self care, pt. 2

Self-care prescription: wellness plan

A general down-in-the dumps feeling can be caused by a lot of different factors, from hormones, weather, relationship or and work stress, to even things like nutrition and gut balance. But starting with the moment that you feel so sad, angry and weak you don’t want to get outta bed, it’s hard to know what is the cause or how to start to feel better.

I started, as I do with many things, with measuring my moods using an app and creating a wellness plan. These ideas I learned from the Dialectical Behavior Therapy workbook.  The book gives a number of exercises to work through to identify what triggers your negative emotions and behaviors so that you can make a plan for how to identify signs that things are going the wrong way. It also teaches various forms of mindfulness. These lessons have been incredibly effective for me – engaging in healthy habits that benefit my moods and physical wellbeing.

Essentially, we write down what makes us feel whole, healthy and sane. Then we create a wellness plan to seek more of it and to manage those inevitable bad triggers so that when they come up they don’t ruin our day.

What activities make me feel happy, lighter than usual, playful, passionate, or zoned-in?

These are things that help you to truly reset and feel like yourself. It could be certain scents, hobbies, being outdoors, being social, or anything that helps you feel this way.

What makes me smile ear-to-ear, gets me out of bed in the morning, and what I wish I could do more of?

What are the symptoms that I am feeling stressed, worn-out, disconnected or angry?

How do you know things are not going well? What are your physical and emotional symptoms that give you a warning sign that you are going to start breaking down? I bite my nails, my stomach aches, I feel tired throughout the day and reach for that extra cup of coffee or cookie.

What triggers me feeling anxious, angry, or out of control, or triggers my negative soothing behaviors?

Then we identify things that happen during life that are particularly upsetting. I get very frustrated when I get interrupted in meetings or get disrespected. I get frightened when I see someone is in an angry mood. When chores pile up like laundry or dishes and I can’t stop thinking about my to-do list, I get anxious. We work on action plans to address these upsetting situations.

What can I do every day to feel good?

Simple daily habits can help with your moods. Eating healthy, meditating, working out. Lunch with a friend, cuddling your children.

In order to keep track of my self-care, I have been using the app Pacifica, which I highly recommend. It’s free, and allows you to track habits and moods daily. You can also add journal entries and post images that inspire you. I have taken what I learned from the DBT workbook and incorporated this into daily tracking, a feeling bad “action plan” and also action plans to deal with specific upsetting situations. I also use Pacifica to track my monthly cycle and other things that impact my moods, as you can add custom “habits” to track daily. In a future post, I’ll talk about how to start reading your “hormone horoscope” to be forewarned about those super moody days.

self care, pt. 1

Self care prescription: solitude and company in solitude

It’s time for a serious chat – beyond well-intentioned resolutions to a topic many of us have neglected for far too long. Self-care. There are many symptoms that present to indicate we have been guilty of self-neglect. Nagging loneliness, confusion, depression, listlessness, lack of purpose. Bitterness, envy, rage, resignation. These are the emotional signs. The physical signs also begin to manifest as illness, lethargy and blobbiness. That’s the scientific term I just invented for feeling like a poop pile.

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Like most all women, we’ve been raised to be compliant and nurturing, sacrificing and pleasant. It’s almost impossible to hold on to needing to put ourselves first, trust our instincts and letting that wildish nature free. And when every free minute can most easily be filled up with social media scrolling, tv viewing and texting, it takes herculean effort to set aside time to listen to that quiet voice inside.

Last night I met with a group of women for a forest walk in a nature preserve, which included some introspective activities, discussion, meditation and story time, and then moon-watching. It was restorative to be surrounded not only by the natural world in it’s chilling and colorful one-ness, but also this group of women. We had all taken some time to reconnect despite the many demands in our lives insisting we stay home.

flat rock image Suzanne Cadwell

We sat in a circle to meditate and discuss Estes’ rendition of the tale of the girl with the red shoes that she published in her book, Women Who Run With Wolves. It’s a version of the Hans Christian Andersen tale.

If you’ve read the story, it seems quite dark. Fairy tales often tended to have dark and grave endings to help illustrate the seriousness of the point. The happy endings prevent us from learning the appropriate lesson. The tale’s interpretation that has meaning for me is that the little girl lost her feet, her freedom, because she gave in to poor, shiny substitutes to her own creative license. Her homemade red shoes had been taken from her, and also her freedom as she is given food, clean clothes, new shoes and other comforts. Shiny red shoes become her obsession. But the shoes dance away with her in them and she cannot stop dancing until her feet are chopped off.
Red Shoes
We accept comforts and addictions rather than what we really need. We use

food to feel satisfied

alcohol and screens to feel numb and pass the time

attention-seeking to feel worthy

work to feel important

serving others so we can feel needed

and these things become poor replacements that drive us dancing toward physical or spiritual death. We lose ownership of our own life, our ability to stop the dance of substitutions and get back to what is real.

The prescription for recovery is to spend time with ourselves, and to spend time in the company of those we can be ourselves with. My previous post about Care of the Soul discusses some of these ways to spend time with yourself, as suggested by Thomas Moore in his book Care of the Soul. My next post will discuss the more day-to-day ways we can monitor our “self” and take care of our “self.”