Self-Care Tip: Volunteer
A big part of our mental well-being is feeling of value to the world. Our authentic self wants to live life with purpose that makes a positive impact on others. One way to do that is by volunteering.
There are so many needs in a community that can be met with just an extra pair of hands. From walking dogs at an animal shelter to mowing the grass of a disabled homeowner, there are many opportunities for making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Even using 5 minutes a week to take the trash out to the curb for pickup would mean so much to an elderly neighbor who struggles to lift small objects.
Volunteering not only fulfills a sense of purpose but also provides a chance for personal and professional growth. Organizing charity events builds planning and leadership skills. Volunteering as a receptionist at a free clinic develops communication and customer service skills. Being a mentor in an afterschool program prepares you for relating to children as a school teacher, pediatrician, or social worker.
Are you not sure you will have time to volunteer? Some businesses provide employee volunteer programs, also known as corporate volunteer programs. That's right! Your employer may provide a benefit program where you can volunteer at a non-profit during work hours. It is considered to be volunteer paid time off, completely separate from your regular paid time off.
So, if you are feeling the drive to make a difference, you can! Whether it is knitting scarves for the homeless, picking up trash at the local park, or helping your nephew with his math homework, try volunteering. We need you more than you know.
Being Present While Grieving
Finding out a loved one has died is like a detonated bomb that damages the boundaries of presence.
You have a sharp moment when you are present (finding out the person died). It creates a pain so big and powerful that your mind and soul cannot contain it. That pain explodes, creating heartbreak.
You are then thrown into the past with the shouldas, couldas, and wouldas. You cling to the memories, almost as if losing your loved one risks losing the memories as well. Thinking of the past becomes so stressful that your mind then runs away from the stress into the future. You then imagine what the future will look like without that loved one in your life. The thought of that is also stressful; so your mind runs away back to the past, and then back and forth you go.
During the moments when you are in the present, the pain is still strong and palpable. The present moment = this person you love is not here. Your mind tries to reduce the pain as much as possible. You distract yourself with work, fun, or a task that requires your undivided attention. If you don’t, your mind continues to run away to the past and future.
Grief is the frequency and force with which you switch between the past and future in response to the pain of the present. How long grief lasts depends on how long it takes to repair the damage to the boundaries that help you live in the present moment.
I don’t have a solution to grief, because the pain is different with each loss. But being aware of what is happening in response to each loss will make it easier to get through it. Being aware makes it easier to know when I need a bit of extra care and comfort so that I can seek it out. My loved one would want that for me.
There's No Comparison
Each culture has specific expectations of each demographic: men should be physically strong; women should cook; teenagers should get good grades in school; and children should be seen, not heard. The problem with having specific expectations of whole sections of society is that it's unrealistic.
The Path to Perfection
There is no circumstance in life that is perfect. Whether it is your spouse, career, home, physical body, or skills, they will never be 100% favorable. That's because flaws provide opportunities for personal growth and understanding.
I had a job with a heavy workload where my team was understaffed. I enjoyed that job, because everyone was reliable, our workflows were efficient, and we communicated well with each other. I had jobs that paid high salaries; but I was rarely home, tired all the time, and never felt I was helping society. I worked on a project that was chaotic, missed deadlines, and lacked resources. But I enjoyed problem-solving the issues, I helped people who were in need, and the client was pleased with the outcome.
What did I learn from all of that? My ideal job involves problem-solving, has great team communication, allows for quality time at home, and helps people who are in need despite a heavy workload and varying schedule.
With each struggle, obstacle, and inconvenience is a chance to learn what we need to feel fulfilled, the things we absolutely cannot bear, and what costs little-to-nothing in the pursuit of happiness.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
One night during my third year of college, some friends knocked on my dorm room door proclaiming, "We're going country line dancing! Let's go!" In which reality would you see a Jamaican going country line dancing in the middle of Connecticut? Apparently, in the one where your friends offer to pay for everything.
Human beings are social by nature. There isn't a person on Earth whose thoughts, emotions, actions, and beliefs are not impacted in one way or another by people. Faced with that reality, one of the best forms of self-care is creating for yourself a network of people who make us feel loved, safe, and supported at all times: your tribe.
With our fast-paced, mind-cluttering existence, stress, anxiety, and lack of restful sleep are very common among adults. One tool for helping ease these issues is the weighted blanket.
Originally created in the 1990's to provide calming effects on those with mental health conditions, weighted blankets apply "deep touch pressure" to the body, providing a feedback to our nervous system that reduces anxiety and makes it easier to fall asleep, similar to swaddling a baby.
Weighted blankets come in various sizes and weights, and the recommended weight for sleeping is ~10% of your body weight (if that feels too heavy, it's fine to go even lighter). Some are puffy like a comforter for warmth, and others are thin to provide breathability for people who have night sweats. For those who need help managing stress and anxiety during the day, lap blankets and throws are great to use while seated at a desk, traveling, or lounging on the couch.
Weighted blankets are available for both adults and children who weigh at least 50 pounds and can be easily purchased online or in department stores. So, curl up with one for more calm, a better night's sleep, and cozy 'hug' on demand.
We get our energy from the food we eat, and we need energy to get through the day. But, how does that energy flow throughout the body?
Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that just as blood flows through blood vessels, life energy flows throughout the body via meridians. Meridians are a network of channels connecting all parts of the body, distributing energy to where it's needed.
Meridians can become blocked, which creates pain, muscles spasms, inflammation, joint stiffness, fatigue, and other physical discomfort. These energy blocks can be caused by poor physical care, unfavorable environmental conditions, and persistent mental/emotional stress.
To help remove blocks from the meridians and keep energy flowing throughout the body, many have turned to:
• Acupuncture, acupressure, or reflexology: inserting needles into or applying pressure to points on the body to break up energy blocks.
• Qigong or Tai chi: using physical movements to help move energy throughout the body.
• Reiki: channeling and delivering life energy to the body to restore energy levels and proper energy flow.
With these techniques at your disposal, don't suffer unnecessarily with discomfort and sluggishness. Treat your mind and body by boosting your energy flow.
If you've been ignored, dismissed, berated, taken advantage of, belittled, or underestimated, you may have felt like a waste of space, subhuman, unloved, or like a doormat. But, if you were to remove your culturally-created self, the part of you that identifies with everything you've been told you are by your parents, relatives, coworkers, the entertainment industry, government, religion, news media, what would you be left with?
You would be left with your authentic self, the part of you that is kind, smart, brave, loving, dependable, powerful, protective, loyal, adventurous, and open-minded. The part of you that was manifested on Earth as beautifully as the trees, mountains, butterflies, and dolphins. The natural not-messed-around-with you is pure and lovely. You know it's true.
So, commit to forgive those who try to create doubt in you about your worth. Because most likely, they are doing it to offset the same doubts they have about themselves.
Many say that the most powerful word amongst all the languages of the world is Love. But not enough energy, education, and appreciation has been given to its first runner-up, NO.
NO packs quite a punch. It can break hearts, deplete self-esteem, and start all-out war. However, when used for good with grace and without fear, NO is one of the most powerful tools in self-care. It is a shield against the people who will suck you dry. You know who they are.
Kelly Nembhard is a certified health coach, Reiki therapist, and aromatherapist with experience as a clinical research professional and developmental biologist. She currently lives in Durham, NC.
Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice. You should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.