How To Create A Self-Care Plan For The New School Year

Students Need Self-Care

University is such an interesting and chaotic time of our lives.

Our schedule is packed with classes, assignments, tests, seminars and work clashing together—and that’s just for an undergraduate degree.

It feels like we have no time for ourselves except for a few hours to sleep. And even that’s not guaranteed.

Studies have shown that burnout amongst high school and university students can create symptoms of PTSD. And while I’m a few years removed from university, I still experience some of those symptoms.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

National Library of Medicine – Student Burnout and PTSD Symptoms

Preparing for the new school year with a self-care plan may help students to manage and hopefully prevent burnout.

September is the perfect time to start as school is just beginning, and you may have more wiggle room to try out new things.

But if you’re discovering this post during midterms or spring break, that’s fine too!

When you start doesn’t matter—having a plan does.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

Make Time For Self-Care

I realize it may not feel possible, but I guarantee you can add self-care to your daily, weekly and monthly routines.

As a student, I would sleep in the university library, eat lunch outside my next class and schedule bathroom breaks into my study time. I was shuffling through my days like a zombie.

It was not until my third year of university that I learned to add proper me-time to my school agenda.

I scheduled when I’d eat, when I’d exercise, how often I would clean and when I would literally do nothing.

That may sound very constraining, but it resulted in a wonderful transformation. I suddenly felt like I had more control and time and generally felt more like myself.

Self-care for students: how to have a stress-free year

Creating A Self-Care Plan

In this post, I will help you to formulate a plan to add self-care activities to your schedule.

Below, I have outlined four self-care categories.

The best self-care plan will combine activities from every category to create a holistic* routine. This will ensure that you fully take care of all aspects of yourself.

*Holistic refers to treating or caring for the whole person (the body, mind and spirit) rather than one part.

And you are not expected to do all of the activities every day. That’s simply not possible.

Instead, consider these general guidelines when adding self-care activities to your schedule.

  • Daily activities are those that require roughly 5-10 minutes
  • Weekly activities: ~15-30 minutes
  • Monthly activities: ~1 hour
  • Annual activities: ~half a day

Remaining cognizant of the time you have and the time you need will provide a better chance of scheduling your self-care.

5 Steps To Create Your Self-Care Schedule

Woman looking at her busy schedule and a calendar

1. Look at your current school and work schedules to identify the number and duration of break times. Don’t forget to factor in homework and study time.

A blank calendar with dates highlighted

2. Highlight or list the duration of your break time–just the time in minutes or hours.

A woman writing a list in a notebook

3. Look over the list below and choose the activities you consider interesting, relaxing, or useful. Write them in a list along with the amount of time they take.

The words daily, weekly and monthly

4. From your activities list, choose three daily activities, four weekly activities, and three monthly activities. You may, of course, choose more, but I suggest starting with these numbers.

A woman writing in a planner that has different events in different colours and post-it notes

5. Add those activities to your school calendar, agenda or planner.

  • Set a specific or general time of day to complete them.
  • It may be helpful to add these activities in another colour.

A Brief Caution

A problem I often face with lists like this is that I want to try everything all at once. And it’s overwhelming!

So while creating your self-care plan, start slow. Choose a few activities that you can start doing today.

You want to try to build a habit of doing these activities but don’t want them to become tasks.

Aim to include these activities in your schedule, but give yourself some leeway and don’t be too tough on yourself if you can’t get them done when you hoped.

4 Self-Care Categories

There are many categories for self-care.

For this post, I have chosen to focus on the following four: physical self-care, practical self-care, psychological self-care, and social self-care.

And I’ve ordered the categories alphabetically because no one category is more important than the rest.

Physical Self-Care

Graphic of woman doing yoga in front of a laptop to indicate physical self-care

Physical self-care aims at caring for your body. It involves focusing on what you put in your body, ensuring you’re well rested and keeping your body moving. Remember that physical health can help or hinder mental health, so you want to take special care of both.

1.       Schedule Meal Breaks

  • 5-30 minutes
  • Many people opt for fast food because it’s a filling meal you can eat quickly. But it’s full of harmful ingredients that drain your energy.
  • Set 2 meal breaks where you can eat a full meal (perhaps breakfast and dinner) and mini breaks for snack time.
  • Another option is to designate lunch as your big meal of the day and have smaller portions for breakfast and dinner, supplemented with hourly snack breaks. (This is my preference for my schedule. Follow the plan that works for you and your schedule.)

