Building Your Self-Care ToolkitJul 27, 2021
My self-care journey started several years ago when stress affected my physical and mental health. I thought I was having a heart attack on the DC metro platform and felt like I was going to collapse. I was surprised when my doctor told me I was having panic attacks from work-related stress.
I set out on a quest to find stress-relief techniques and started blogging about my self-care journey over at All Things Relax. In January, my podcast producer and partner, G, and I created a sister site, All Things Relax Studios where you can find our digital products, including the Find Your Inner Zen digital bundle.
I recently created a special workbook, Building Your Self-Care Toolkit which is included in the Find Your Inner Zen digital bundle. I’ve also added the FIRE (Fearless, Inspire, Radiate, Empower) audio affirmations AND accompanying digital affirmation cards to help you IGNITE the FIRE Within.
I don’t know about you, but life can feel like a constant juggling act where the ball that is often dropped is my self care. Whenever I start to feel particularly overwhelmed--whether it’s from having a parent battling cancer, a child struggling with depression, or just the usual hectic pace from my 9-5, finding my inner zen sometimes feels like mission impossible.
I’ve learned along the way that I need variety in life and that includes mixing up my self care routine.
If you are having trouble either starting or continuing your self care, I’m here to help you build your self care toolkit on your terms! I won’t be telling you what you should or shouldn’t do.
First, let’s talk about WHY self care is so important.
As I mentioned in my introduction, I started my self care journey because stress was affecting my mental and physical health. I was truly terrified that I would not be around to see my kids grow up and that scared the you know what out of me. At the time I was actively working out almost every day at the gym, so you would think that would have prevented stress, but it wasn’t--I needed other outlets to manage my stress levels.
This quote from Susan Weiss Berry really resonates with me:
“With every act of self-care your authentic self gets stronger, and the critical, fearful mind gets weaker. Every act of self-care is a powerful declaration: I am on my side, I am on my side, each day I am more and more on my side.”
Once you start taking care of yourself, you will find it becomes easier to deal with ‘life’ and all of its glory and occasional curveballs.
So, to build your self care toolkit, let’s take a three step approach.
- Set aside ‘me’ time
- Create your self care menu; and
- Reflect and Check in with yourself
But before you start building your self-care toolkit, let’s first do an assessment using the Personal Self-Care Worksheet, included in the workbook.
This worksheet asks you to reflect on the following:
- What is your current self-care routine?
- Is it working? Why or why not?
- How do you want to change your self-care toolkit?
This could be either tweaking your current toolkit or creating one if you aren’t currently practicing self care.
After you have completed this worksheet, take a few minutes to fill out the daily gratitude list (on the next page in the Workbook). It sets the stage for a positive mindset shift if you note all the things you’re grateful for.
Now let’s talk about the three steps.
Step 1. Finding “Me” Time
If you look at the workbook, there are several questions to help you reflect on what is stopping you from claiming your me time, who can help you have uninterrupted time (for example, if you have young children, getting a family member to help out or hiring a babysitter or going to a gym where childcare is included--when my kids were young I used to work out at the YMCA and they had 2 hours of onsite babysitting).
Think about how much time you can set aside for yourself consistently. If this seems overwhelming, start out small, even if it’s just 10 minutes day, and build up incrementally.
If you have a partner or spouse and need their encouragement, support (e.g., helping with the kids or with your fur babies), set aside some time to have a talk and let them know you need self-care time.
You’re not asking for your partner’s permission, you’re letting them know that your body and soul need time to relax, refresh, and rejuvenate. I often joke around with my partner that my ‘cup is full’ when I need alone time for self care purposes--whether it’s to read a book or paint or do some other self care activity.
Creating Positive Affirmations
Before we dive into Step 2, Creating Your Self-Care Menu, I’d like to talk about one of the more recent self care tools I’ve started using, positive affirmations. I’ve included a special section in this workbook to help you create your own affirmations if you’d like.
In my Find Your Inner Zen digital bundle, I have a set of FIRE audio affirmations (Fearless, Inspire, Radiate, and Empower, with a side order of Clarify and Motivate) that are meant to ‘ignite the fire within.’ When I am having a particularly challenging day at the 9-5, I like to take a break and listen to my audio affirmations.
If you’d like to create your own affirmations, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- You must feel and believe what you are saying and feel that it is within your power.
- Affirmations need to be in the present tense, so I am and not I will; personal - so “I” in the first person and not ‘you’ (second person) -- (shoutout to my grade school English teachers!) AND, stating the obvious, POSITIVE.
- Positive affirmations should be practiced regularly--if possible, aim for 3 times a day for at least 21 days.
So how exactly do you create a positive affirmation?
Start out by identifying a limiting belief or negative thought. Write that down on the worksheet titled “Creating Affirmations.”
Next, replace that limiting belief or negative thought with a positive, empowering statement.
For example, in my case, I have an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s, and my fluctuating thyroid hormone levels often make me tired.
I have replaced “I am always tired” with “I am energetic and enthusiastic”
Take a few minutes either now or after listening to this session to complete the worksheet. I recommend coming up with about 5-10 affirmations.
As far as practicing your affirmations, there are many ways you can do this. You can speak them out loud, write them in your journal each day, post them on a mirror or on the refrigerator or even your computer screen, or even speak them into your water bottle before hydrating (a friend of mine shared this on a podcast episode, I thought that was pretty cool!)
Step 2. Creating Your Self-Care Menu
In the workbook, I’ve included two pages of ideas of self care activities you can pull into your toolkit. You can also add your own ideas. After looking at these ideas and brainstorming on what activities are appealing to you, write down your top 3 self-care tools on the next page. Of course you are not limited to these three and you can always change things up, but I recommend starting with three and building up consistent practice.
I’ve included some space where you can journal. Writing has always been a good stress outlet for me--anytime I’ve needed to make a decision, I like to write about it.
Step 3. Reflect and Check In with Yourself
It’s great to start practicing your self care consistently. Just like going to your favorite restaurant though, even if you have a favorite entree you order each time, sometimes it’s fun to try something new. So feel free to go back to your self-care menu and do something different.
To check in with yourself and reflect on your self-care, I’ve included worksheets titled “10 Minutes to Reflect On Your Day Challenge” where you pick three moments from the day you’d like to remember, pick one idea you’d like to explore more, and make additional notes. If you aren’t a night person you can do this the next morning to reflect on the previous day. Do whatever works best for you!
At the end of the workbook there’s space to write a letter to yourself perhaps making a commitment to engage in self care and at the bottom, include your self-care goals. Then, periodically -- either weekly, monthly, quarterly, write another letter to yourself to check in and reflect on how things are going. Read your previous letters to see how you are progressing.
So, to recap, these are my three steps to Building Your Self Care Toolkit.
Step 1. Finding “Me” Time
Step 2. Creating your self care menu so that you can add self care activities, or tools, to your toolkit; and
Step 3. Reflect and Check in with Yourself.
I also covered how you can create positive affirmations if you want to add that to your toolkit.
To add more tools to your toolkit, I invite you to check out my Find Your Inner Zen digital bundle.
I look forward to hearing about your self care journey and invite you to join me over on Instagram at All Things Relax Studios and join my private Facebook community as well (All Things Relax Studios).
You too can go from stressed out to finding your inner zen with the help of your self-care toolkit!!!