakdown assists you in monitoring your self-care, too. If you ever have any questions about self-care or self-check-ins, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to help you!

My Vow To You: On Daily Decisions & True Self-Care

Self-care is important.

I firmly believe that to properly and fully and radically care for others, you have to care for yourself first. You have to assess your needs, wants, heart’s desires, your time, energy, and emotions, and gauge whether or not you have the capacity to give of yourself.

Sometimes I have plenty to give. Sometimes I have little–or even nothing–left.

Self-care looks a little different for everyone–and that’s ok! We are each individuals, made up of feelings and commitments and passions that differ from the other. We are hard-wired differently, we think and process and love and laugh differently. So we can take care of ourselves differently, too!

I saw a really great quote today.

My sweet friend (and just a wonderful person) Kristin shared it to her Instagram stories. It said that true mental self-care is not solely made of spa days and chocolate cake, but it is “making choices each day that create a life you don’t need to escape from.” (Quote from Dr. Caroline Leaf).

That really resonated with me.

Sometimes petting my dog and setting homework aside is self-care. Sometimes long talks with Sweet Denise (aka Mom) or going for a walk are forms of self-care.

But true self-care leads to true change, refinement, and growth.

True self-care is making daily decisions that will positively impact my mind, body, and soul for the long-term. True self-care is establishing and feeding positive relationships with positive people. It’s asking myself what I need and following through with whatever that may be.

It’s saying no to over-exhaustion and over-commitment, to people pleasing and self-neglect. It’s saying yes to kind conversations, to life-giving activities, and to progress over perfection.

I’m not quite sure what it is, but sometimes it is hard to see bad decisions as bad in the moment. It can be easy to say yes to too many obligations, too many folks, too many things. It can be hard to say no to my friends, no to my superiors, no to my low social battery.

So here I am, vowing to take better care of myself, and hoping you will join me!

Here I am, promising to you that I will self-assess and self-protect and self-motivate; promising to you that I will make better and more wholesome decisions. Here I am, asking you to hold me accountable, and volunteering to do the same for you.

We are all in this together. We can all take better care of ourselves, at all times. Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s do this!

Slow & Steady: On Resting Well

CommSandwichLife is different now.

Even as I go back to work at my climbing gym, my life has looked drastically different than it did just a couple months ago. And I have a feeling yours is different, too.

Remember the moral of the story about the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race? Well if life was a race right now, I would definitely be winning. And maybe you would be winning, too.

I’m not used to slow and steady.

My life is typically the opposite: fast and unpredictable, busy and spontaneous, constantly moving, constantly changing. But these days, whether I like it or not, life is slow and steady–and it probably will be for a while, even after COVID calms down.

Pre-COVID, my life was a lot of leaving the house at 8 a.m., going to my job, going to my other job, and getting home at 11 p.m. And on days when I didn’t work, it was a lot of running around, seeing people, making friends, planning trips, crashing on my bed in the wee hours of the night.

I’m learning how to rest, and how to rest well.

Rest for me can be a lot of things: emotional, physical, spiritual. When I need emotional rest, I like to talk to a friend or journal. When I need physical rest, I like to nap or simply lay down for a bit. When I need spiritual rest, I spend time alone with God and read scripture or pray.

Resting well means being intentional about seeking it out, making time for it in my everyday life. Resting well means saying “no” to phoning friends, or leaving a video call game night early. Resting well means waking early just so I can have an extra slow morning with Jesus, drinking coffee and opening up the Word.

Resting well means assessing my needs and what I am lacking, and taking steps to meet those needs. Resting well means valuing this alone time, this me-space because I know when everything goes back to normal, it will be harder to find this time to myself.

I have a few tips for resting well:

  1. Assess your needs: ask yourself what you type of rest you need–emotional, physical, spiritual, etc.
  2. Consider how to meet those needs: when you have identified what form of rest you need, then think about how to meet those needs. Is it by prayer and meditation? Is it by sleep? Is it by saying “no” to others, just to say “yes” to self-care?
  3. Follow through: it is easy to assess and consider without following through. It is easy to ignore your needs and instead pursue your wants. But when we follow through, we are giving our body, mind, and soul the nourishment and attention they need.

It’s important to rest.

It just is. Our bodies, minds, and souls need it. Our spirit craves it. Our eyes love it. Even though things are slowly starting to open up and we are beginning to have some sense of normalcy, I want to prioritize rest more than I did pre-COVID.

It’s important for me, it’s important for you. Let’s rest and rest well, friends.

 

Be Kind To Yourself: On Practicing Self-Care In Quarantine

My world is upside-down at the moment.

And I bet yours is, too.

Due to the coronavirus situation, both of my jobs are on pause and I am holed up in my studio apartment alone. I have had some extra time on my hands, which has been nice but also strangely intimidating.

During this whole social distancing experience, I have made it a priority to be extra aware of my mental health and to practice self-care accordingly. Sometimes alone time can lead me to feeling isolated and down, so it is particularly important for me to check in with my thoughts and feelings, and to practice a little self-love.