2.       Sleep

  • 10 minutes-8 hours
  • Micro naps during the day can help you to stay focused. But don’t rely on napping to keep yourself healthy.
  • Try to get a full night’s sleep. For some people, 6 hours of sleep is sufficient; for others, 9 hours may be necessary. Listen to your body and what it needs to feel rested.

3.       Breathing Exercises

  • 2-5 minutes
  • Practice breathing exercises anywhere, at any time, as needed.
  • Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 5-7 seconds, and exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds.
  • Breathing exercises will allow your body to relax while providing a mindful moment as you focus on your breath and the counts.

Read More| How To Self-Soothe During A Panic Attack

4.       Get Sunlight

  • 10+ minutes
  • Take a walk, study on a patio or sit on the greenspace at your school.
  • Vitamin D and fresh air are essential for our bodies and overall happiness.
  • In winter, vitamin D drops and a light therapy lamp are helpful.

5.       Exercise

  • 15+ minutes
  • We are recommended to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, and it is possible to allocate 15-minute exercise sessions during breaks.
  • Remember that walking, yoga, cycling and jump rope are all forms of exercise, so you are not required to go to a gym unless you choose to.

6.       Hydrate

  • 1-2 minutes
  • Drink water. Bring a water bottle to every class and take a few gulps every hour.
  • If you drink water regularly, you will feel and see a difference.
  • Always remember that what you drink matters because not all beverages will support your body the same way.

Practical Self-Care

Graphic of woman with her laptop sitting on a calendar next to an hour glass to indicate practical self-care

Practical self-care can be thought of as the necessary chores to relieve us of future stress—like the adage to plan today for a better tomorrow. Taking small steps to prepare for your day, week or year will pay off substantially and cut much stress from your life.

1.       Create A Budget

  • 30+ minutes (to create), 2 minutes (for upkeep)
  • You may buy a budget planner or create a spreadsheet. (Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets offer annual and monthly budget templates.)
  • Steps to create your budget:
    • Write down your net income (this will be the income you receive, less taxes and other work expenses).
    • Track how much you spend—write every purchase down, including your bills, Netflix subscription, groceries, coffee, etc.
    • Set a budget for how much you can spend for the month to ensure you will keep some savings. For example: If I earn $1,000 per month (net income), my bills are $300, and my loans are $200, I may set myself a budget of $200, so I can save $300 per month.
    • Adjust your spending habits to stick to your budget (this may mean less Starbucks).
    • Review your budget to see how you are doing, what is working, and what needs improvement.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

WorkBC – Student Budgeting

Clever Girl Finance – How To Create A College Student Budget You’ll Actually Use

Student Space – How to make a student budget

2.       Organize Your Closet

  • 1+ hours (for initial organization), 5 minutes (for upkeep)
  • Use baskets, totes, shelves or a whole closet organizer to organize your clothes and storage.
  • Separate your work clothes from casual ones so they are easier to find. This may be done simply by having work clothes on the left side of the closet and casual clothes on the right.
  • Seeing disorganization and interacting with it daily can result in a sensory overload leading to stress and distraction. Therefore, having an organized closet with everything in its place can be freeing.

3.       Make Your Bed

  • 2 minutes
  • Make your bed every day. You don’t need perfect corners or to change the sheets every day.
  • Having a bed in disarray can cause a room to look messy and may add to your overall stress. Having an organized bed to fall into at the end of the day creates a peaceful area that will help you feel relaxed and may lead to better sleep.

4.       Meal Prep

  • 30+ minutes (to prepare), 3+ minutes (to heat)
  • Depending on your fridge and freezer space, you may meal prep for a week or month at a time.
  • Preparing meals that will only require a quick warm-up will ensure you eat properly and save money.

5.       Schedule Decluttering

  • 10+ minutes
  • Slowly start decluttering by donating or throwing away things you no longer need or use. And organize the things you need regularly.
  • If you believe your clutter has a system, create an improved design with baskets and shelf dividers.
  • Less clutter leads to tidier spaces, creates more peaceful and stress-free environments and ensures everything is easy to find.

6.       Set Out Clothes For The Week

  • 10 minutes
  • Decide your tops, pants and shoes and arrange the items in your closet from Monday through Friday.
  • Choosing your outfits ahead of time will ensure you have clean clothes for the week and fewer decisions to make first thing in the morning.

