Selfcare: 10 Ways to Write

I always wanted to journal, but I had great difficulty keeping up the habit. I would find myself writing journals only to give it up days later. If I was going to journal, I wanted a complete and accurate picture of my day-to-day life. It had to be perfect. All or nothing. If I stopped journaling and came back to in days, months, or years later I would rip the old page out. Now, I’ve come to appreciate many other forms of writing that are better suited for my needs.

Writing is a really great way to get what’s inside out. However, if I find it difficult to write then I’m usually trying to force myself to write something I don’t feel like writing. I use writing for multiple reasons and typically I feel happy, joyful, pleased, proud, relieved, or peaceful—positive emotions. If I force myself to write, I’ll leave feeling frustrated or tired which is fine, but not for selfcare purposes. Below are some ways to write that I’ve found helpful.

Affirmations

For a while I would make a new affirmation everyday and I would hang it on my wall. Each morning, for about a month, I would go to the wall and say my affirmations 15 times over. In this season of my life it really helped ground my anxiety and helped me believe in myself.

Gratitude Lists

I do this practice often and it is one of the things I turn to when I’ve become more negative. I make a list of 20 things I’m grateful for. I love doing 20 items because it forces me to look at the very smallest things in my life. I leave feeling calmer if not happier.

Letters to a Higher Power

If I’m having a difficult season of life, I will write a letter to my Higher Power. Usually it’s a deeply personal letter. I pour everything out, everything I’m feeling, everything I’m scared of—everything. It’s often very cringy emotions and when I look back at the letter, I’m embarrassed by what I’ve written, but that’s okay. Sometimes I ask for help or strength in these letters. It is a deeply personal letter that is not meant to be seen by others, so I can be as truthful as I’m ready to be.

Letters to Others

I’ve written letters to people who have frustrated me. It’s silly, but it’s usually someone on Facebook. For example, once someone posted about “white trash.” This really upset me because I don’t think calling anyone trash is an empathetic or kind practice. People often live up to our expectations and I try to choose my words carefully. Writing a letter to this person, which I did not send, really helped me get my frustration out. 

Short Stories

Short stories can be really fun to write, but they can also help us take a step back. Sometimes it’s easier to write a short story about a character who is experiencing similar problems or emotions than it is to write about the issues. 

Essays / Articles

Recently I wrote an Article for The Bark about my dog, Bertie. The article can be found here: https://thebark.com/content/16-pounds-fury-and-love . I felt incredibly accomplished getting an article published on a different site other than my own. I find myself writing essays about all different topics such as integrity, dignity, self-worth, all sorts of stuff. These really help me better understand myself and give me a clear idea of my values.

Children’s literature

Who doesn’t love a good children’s book? So why not write one. While going through the remothering process it’s really important to read and watch movies about motherhood. Sometimes I even read a parenting book to help fill in some of my gaps. I’ve found that writing children’s literature achieves the same thing. It’s a very healing cathartic process that helps me stay in touch with myself. If you’d like to know more about remothering I have two posts on it: https://betterbertie.com/category/uncategorized/therapy/.

Poems

I have a close friend who writes haikus about food. Here’s an example of his work:

Breakfast
I won’t hug my eggs.
Coffee gets no affection.
Yet still I French toast.

He posts them on reddit (https://www.reddit.com/user/Wearthewildthingsout/) and seems to get a lot of joy out of them. Writing can be about shifting our mood from a negative mood to something more positive and if poems help you do that, heck, then write a food haiku.

Jokes

I write standup in my head while I walk and when I get home, I’ll write it down. It helps me see the humor in situations and it’s a fun writing tool.

Prayers

Sometimes on days when things aren’t going well, I write a quick little prayer. This helps me recenter myself and I can come back to it throughout the day.

All of these serve the same purpose. They help me better understand myself. Although I admire those who journal, I do not get enjoyment or satisfaction out of it. Obviously, that argument can be made that if I stuck with the habit eventually something more would come of it. However, that argument can be made about a lot of things and journaling isn’t where my heart is. Good news, I have lots of others forms of writing I love!

