Self and Community Care

To help our community, and ourselves, have a healthy transition into the New Year, CWHC will be sharing staff suggestions for self and community care throughout the month of December.

#3: How to be Kind to Yourself When It's Cold from Stephanie Williams Purdom

Sw Community Care Photo

CWHC Board member Stephanie Williams Purdom shared her tips and tricks to surviving the winter weather:

Tips for Surviving the Winter:

- Take a hot bath; add Epsom salt for those achy winter muscles.

- Make healthy stews and chili full of veggies and whole grains to freeze and pull out when January and February seem to be dragging on. It'll be perfect when you don't feel like cooking, but you know ordering a pizza will make you feel crummy, too.

- Also know when it's definitely time to order a pizza.

- Leave your robe and slippers at the end of your bed to make chilly mornings a little easier.

- Set up your coffee pot or tea kettle before you go to bed so your warm morning drink of choice is ready within minutes of waking up, without having to think too much.

- Leave your holiday lights up inside your house. Light candles. Take your Vitamin D. There are plenty of ways to make up for missing that important sunshine!

- Find an indoor exercise you like! You can do yoga anywhere. A 3 month membership to the Chicago Park District pool is only $40. Keep moving your body even though you're stuck indoors.

- Listen to the season! It is reminding us to slow down, be quiet, enjoy our homes and families, and focus inward. Winter is a time for reflection and restoration. Remembering that can help it not seem so too tough.

- Donate to a shelter. Gently used warm weather gear is always needed, especially in larger sizes. Women's organizations never get enough XL or XXL items! Other winter needs we don't often think of to donate: chapstick, instant coffee, snow boots, and bus cards! I recommend Sarah's Circle and Deborah's Place, but there are plenty of deserving organizations helping those without homes right in Uptown.

#2: Practice Self-Love from Nicole Perez

Nicole

Nicole Perez is a Reiki Master and a CWHC Health Educator. She shared some tips with us for cultivating a deeper sense of self-love:

Intentionally Cultivate Self-Love

When we think about relationships, we typically do not think about the single most important relationship that we will ever have: our relationship with ourselves. The relationship that we have with ourselves is the foundation for our relationship with every other living thing and person on the planet. Being intentional about cultivating a healthy, loving relationship with yourself is a very important part of any self-care practice. Our external world can sometimes seem harsh and hard and demanding; our internal world deserves some sweetness and gentleness and compassion.

What does it mean to be intentional about your relationship with yourself? We start by cultivating a sense of mindfulness about the ways that we currently treat ourselves, because we cannot bring healing to things that we are not aware of. You can start by paying attention to a couple of things:

1. What is the nature of your internal dialogue towards yourself? How do you talk to yourself throughout the day? What are the things that you say to yourself?
2. What do you expect of yourself? Do you tend to be hard on yourself? How do you respond to the needs of your body, mind, emotions and spirit?
3. How do you let others treat you? Are you able to say no to others without feeling guilty? Do you feel the need to seek approval from and please other people?
4. What do you do to take care of yourself? Do you allow yourself to indulge in the things that nurture you and bring you comfort and joy? Do you feel guilty about taking some time for yourself?

Once you have a more solid sense of what your relationship with yourself is actually like, you can begin to focus on the areas that need a little extra love. There are a number of practices that you can try that will help to cultivate or enhance a meaningful sense of self-love in your life. Here are some suggestions:

1. Interrupt any unhealthy or destructive patterns that you have allowed to take up space in your life. Make a commitment to yourself that you will no longer insult yourself, you will no longer let others put you down, you will no longer push yourself too hard, and you will no longer ignore your own needs. Honor and renew this beautiful commitment each and every day.

2. Welcome yourself into the world with love every single day when you wake up. Before you get out of bed in the morning take a few seconds and say to yourself: “I love you beautiful self, you are amazing! Today I will do my best to take very good care of you. I will listen to you, I will love you, and I will respect you.” Repeat this exercise every evening before you go to sleep. When you get into bed take a few seconds and say to yourself: “Goodnight beautiful self, I love you! You did great today. I look forward to taking good care of you again tomorrow.” When you say these words to yourself take a deep breath and allow yourself to really feel the energy that you are sending yourself. Notice the sensations that it produces in your body, and notice how it makes you feel when you talk to yourself in this way. This really helps you to practice receiving love from yourself.