Psychological Self-Care

Graphic of woman holding her head and a thought bubble full of squiggles to indicate psychological self-care

Psychological, emotional, mental self-care is all about taking time to identify your headspace and express your feelings. There are many activities for psychological self-care that will allow you to channel stress and negative thoughts into a medium that will help you to let them go. Some activities will also allow you to sit with and enjoy your happy moments. Being able to positively impact and express your inner world is very important for your mental health.

1.       Affirmations And Mantras

  • 1-2 minutes
  • Keep positive affirmations and mantras posted on your mirror, phone lock screen or anywhere you will see them. Repeat the affirmations a few times a day.
  • Affirmations and mantras will help you to rewire your brain to think positively and calmly.

Read more| Generate Positivity With Affirmations

2.       Practice Gratitude

  • 5 minutes
  • Make it a habit to take a few minutes at the start or end of your day to write a list of things you are grateful for. Do not rush! Be slow and mindful while you make your list.
  • Speak what you are writing and try to use the expression “I am grateful for….”
  • During stressful times, creating or reading these lists will remind you of the positive things in your life.

3.       Journal

  • 5-10 minutes
  • Write when you are happy, stressed and overwhelmed.
  • There are many uses for a journal and many ways to write in a journal. Choose the option that serves you best. And choose the time that works best for you. You may find journal prompts to get you started here: link.
  • Writing a journal entry will provide relief and is an interesting keepsake.

Read More| Why You Should Start Journaling

4.       Create Art

  • 5-20+ minutes
  • Draw, paint, sculpt, knit, whittle, etc.
  • Depending on your medium, art may be created between class periods or give you an extended mindful release a few times a week.
  • Art will give you something to focus on while releasing stress. Or it may allow you to express your feelings.

5.       Play Music

  • 2+ minutes
  • This may refer to listening to your favourite artist or playing an instrument.
  • Music can help us to feel lighter, connect and release pent-up feelings.

6.       Meet With A Counsellor Or Therapist.

  • 30+ minutes
  • If your high school, college or university offers free or discounted counselling services, take advantage of them!
  • Counselling is a genuinely positive experience as it will help you understand yourself, learn how to handle stress and disappointment, and, most importantly, celebrate and focus on your achievements.
  • If you do not vibe with your assigned counsellor, talk to your school and try to seek an alternative option. You deserve a counsellor or therapist who is working with you.

Social Self-Care

Graphic of 2 women and 2 men communicating on a laptop, tablet and phone to indicate social self-care

Social self-care directs its focus on social interactions and how to maintain healthy relationships. Whether introverted or extroverted, our social life will add to our happiness. However, during school, our social life can sometimes hinder our schoolwork. So while considering your social self-care, you want to create a beneficial school/work/life balance. Please note that I could not list specific times for some activities because what you need and your available time varies significantly from person to person.

1.       Set Boundaries

  • Unfortunately, I cannot create a timeframe here as it involves deciding, communicating and reinforcing your boundaries. This may take consideration and practice over a few days or weeks.
  • There are many different types of boundaries, but perhaps while focusing on school life, you can narrow the boundaries to what you need for a successful and stress-free year.
  • Consider these questions while creating your boundaries:
    • What do you need from friends and family when you are stressed? For example, do you need someone to vent to, alone time, comfort foods, etc.?
    • What will help you focus on your studies? This may be quiet time, a peaceful area, fewer messages and screen time, etc.
    • What will take the pressure off? Perhaps you want to ban certain questions about your schoolwork or tests. Questions like How is your dissertation coming along? Are you ready for your midterms?
  • Asserting your boundaries may sometimes feel rude, and some people may consider them selfish, but they are necessary to your well-being. Boundaries communicate our needs to others so they can support us.

Read More| Are Introverts Rude? And How To Assert Your Boundaries

2.       Call A Friend (Or Your Safe Person)

  • 5+ minutes
  • Have a friend or a safe person you can call, FaceTime or message whenever you need to. Let them know ahead of time that you may be contacting them during stressful times and what you may need from them (a listening ear or advice).
  • You may also schedule regular calls to ensure you are both available and give you something to look forward to.
  • A safe person is someone you can share with who will keep your conversation private and whose sole interest in the conversation is in supporting and protecting you.

