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School counselor Michele Flowers reflects on the importance of self-care and self-focus as we begin a new year.
Happy New Year and heartfelt wishes for all to have a year filled with peace, happiness, and strong health! As we all enter into the new year together, I wanted to take the time to reflect upon the importance of self care, especially when we are all still met with having to endure the impact of COVID.
We continue to be met with new variants of COVID and experience increasing demands within our daily lives related to our many roles in our families, workplaces. We face the reality of differing personal beliefs regarding how to care for ourselves, our families, and our community.
These times are marked with heightened stress, anxiety, worry, and uncertainty. While these written words may fill one with fear, sadness or anger, it is important to reflect upon our current times and support another perspective - one filled with compassion for self and others, hope, and positive energy.
At the beginning of the year, tips were highlighted for taking care of oneself, one’s children, and one’s family. This is an important skill to practice and strengthen. As we focus on how to keep ourselves and our families physically healthy, it is imperative that we also give focus and care to our mental health needs. Everyone has mental health just like everyone has physical health. And like caring for one’s physical health, you are not required to have an illness or ailment to care for your mental health. Being good to you and your overall needs is the beautiful practice of self compassion. 
A fun fact about self-care: it has the ability to reduce stress, worry, and anxiety. It also increases one’s ability to be more available and grounded in the present moment. When we are present focused, we are able to make decisions that prove to be more beneficial and engage with others in a more meaningful, positive manner. Being able to engage in such a manner with others strengthens our relationships, our bonds, our connections to our loved ones, our community, and more. Developing and strengthening meaningful connections with others allows oneself to be available for the beautiful practice of compassion towards others.
So, how do we engage in activities that prioritize self-care and lead to these feel-good moments? 
  • Keep self-focus - with a level of compassion for self and non-judgement. When you bring focus and attention to what others are doing or by comparing yourself to others, you lose sight of you. Remember: you are only in control of you! Your thoughts, your actions, your feelings are all that you are responsible for and have true control over. Keeping your focus on others makes you vulnerable to increased feelings of stress, worry, self-doubt, and anger. By practicing the skill of self-focus, you are positioning yourself to be more reflective and more self-aware. You increase your ability to recognize patterns and behaviors, or "triggers", that may intensify a stressor or feeling. Self-focus guides you to better understanding of what is beneficial for you and what supports your own mental health well being. This in turn supports decision making for how to best care for your needs to maintain your physical and mental health.
  • Strengthen and maintain a positive mindset. Overall, the power of positive thinking is beneficial with stress management, improving physical health, and supporting mental health. It is truly amazing how our physical well-being is impacted by our mental health. By developing and strengthening a positive mindset, you are better able to: problem solve and think more clearly, strengthen your relationships with family/friends, engage in meaningful interactions with others, use effective coping strategies, and engage in healthy self-care activities. On a physical level, having a positive mindset is beneficial for cardiovascular health, having better resistance to the common cold, and supports a better recovery process. Positive thinking power activated!
  • Take a mindful minute. This skill is an all time favorite of mine! It can be practiced anywhere and at any time. Take time each day, throughout the day to pause for a quiet minute, and take some mindful breaths. Allow yourself during these moments to slow down, be still, reflect on happy memories, beautiful moments in your life, and take time to ‘see’ the things that you are grateful for in that moment. Or, just allow yourself to quiet your mind and your body for a moment to give yourself a quick, though powerful, restful time to your day. Whether you are having an easeful day or surrounded by fast paced chaos, practicing Mindful Minutes throughout your day is a great way to ‘be good’ to you. By allowing yourself to take mindful minutes, you support opportunities to be accepting of yourself - to include the not-so-pleasant, painful moments. The acceptance of self-awareness strengthens self-compassion, which promotes one’s ability to have compassion for others. Slowing down, being mindful is a great skill for stress management, especially when faced with significant challenges and/or immense responsibilities. It supports the ability to think clearly, make positive decisions, and engage in self care practices.
  • Be accepting of support. It is so important to care for mental health needs in much the same manner one would for their physical health. Remember, everyone has mental health, and one does not need to have an illness or significant struggle to seek out mental health care. Relationships are powerful; use them to your benefit! Given all that is occurring in the world around us and in our own personal lives, you, your child, your family may want to seek support in the following ways:
    • Connect routinely with your support system, such as family and friends.
    • Reach out for support by a licensed mental health professional if wanted or needed. Engaging in therapeutic support will support one to feel empowered, improve communication skills, increase awareness about oneself and their family, strengthen coping skills to manage stress, and set goals toward maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

There are many wonderful resources available in the community. Making the right positive connection for yourself, your child, your family will promote beneficial change and support.

I hope this information provides you with a helpful and hopeful perspective. And, I am here to provide you with assistance and support during school hours if needed.