Proactive Selfcare

Over the years I’ve come to realize there’s a major difference between selfcare as an emergency service and proactive selfcare. When I’m at my best, I’m caring for myself before I need to. When I’m at my worst I’m depleted, and I find life very difficult—which certainly includes selfcare. At my worst, I procrastinate caring for myself and tend to engage in negative behaviors like the ones I previously wrote about https://betterbertie.com/2020/09/17/selfcare-basics/.

I define proactive selfcare as caring for one’s self as a habit, it’s something that’s folded into each day. I have many hobbies, for lack of a better word, that help fill my soul. If I don’t engage in these hobbies enough, I become irritable. Overtime I’ve learned to view feelings of irritation and frustration as a sign that I need to care for myself. Typically, if I’m feeling irritated, I haven’t taken the time to proactively care for myself and I’m in a state of depletion. As a way to mitigate this I try to proactively care for myself with the 10 habits below.

10 Ways I proactively care for myself

Gym
For a long time, I hated working out because I would force myself to do yoga, run long distances, or engage in a circuit workout—all of which I’m not a fan of. When I found lifting everything changed. Lifting alleviated anger and frustration and gave me a specify focus for channeling those feelings. I am particularly fond of going to the gym when there are experienced lifters there, which tends to be after work. Seeing different people’s routines and their intensity forces me to give my all. I find the gym to be restorative and it helps with my mental health. 

Walk
I walk every day. I love to walk, and my dog loves it too. In some of the most difficult moments of my life I’ve gone for walks that have helped me channel my energy. I can’t exactly explain why I need to walk, but I know mentally and emotionally I’m not complete unless I’ve dedicated some part of my day to it. I come home feeling restored and centered.

Hike
Hiking is a hobby that I tend to engage in a once or twice a month. It is a spiritual practice that draws me closer to God. When I’m in nature everything in the world seems beautiful and full of surprises. It has taught me to depend on my body and to push myself mentally. By hiking a few times a month, I’m reminded of all that I can do and the beauty that surrounds me.

Write
What a love-hate relationship. I love to write, but sometimes it becomes chore-like. If I don’t write enough, I become less creative, less interesting, and less interested in the world around me. Writing helps me see the potential in everything, every person, every moment. It has forced me to grow emotionally and to see the gaps in my growth.

Enjoying Food
I love food and I’m always gonna love food. For a long time, I felt a lot of guilt for eating food I labeled “junk.” I found myself in a cycle of restricting “junk” food and then binging because I had restricted. Slowly with time I’ve stopped restricting food and have made it a priority to enjoy the food I eat. Taking care of my body is a very important part of taking care of my mind.

Watching Good Movies
Can anyone say horror? It’s my favorite. I love watching good horror movies, in fact, I love watching bad horror movies. Watching movies has become a big part of my life. They keep me creative and show me the beauty in the world and some of the ugly parts too. I love being able to slip into someone’s mind for 90 minutes. Horror movies have allowed me to experience my fears in a safe space which has helped me overcome a lot of my greatest fears.

Present Who I Am to the World on My Own Terms
This is not a catchy subheading but it’s to the point. Somedays I love to wear makeup and somedays I don’t want to wear any. Some days I like tight fitting clothes and other days, not so much.  Some months my hair is purple and some months my hair is blonde. The only thing that really matters to me is that I choose it because that’s what I wanted for the day. Each day has a different feel for me, with a different purpose, and it’s important to me to dress for that energy. Doing what I want with my appearance allows me to be creative and to feel at home in my own body. If I don’t take care of myself in this way, I find myself becoming bored and I suffer from low self-esteem.

Church
I used to have major qualms with saying I went to church and I believed in God. I thought somehow this made me less scientific or less open to people from different backgrounds. I was wrong. Church is an integral part of managing my whole self. Listening to a sermon that forces me to grow and look inward has been integral to my self-acceptance. If I miss church, I lose track of who I am and the find myself feeling lost. Church allows me to recenter myself before the start of each week.  

