Blog-tember Day 16 // Self-Care

Returning to the Blog-tember Challenge today to share my thoughts on today's prompt:

How do you de-stress/take care of yourself?

As a nurse in my early twenties and then a pediatric nurse practitioner in my late twenties, I had to learn over and over how to de-stress and take care of myself. I would come home from work depleted of any energy; drained emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I was quickly becoming burnt out in my jobs in different seasons when I neglected self-care, which led to difficulty with sleeping, anxious thoughts, and a negative mood. I also noticed I was not as compassionate with my pediatric patients, which was a rough realization. I was less patient and easily annoyed with patients as well as my own family and friends. 

Here are five areas that have helped in taking care of myself:

1. Talk it out with trusted people (social self-care)
It is sometimes hard to hash out difficult emotions that arise from work or home life, but this has been so crucial for me because otherwise I clam up and isolate myself as a self-preservation mechanism that never actually helps me. I have a few trusted friends as well as my husband who I can talk about stress, anxiety, specific circumstances that are difficult (or anything else that has been bothering me). Since I tend to withdraw from community when I am stressed, I try to fight against that and instead choose to stay in community by hanging out with friends even if I would rather hide away in my apartment. One-on-one conversations have been a great way for me to chat with friends. I leave encouraged by their words. 

Along with friends and Greg, I have found it incredibly beneficial to meet with Christian counselors in the past two years who have helped me process different root issues causing my anxiety, fear of commitment, and other issues that have come up and threatened to steal my joy and peace. I was fortunate to find a student counselor through a Christian counseling clinic in Washington while I lived there, which was a wonderful low-cost approach to counseling. Now, I see a wise woman from our church who provides free counseling to women from our church. Both women had knowledge of both psychology and Biblical wisdom to help me target certain areas to work through.
Catching up with the bestie. I can tell her anything.

2. Exercise, Nutrition, & Sleep (physical self-care)
Staying physically active helps me physically feel more energetic, which then affects my emotions as well. I have not been as consistent as I'd like this summer, but jogging has been a great way in the past five years to de-stress as well as grow stronger. I love running outside on crisp mornings where I can see the trees swaying and birds chirping. I will sometimes pray and memorize Scripture while jogging, which helps me keep my mind off how sore I feel while running while also filling my mind with truth-filled thoughts. After-dinner strolls with my husband have also been a great way to stay active together where we can be having intentional conversations.

Over the past few years, I have noticed that eating certain foods result in me feeling gross. Eating healthy whole foods helps me energy-wise as well as my mood. When I limit gluten, dairy, white potatoes, and beans, my gut health is improved, which then helps my mood because it gets really annoying to always feel miserable (bloated, stomach aches, reflux, etc). 

Sleep is also a big factor in overall emotional, mental, and physical health. I feel a lot more energetic and ready to face the day if I have adequate sleep, which for me is atleast 7 hours. 
My favorite place to jog when I lived in Washington

3. Writing (emotional & mental self-care)
Similar to talking it out, journaling difficult emotions or experiences helps me process through whatever is needed. I process my emotions and thoughts better when written down rather than spoken, so it helps to have time carved out for introspection through writing. I will often take the journal along with me when I talk to Greg or my counselor about something that I was having a hard time putting into verbal words. Along with that, if there are certain negative thoughts that keep coming up, I write them down and then write down a corresponding positive thought as well as a Bible verse that backs up that positive thought. It is also great to look back at these journal entries months or years later and see God's faithfulness through difficult situations, which helps bolster my faith and trust in God when the next tough season comes my way. 

Blogging has been a way for me to process certain emotions and to share those thoughts with others, in hopes of encouraging those who read my written words. A recent post I wrote that helped me to process while also hopefully helping readers was  7 Strategies That Have Helped Me Battle Anxiety 

Another way that writing has helped me care for myself is to spend time writing letters to friends who live far away. This is a great way to stay connected with dear friends even if we are thousands of miles away, but helps me as well because I enjoy getting their replies in the mail. 
My little set-up when I am writing 

4. Prayer & Bible study (spiritual self-care)
It has been helpful in difficult seasons to remember to talk to God about it. He is a loving Father who delights in talking to us through prayer. I often look at what I (or others) can do for me rather than first bringing my heavy heart to God and asking Him to help me through it. When I do choose to pray about it, I often will feel a weight off my shoulders as I am reminded of His character and love amidst my troubles. 

Studying the Bible has been very important in reminding me of God's character and truth-filled gospel message. It helps me to focus on God rather than my circumstances, which helps put my circumstances and emotions in perspective. 

5. Doing things that I enjoy
Doing things that are fun help me to de-stress because they help me let loose and laugh. This can include anything from traveling,  going to the beach, buying flowers to arrange and decorate my apartment, getting a massage, trying out new restaurants or coffee shops, reading (this is the most common one since I love reading), getting a mani-pedi, listening to music, drinking some delicious tea, or watching a movie.  And now that I am married and get to spend every day with my husband (rather than living 2,000 miles apart when we were dating and engaged), we get to do things we both enjoy as well as try new things, which is a fun adventure!

 What do YOU do to take care of yourself?