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  • Melissa Wilson, LMHC

Quieting the Background Noise with Intentional Self-Care

Updated: Dec 13, 2021


I have found that, in life, there tends to be a tremendous amount of background noise - whether it is from social media, personal relationships, family members, work colleagues, neighbors. That background noise - basically, our perception of how we are supposed to exist and actually listening to that noise, instead of following our hearts and intuition - can be very loud. So, how do we quiet that noise? Intentional self-care.


What do I mean by intentional self-care? I use this term when I am engaging in a practice that I know will feed my soul or allow for personal growth. This type of self-care has a purpose for me. I mean - I love other types of self-care like manicures, pedicures, hair appointments. However, intentional acts of self-care allow us to open our hearts and grow. It sounds easy, right? As a working parent of four young children - wrong - engaging in a regular, intentional self-care practice is not easy at all. However, if I don't intentionally take care of myself, then I cannot successfully and fully care for others in my life. If I do not engage in self-care practices that feed my soul and allow for personal growth, then I might find myself listening to the background noise - such as negative self-talk, comparing myself to others on social media (blech - so gross), focusing on what I do not have versus looking at all that I do have. So, how do we do it? When we are so busy and maybe really overwhelmed - how do we intentionally care for ourselves and what might that look like?


First: Schedule the Time


It might sound lame or really rigid, but it works. I work out in the morning as soon as I get up (sometimes earlier than I really want to!) - 6 days a week. I take an online cycle class and then I do an online weight training class. If I don't follow this scheduled time, then I might not get my workout in and I really need that time for myself - I feel better mentally and physically. I also schedule in time for yoga and meditation. These are non-negotiables for me in terms of self-care. Think about what your self-care practice looks like and try scheduling it into your daily routine. It does not have to be the same time of day, if that does not work for your schedule. I look at my week at a glance and I figure out when I am going to schedule this time for myself for each day - and it really works for me.


Next: Examine Your Self-Care Practices


What do you consider self-care? How do you feel before you engage in the practice versus how you feel after this practice? Do you feel more relaxed, more focused, more present? For example, for me, I do not consider scrolling on social media to be a self-care practice - I do not feel more relaxed or present or able to quiet any background noise, so I limit my time on Instagram. I have it set that way in my phone (I know you can disregard it, but I don't). I have a list of go-to practices - even if I only have a few minutes - that I can engage in and know that those practices will help me to quiet the background noise. For me, my goals are to feel more present, calm, and patient. What goals do you hope to achieve in your own self-care practice (these will change and that is okay)? Then, ask yourself if your current practices can help you to achieve your self-care goals.


Lastly: Intentional Self-Care Ideas


Intentional self-care looks different for everyone; however, here are some tools that I use and some that I share with my clients when they are looking for new ideas.


My go-to tool that I use and that I practice and share with others, including my own family: breathing. I use mindfulness practices and breathing exercises together; however, simply taking the time to breathe will help you to think more clearly, to feel more focused, to feel calm...the list is truly endless regarding the benefits of breath work. A strategy you can try out: take slow, deep, controlled breaths in and out until you begin to feel the physical effects of this breath work. Breathe until you are calm - you might feel your shoulders relax away from your ears or you might feel your heart start to slow down. However, you don't have to wait until you are anxious to breathe. Another strategy: Start off your day with breath work - before you even get out of bed in the morning - take 2 minutes to breathe in for 4 counts and breathe out for 4 counts. You can even use your hand to guide your breathing by tracing each finger on your hand. Start with your thumb and breath in as you trace your thumb to the top and then breath out as you trace your thumb to the bottom. Trace your pointer finger to the top while inhaling and then as you move down on your pointer finger, slowly breathe out. Continue until you have traced all five fingers. I challenge you to continue with this breath work throughout your day - every hour on the hour, take 2 minutes to breathe. TIP: notice what feels good for you with regard to breathing. For some, holding their breath increases anxiety, so pay attention to how you feel and don't give up if something does not work for you.


Another tool that I use to quiet background noise, while allowing for intentional self-care is journaling. Taking the time to write down a daily affirmation or personal goals for the day, week, month, year may allow you to feed your soul and to keep focused on what you want in life. Writing down what you are grateful for can also be a part of your journaling routine. I am currently using a guided gratitude journal - called The 6-Minute Diary. Focusing on what I have in my life blocks out any negative self-talk and keeps me from comparing my life to the lives of others. Journaling can be incredibly healing and allow for tremendous growth - especially if you look back at your writing to reflect. I have also worked with folks who have simply talked into recording devices on their phones as a way of using audio journaling - this style of journaling can be just as healing and provide the same level of self-care as the written word. Be creative in how you interpret journaling (you can use art too!). How do you feel after you journal or create art or talk into a recording device? Does the love for yourself grow? Do you feel more patient, more compassionate, or more grounded?


During the period of the pandemic, when many of us were isolated away from loved ones, I encouraged folks (and even my own family members) to find movement outside. Getting outside and moving around is an awesome example of an intentional self-care practice. Breathing in nature on a hike, walking around your neighborhood and focusing on your breathing, going for a run, practicing yoga outside (instead of inside), walking on the beach, while focusing on the sound of the waves - the list goes on! - but there is something so healing and "feel-good" about getting some fresh air, while moving your body. Notice how you probably think more clearly or feel energized after getting some fresh air - alone or with loved ones - and how this can allow for personal growth, while quieting all of that background noise.


Honestly, I could go on and on - not only do I love engaging in self-care practices, I love sharing ideas with others and hearing about what others are doing to care for themselves. How do you feed your soul and open up your heart for personal growth? How do you keep the background noise quiet? You can quiet that noise by engaging in intentional self-care. Give it a try! Like always, sending love your way.


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