Pray
I’m in constant dialogue with God all day. If I’m in a conversation and it’s particularly difficult I’m praying about how to respond with kindness. If I’m scared or nervous, I’m praying about that. Through all points in my day I’m asking for courage or strength in some capacity. This has helped me better handle situations that honor who I’d like to be. I find myself behaving in ways I admire and responding instead of reacting. This has helped to boost my confidence and to live in accordance with my values and morals.

Hangout with friends
I have to hangout with friends at least once a week to get outside of my own head—even when I don’t wanna. If left to my own devices I will isolate which is very bad for my spirit. I’ve found that being around friends helps me laugh with ease and reminds me not to take life so seriously. Getting outside of myself is another important part to keeping my spirit healthy.

These are just 10 of the proactive habits I engage in to help me feel centered. I have lots of little micro-habits, which maybe I’ll write about later, that help me feel centered as well. Forcing myself to sit down and write what I need to do proactively to care for myself has been another step toward healing. Let me know what your habits are below so I can add them into my rotation! Thanks for reading!

Next week on Better Bertie:

  • Will I get just a little bit better?
  • Will there be another adorable picture of Bertie?

Tune in to find out…

Anger, the catch-all emotion

I’ve spent many hours trying to understand my emotions. As a child, I learned that being angry was easier than being sad. If I was angry, I didn’t need to feel bad about myself. Anger filled me with entitlement while sadness filled me with, well, sadness.

Sadness felt like an anvil tied to my heart. With each new event that hurt me, weight was added to the anvil. There was no bottom for the anvil to hit. The weight just tugged each day at my heart, becoming heavier and heavier. Eventually it became too heavy and the weight unbearable. To save my heart I became angry. Anger felt like an internal punk rock band which was more bearable than the weight of an anvil.

Anger was so much easier, so it became a catch-all emotion. All of a sudden, the things that made me feel sad shifted to anger. I slid the anvil to the back of my heart and used it as a stage for my punk rock band. It became the root of my anger. The platform for anger to stand on. I would still add to it from time-to-time, but at least I didn’t have to consciously deal with it. At the time, it was what I needed to cope and to stay safe. This is probably not surprising, but it’s no longer helpful.

I’ve been trying to learn to break down what anger means to me. When I first started, I was so scared of my emotions that I would poke at the anger and run away. Slowly, I realized that it couldn’t harm me. It wasn’t going to attack me. I was able to calm the punk rock band down and they handed me a chisel and hammer. Over time, I’ve chipped away at the sadness. However, anger still seems to be an emotion that often fills the space of other emotions. It’s a complex emotion that means something completely different. 

For example, it could mean:

  • I’m tired
  • I’m hungry
  • I’m sad
  • I’ve had too much caffeine
  • I’ve had too much sugar
  • I haven’t had enough alone time
  • I’ve had too much alone time
  • I haven’t had enough physical activity
  • I’m lonely
  • And more…

I noticed that one thing that consistently triggered anger was lack of selfcare. If I spent too much time with someone, even if I enjoyed the time, I would become angry. I would find myself becoming easily frustrated with people I loved, but I felt so much guilt about prioritizing myself over them. I would constantly go back-and-forth between what the right decision was. I would eventually become so tired that I would just succumb to whatever decision was easiest.

I found that it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to make decisions when it came to selfcare. So, I sat down and came up with a solution. I wrote myself a triangle to help clarify the right decision. When I’m looking at my day, week, or month I always make plans in the top two tiers first. If someone asks me to do something and I’m having difficulty saying no, I always refer back to my triangle. I consciously explain to myself that I prioritize selfcare and made that commitment to do so.

I dedicate this process to building trust with myself. It forces me to be honest. If I’m not honest with myself, my internal life becomes off kilter and I begin to feel groggy—almost as if I’m living in a haze. Life begins to move quickly and slowly at the same time. Through the use of this triangle, selfcare is no longer a choice—it’s a commitment. I’ve begun to feel less guilty about caring for myself and making the decisions that are right for me.

Instead of saying “no,” I used to find myself making excuses. I’ve gotten to a place where I’m able to say, “I’d love to, but I have plans.” Eventually, I’d like to say, “I’d love to, but today is a selfcare day.” I want to take time to normalize selfcare for those around me and for myself…so we’re all healthy and happy.