Self-care for me during quarantine has looked like:

  • Sleeping in— something I rarely got to do during my regular routine, it has been nice sleeping into the morning and laying around in bed before I’m up and at ’em.
  • Going on walks— now that the sun is out, it has been so good for my soul to let Vitamin D sink into my skin and bones on walks around my neighborhood.
  • Calling Sweet Denise— mothers know best, right? Extra down time has meant extra time to talk to my sweet mama and check in with her, and let her check in with me.
  • Heck, calling everybody else— in the past couple weeks, I have caught up with old roommates, friends who have moved away, friends I rarely see even though we both live in Dallas, and it has been so life-giving to emotionally connect even during physical isolation.
  • Spending time alone with God— my quiet times pre-quarantine were looking few and far between, but social distancing has freed up more time and space and energy to reconnect with my Heavenly Father.
  • Working out— even though I can’t climb right now, I have been participating in live stream workouts like core, yoga, and bodyweight classes. It has been good to get my heart beating and blood pumping.

I asked my friends on Instagram what their self-care routine has looked like. Some of them are taking baths, reading books, napping, meditating, and doing yoga, among other things. It has been encouraging to see that others are trying to care for themselves during these strange times.

Here’s some guidance I have for you: think about your needs, write them down if it helps, and take steps to meet those needs.

Maybe you need verbal encouragement, then reach out to a loved one. Maybe you need rest, then carve out extra time to sleep in. Maybe you need physical activity, then find a workout online. Maybe you need spiritual uplifting, then reach out to your church friends.

At the end of the day, we are all living in unprecedented times that challenge us for varying reasons. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to get by. So my final encouragement for you is this:

Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home.

 

5 Tips For Mental Wellness

Seeking mental wellness is crucial.

It’s crucial to how I operate as a person, professional and peer. It’s crucial to how I think and feel and do and say. Often times, it’s easy for me to get caught up in physical health: how fast is my mile? How controlled is my climb?

But mental health is just as important.

I think there’s this unspoken myth that how we look is greater than how we think or feel, that people care more about what’s on the outside than the inside. Those people may exist, but they are certainly not my kind of people. I want people who want me to be healthy in all ways: physical, mental and even spiritual.

In 2019, I want to work on my mental wellness more. To assess how I function and what I need and actually follow through with self-care.

Here are few of my tips & tricks to mental wellness:

  1. Write it out. Putting my thoughts and feelings on paper (or a computer screen) helps me sort through a whole mess in my mind and heart. It’s healthy for me to externally process before my internal explodes.
  2. Stop self-hate. Even if it’s unspoken, I tend to find self-deprecating thoughts and words floating in my head. It’s important to lift myself up and think positively about who I am, what I do and how I act.
  3. Take a breath. I always recommend this, yet rarely do it. Hopefully, in 2019, I’ll take this more seriously: to step away from a moment of heat or tension or just plain busyness, to pause and breathe and recover from chaos.
  4. Seek outside help. Though it takes humility, at times I must admit that I do need help. It’s OK to not be OK. Often times, it helps to talk through my thoughts and feelings with my therapist, friends or family.
  5. Do your thing. It’s easy for me to compare myself, my Instagram & my blog to others and suffer from insecurity. I must remember I am my own person, so I must own who I am, what I do and what I make. Individuality is a pro, not a con.

Sometimes seeking mental wellness can be hard. Sometimes I don’t take it as seriously as I should. But whenever I do pursue it, whenever it is on the top of my list, it is so very worth it. When my mind is well, it’s easier for my body to be well, too. When my mind is well, I tend to be a kinder, stronger, more grounded person.

I hope these tips and tricks help you out. I hope they help you realize that mental wellness is important and we should all keep our minds healthy, just like we want our bodies to be healthy too. Your brain and spirit is just as important as your physique and appearance — if not more so. Let’s do our best to be well, live well and love well.

Self-Love: What It Is & What It’s Not

“Self-love.”

It’s a term that’s growing to be more and more common each day — or so it seems. It’s a term that captures just how important it is for us to be accepting of not only others, but also of ourselves: of our mind, body and spirit.

Many months ago, my friend & fellow blogger Whitney (the one-woman-show behind Flow & Favor) asked me, “What exactly is self-love? Because sometimes I think it’s yoga but other times I just want to eat chocolate.”

I’m no expert on relationships or dating and especially not marriage, but I do know a thing or two about self-love.

And to answer Whitney’s question: I think self-love can be both.

What it is:

Self-love is the act of caring for one’s own needs on spiritual, physical and emotional levels. Self-love practices self-care above others’ desires, not with the intent to be selfish, but in an attempt for self-preservation.

Self-love looks differently depending on the person, place and time. Though it’s universally valued, it’s not practiced in the same way across all humans.

In my life, self-love has manifested in many ways, including but not limited to:

  • Hiking
  • Praying during car rides
  • Spending time alone
  • Spending time with people I love
  • Reading a thought-provoking book
  • Eating out alone
  • Taking a nap
  • Going on a long drive
  • Crying
  • Laughing

The beauty of self-love is that it can mean lots of different things to lots of different people.

Let me tell you what it’s not.

Because self-love is an umbrella that holds together a vast amount of interests and activities, it is not simple. It is not confined. It is not restrained to a tiny, uniformed box.

Self-love isn’t only eating well and working out — though it can definitely be those things. It’s not eating chocolate cake and watching TV — though it can definitely be those as well.

It’s not one thing over the other, but a bunch of thoughts and actions that complement one another.

So why is self-love so important?

It’s important because we need to treat our brains and bodies better. It’s important because we need it in order to function well. It’s important because if we don’t care for ourselves, we can’t take care of others either.

So let’s just do it! Let’s laugh and cry and eat and fast and run and rest and travel and stay home. Let’s love ourselves and love others in bigger, better ways.