What is self-care?

Written by Dr. Janine Ivy


More and more people talking about self-care and doing self-care. Basically, self-care is anything that you do for yourself that helps promote taking care of ourselves. When working with clients, I often explain these are activities where at the end you feel good about yourself. The activity can be anything and while it can include other people, the purpose is not to do the activity for other people. This leaves the field wide open as anything can be considered self-care if it is approached with that specific intention of feeling good in mind. Most people recognize doing self-care is a good thing but at the same time, sometimes there can be some resistance to incorporating self-care in to our daily routines.

Top 3 reasons people don’t engage in self-care:

1. I don’t have time

After a long day at work, or at school, running errands, picking up the kids, taking care of animals, making dinner, and cleaning up around the house I’m exhausted. I have so much to do that I couldn’t possibly find time for myself. True, life is very busy and by the time the end of the day comes you may wonder how the last 16 hours went by so quickly. Often when I think I don’t have time, I ask myself how I spent my day and invariably find time eaten up by social media, absent mindedly watching TV, or other non-productive activities that take up more than 15 minutes of my day which is the starting time frame I encourage people to allocate for themselves on a daily basis.

2. It feels selfish

With all the commitments we having during the day, it makes sense that making yourself a priority even for a short period of time feels strange. It may even be challenging to explain to a significant other or your child why you need some time for yourself and not feel as though you are ignoring them. But in reality, if you aren’t making time to take care of yourself, you may start feeling more tired, anxious, or unhappy and have a harder time keeping up with everything you need to do. A reminder I try to give myself is there is a reason why on an airplane they tell us in the event of an emergency to secure our own masks before trying to help others.

3. I don’t know what to do

While this can be frustrating to not have specific directions on what activities to do, at the same time it can be an opportunity to start to figure out what things you like and how you feel when you try different things. Self-care is not one size fits all so each individual is going to enjoy different things. Consider what activities you can do at home, outside in nature, at work, and even in your car. The only limitation to what is a self-care activity is the limitation you put on yourself.

But, why is this something that we need to do for ourselves? While there can be many benefits of participating in self-care activities one of the ones I highlight is regularly taking time to do things for yourself has the potential benefit of helping to reduce stress, feelings of anxiety, sadness, irritability, and help increase self-esteem. Another benefit may be in your relationships as you are communicating with others both verbally and non-verbally that how you feel is important and deserves to be attended to.

Lastly, taking time for yourself allows you to gather information about how you are feeling both physically and mentally and make informed decisions about what you can do to feel better or what you need more of or less of in your life.

Frequently, I get asked by clients if I do my own self-care as regularly as I encourage my clients to do it. The simple answer is sometimes! To be perfectly honest, it depends on the day. I do the best that I can but, I’m also human and there are days that it doesn’t happen because I was “busy” or I didn’t feel like it and that’s okay. I don’t beat myself up about it. I just recognize that particular day it didn’t happen and look for ways to make time for myself the next day, some weeks that may mean I need to schedule it in advance. I also look for new ways to practice self-care that I can do in different amounts of time (e.g., 5, 10, 15 minutes) which gives me less room to tell myself I didn’t have enough time.

Now it’s your turn. Have you done your self-care today? And don’t forget, part of self-care can be seeking help, so if you need us, we are always here.

Tips for Talking to Anxious Children About Shootings and Violence

Talking to Anxious children about shootings and violence.png

Let me start out by saying that this is not the post I want to be writing today. To date, I have “re-published” this post several times since it was originally written on December 3, 2015. Every time there is a school shooting, a shooting at a festival, nightclub, place of worship, or other place that society deems “safe,” I spend the day trying to wrap my head around how I’m going to address it in my work.

How can I help anxious mothers send their children off to school knowing that fearing a gunman is not irrational in today’s America. And how can they help comfort their own children who are scared? How can I look the children I work with in the eye and help them process something like what happened today in Florida?

Needless to say, I am tired of it. Something has to change, but until it does, I will continue to provide a safe place to talk about it and to support those affected.

And, if you are as tired of this as I am, consider a donation to Sandy Hook Promise, whose mission is to prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge so that no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child.

So, once again here are 5 tips for talking to anxious (and not anxious) children about shooting and senseless violence.

(Originally posted on 12/3/15)

On a daily basis I work with children whose anxiety is heightened by the senseless acts of violence that have been occurring around the world. While there is a lot of information regarding how to talk with children regarding terrorism and other acts of violence, I haven’t come across too much information on how to talk to children who are already suffering from anxiety.

If you are parenting a child with anxiety chances are you already work overtime anticipating your child’s reaction to daily stressors, so, when senseless acts of violence occur you probably worry about how this will affect your child. You may try to turn off the TV, limit and more closely monitor screen time, and not watch the news. While hiding the problem may seem like the easy answer, it is not the best one, and can increase your child’s sense of fear and anxiety when they learn the truth.

Below are 5 tips for talking with your anxious child following an act of terrorism

1.    Help restore their sense of safety at home.

Following shootings anxious children often believe that someone is going to break into their house and harm them. It is important to remind them that they are safe and that they are not currently at risk of getting hurt. Walk them around the house and show them how you stay safe at home. Let them lock doors and windows themselves, and if you haven’t already done so create a safety plan with them so that if they are scared or something bad does happen they know how to handle it.

2.    Use appropriate language and concepts.

While it is important to be honest with your children, make sure you are doing so using age appropriate language and concepts. Children with anxiety are already more fearful that something bad may happen to them. It is important to help them understand the difference between what is real and what is fantasy. Help them stay in the here and now and not create scenarios that are not real by using simple language and concrete examples.

When talking about the act of violence emphasize facts. For example, if you are talking about a school shooting, use the name and location of the school, so the child does not begin to fantasize that it happened at their school.

For younger children being brief and simple is enough. Remind them that trusted adults are there to protect them and help keep them safe. Use examples that they can relate to or understand.

For older school aged children who have a better understanding of the impact of violence follow their lead. Answer their questions as directly as possible and remind them to speak up if they see something out of the norm. Do not try to introduce concepts that are too complex or beyond their cognitive ability as this will increase their anxiety and decrease their sense of safety.

3.    Be honest about your own feelings.

Acts of terrorism make us question our safety; they scare us and make us fearful of daily activities. This type of reaction is appropriate and normal, and your children should know that. By disclosing your own feelings of sadness and fear you are helping them understand that their feelings are justified.

4.    Make time to talk

Set aside time each day to check in. You don’t have to talk directly about the act of terrorism, but check in regarding their day and how they felt. This creates an opportunity for them to share their fears if they need to.

5.    Maintain your routine.

Changing your routine because of an act of terrorism reinforces anxiety. It is important that you keep your routine consistent so that your children feel secure. If you have to change routines for safety reasons make sure to talk through the changes so that it doesn’t create additional worries.

And most importantly remind your child that they are loved and that you are there for them no matter what.

**Always remember to observe your child closely following a traumatic event. If their symptoms of anxiety remain increased and they are unable to cope with them on their own make sure to seek the help of a professional. Lori Allen, MFT specializes in treating school-aged children with anxiety, as well as offering parenting support and working with pregnant and postpartum moms. If you are in the Southern California area and need help please give us a call today at (818) 917-6596.


New Year... New Site... New Services

So, I know we are already partly through January, but Happy New Year! 2018 is bringing new services and products to Lori Allen, MFT. Since you're reading this you've probably noticed that we have a new website! Hopefully this site is more user friendly and provides useful information and products to help you feel like yourself again.