Next week on Better Bertie:

  • Will I get just a little bit better?
  • Will there be another adorable picture of Bertie?

Tune in to find out…

Selfcare Basics

It’s always been difficult to care for myself because I’ve never really known what that means. I know enough about selfcare to have the basics down. I’ve really mastered showering and brushing my teeth. So that’s pretty good. Outside of that, I’ve really struggled with knowing exactly what selfcare means to me. As it turns out, it does not mean watching hours of SNL skits, Between Two Ferns, or comedy specials on YouTube. 

Best I can figure, selfcare means treating myself like a child. Hear me out. Much like a little kid, I can be temperamental. I often find myself getting obstinate or grumpy. Sometimes I have to bribe myself with treats–if you fold those clothes you can watch one YouTube video. Inevitably, I end up watching too many YouTube videos. I’ve come to understand that if I’m engaging in certain behaviors, I haven’t properly cared for myself. So, I’ve allowed myself to become grumpy and temperamental. 

Here are some of the behaviors I engage in when I haven’t properly cared for myself:

  • Watching YouTube
  • Binge Eating
  • Watching too much t.v.
  • Social media (in any capacity)
  • Avoiding reading books
  • Playing with random apps on my phone (I have no games on my phone, so I end up compulsively checking the weather or looking at my Fitbit app)

It’s not a surprise to me that I become grumpy. To a certain degree, I think it’s a very natural urge to avoid doing a hard task.  When I find myself avoiding selfcare or becoming overwhelmed, I ask myself these questions:

  • Have I fed myself with nutritious food I enjoy eating?
  • Have I had enough water?
  • Have I played in a way that’s fulfilling?
  • Am I dressed in an outfit that makes me happy?
  • Have I slept enough?

Just the basic stuff at first. If the answer is no to any of these, then I remedy the issue. I’ve come to realize that I need more selfcare than most of the other people I know. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who didn’t take care of themselves. My parents would often insist nothing was wrong when something was clearly wrong. Sometimes as a way to cope with issues, they’d overindulge in alcohol which just put off dealing with the problem. I never really had a great role model for selfcare. I let taking care of myself slide for so long that I have to play catch-up.

I thought doing things for myself would make me self-involved. I used to think doing anything with my outward appearance was haughty. I thought taking time to stop and enjoy my surroundings was a waste of time. I’ve come to the understanding that it’s important to feel comfortable in my own skin…to really understand who I am at a deep level…to prioritize a relationship with myself. Selfcare has come to make me less resentful and more fully myself. It has allowed me to be a more authentic person. It has taught me who I am and what I need. This makes me better able to be there for others.

Throughout my professional career I’ve used Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I apply it to myself. That’s where a lot of the aforementioned questions I ask myself stem from. Through my growth in therapy, I’ve learned to view myself as my primary caregiver.  I depend on myself and I care for myself. It is a cyclical relationship.

Read about the theory here: https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

Typically, this triangle is used in education to assess whether a child is ready to learn. It can be used in tons of fields for a variety of ages. According to Maslow’s theory, each tier must be met before moving to the next tier. When I’m having a particularly difficult day, I remind myself that selfcare is grounded in science; if I learned one thing from Bill Nye, “[s]cience is the key to our future.” It is also the key to taking care of myself. I can’t argue with science.

Although I can find the cyclical nature of this relationship tiring and tedious, I’ve learned to prioritize selfcare. This has allowed me to begin trusting myself again. I’ve accomplished a lot in my life, but I constantly feel like it’s not enough. It’s like there’s a well without a bottom–no matter how successful I am, it’s never enough. Caring for myself has started to create a bottom for the well. I plan on using the foundation of selfcare to finally appreciate all I’ve done. I trust that I’ll get there, but it’s going to take some time.

My two major takeaways from this:

1. If I’m engaging in an avoidant or destructive behavior, I haven’t properly cared for myself.

2. I am responsible for caring for myself. If I do not properly care for myself, I will feel unsafe and I’ll be unable to focus on much else.

Next week on Better Bertie:

  • Will I get just a little bit better?
  • Will there be another adorable picture of Bertie?

Tune in to find out…