3. Keep a Self-Love & Gratitude Journal. Every single day write down three things in your journal that you love (or like) about yourself. This can be anything. Some examples could be: I love my fabulous hair and shoes! I love that I am very kind towards others. I love that my heart is always in the right place in everything that I do. Then write down two things that you are grateful for in your life. Again, this can be anything, the purpose is to foster the energy of gratitude within you. Gratitude is an incredible medicine for the body, mind, emotions and spirit.

4. Make a commitment to yourself that you will do something to care for and nurture yourself every single day, even if it is only for a few minutes. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself and to do the things that you really love to do. Do a little bit of meditation or yoga, take a relaxing bath, go for a nice walk, listen to your favorite music or watch your favorite movie, sing and dance around your home, do something that really makes you laugh, give yourself a mani pedi, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is, it is the consistency that is important in redefining and recreating this new relationship of self-love. This will help you demonstrate to yourself that you deserve to be at the top of your priority list, and that you deserve to have joy and peace and caring energies in your life.

5. Practice doing a Mirror Reflection Exercise. Stand in front of a mirror and look at yourself in the eyes. Give yourself a big hug and while looking yourself in the eye say to yourself: “I love you. You are beautiful.” Pay attention to your reaction when you are doing this. This exercise is a true gauge of where you are at with your feelings of self-love. If you can comfortably look in your own eyes and profess your love for yourself then you know you’re living your self-love! Have fun with this exercise, and just keep returning back to the mirror until you’re able to do it. It can take a bit of time to get comfortable with this so just practice some loving patience with yourself. You deserve nothing less than to love yourself completely and fully.

Self-love is not a destination, it is a journey. It can sometimes be challenging in the beginning as you try to shift some of these energies within yourself and that is perfectly fine! Just hang in there and don’t give up on yourself. You are worth your own love and affection. Cultivating a sense of self-love does not just benefit you, it also benefits all living things on this beautiful planet. As you come to fully love yourself (flaws and all!) you spread this love out to your communities, to your families, to your friends, to your wonderful companion animals, and to the precious Earth that sustains our beautiful existence each and every day of our lives. Cultivating love in our communities and in our world begins one person at a time; create the love within yourself that you want to see reflected in all the world.

#1: Breathe (Here's How) from Jessica Young

Jess Young

Jessica Young is a CWHC Health Educator, devoted yogi and yoga teacher. Jess recently wrote about self care here on her blog and, for this series, has written a breathing practice that can be done anywhere at anytime:

Three-Minute Centering Breathing Practice

Power down any screens. Silent mode/Do Not Disturb/Airplane mode your phone. Do whatever will allow you to go analog and undisturbed for a few moments.

Take your seat. In a chair, place the soles of both feet on the floor or a flat surface, if possible. On a couch, bed or floor, sit comfortably, and if you're sitting with legs crossed, elevate your hips on a cushion or pillow so your hip creases are higher than your knees.

Close your eyes. Take three deep inhales through your nose, and exhale through your mouth with a "Haaaaaaa" sound. If closing the eyes doesn't work for you, rest the gaze on a spot in front of you below the horizon not moving. You want to draw your awareness inward. With every breath in, fill up the torso, and with every breath out, let your breath move smoothly and completely out of your body. 

After three deep breaths, breathe normally. Glasses wearers, remove the specs. Gently rub the pads of your fingers on your forehead, your cheeks, your jaw line, releasing any unnecessary tension in the face for about ten seconds. Just long enough that your face feels loose and relaxed. 

Take five to seven rounds of Humming Bee breath: inhale through your nose, and exhale with a humming sound. The sound can be at a pitch comfortable for your throat not too high or too low, as if you were making the sound "Hummmmmm" with your lips closed. Continue to relax the jaw. If you want to deepen your sense of internal awareness, bring your two hands to rest over your eyes, and gently press your thumbs over the skin in front of your ears. This will intensify the sound of the hum inside your skull. It is deeply relaxing and soothing to the nervous system. Try it and if you like it, continue for all five to seven rounds; if not, leave your hands in your lap and hum without it. Do not press into the eyes or eye sockets, hands are simply resting over the eyes; this may feel a little darker, but again, can be soothing and nourishing for the nervous system.

After five to seven rounds of breath this way, release the humming, and listen to the silence and the stillness you've cultivated. Take a moment to give thanks for the small gesture you've made of rest, connection and healing with yourself. When you are ready, open the eyelids just enough to let a sliver of light through. Blink the lids gently, slowly allowing more light in, until you can bring the gaze up to the horizon and return to the world around you.

Jess also recommends Abhyanga, a practice of self massage with oil to help with stress and the changing weather.