3.       Meet With Friends

  • 30+ minutes (or short breaks between classes)
  • Schedule time with your friends. Everyone has a busy schedule, so last-minute plans may not work as well as they used to.
  • Friendships can strain and start to fizzle during university. So use the time to catch up, share a little about school and be a support system for each other.

4.       Be Intentional With Social Activities

  • There is no time suggestion here, as this option involves deciding if, when and where to add social activities to your schedule.
  • Accept that you should not partake in every social event or go out drinking every weekend. A night out will impact your budget and physical self-care.
  • Pick and choose events that are important to you and your experience. They will be more memorable and give you something to look forward to.
  • And practice saying NO. It may be hard at first, but it gets easier with practice, and you will be happier.

5.       Join An Online Support Group

  • 2+ minutes
  • Join a Facebook or Reddit (or similar) group for your school or area. If a gender, religion or ethnic-specific group exists, that may also be beneficial.
  • Try to ensure it is a safe space for people to share stories, ask questions and offer advice without judgement or bullying behaviour.
  • I recommend observing the group before asking any sensitive questions and using the anonymous post option whenever necessary.
  • While living in South Korea, I joined five Facebook groups: three regional and two women-only groups. I never commented in the regional groups because I followed them for events and found the most active members to be very opinionated and rude. It did not feel like a safe space to ask questions. But I was very active in the women-only groups, and though I no longer live there, I am still part of them today because they’re incredibly judgement-free, and everyone is looking out for each other.

Read More| 10 Ways To Expand Your Comfort Zone

6.       Play With A Pet

  • 2+ minutes
  • Take a break and spend time with someone who loves you unconditionally and does not care about your schoolwork.
  • Playing with a pet releases serotonin and will make you feel happier.
  • If you currently do not have a pet, consider your budget and the free time you will need to care for your pet properly—it’s a lot of work.
How to create a self-care plan for the new school year

Final Thoughts

If self-care is selfish, be selfish.

Caring for yourself provides the benefits of reducing stress, thinking clearer, maintaining relationships and, most importantly, not losing yourself to your studies.

Creating healthy habits takes time and practice, and there are many options for adding self-care to your schedule.

Again, I have only covered four self-care categories, but many more options exist.

Please let me know in the comments below if you are interested in learning more about self-care and additional self-care categories and activities.

And if you like this post, please like this post, comment, share and follow for more.

 

5 Steps to Create a Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

As someone who has created a blog to share my mental health journey, I am grateful that people are becoming more receptive to mental health discussions.

Read More | 7 Strategies for Coping With Morning Anxiety

However, I recognize mental health awareness and acceptance are still relatively new. And I have noticed that many people lack the skills or understanding of how to engage in these conversations.

But I don’t want to use that as a criticism.

Man and woman in their safe space overlooking a forested mountain side

I was born in the 80s and raised believing that mental health conversations are taboo. We shouldn’t talk about it, we shouldn’t ask about it, and we should pretend it doesn’t exist.

It’s a difficult mindset to break, even more so without tools or guidance.

This difficulty is felt by those working on their mental health and those who want to support them.

In this post, I want to outline the skills necessary for discussing mental health and how to use them to create a safe space.

3 Key Skills for Discussing Mental Health

The main skills you need for discussing and understanding mental health are:

  1. Empathy: the ability to emotionally understand an experience from another’s viewpoint.
  2. Openness: the ability to be unbiased, honest and receptive to another’s experience.
  3. Consideration: the ability to think of and care for the feelings and needs of others.

These skills are required for both processing and supporting mental health. This means that both participants must practice these skills to have an effective conversation.

You will need to break your current mindset before you can develop these skills.

How Not To Discuss Mental Health

A common mistake I have experienced is people assuming that being open to mental health discussions warrants immediate permission.

Permission to do what?

Well, first, permission to ask questions.

This is a double-edged sword. Asking questions is acceptable because it shows your willingness to learn more about someone. But it’s very easy for questions to slip into inappropriate territory.

Second, permission to know sensitive details.

A relationship should not hinge on how deeply a person shares their history. There is no requirement for someone to share their trauma. And no time limit that earns the right to further details.

Third, permission to share.

In this case, I am referring to instances when a third party expects information that was shared in confidence. For example, the third party could express their desire for information in statements like “I just want to know more about them” or “what are they dealing with?”

I want to be very explicit and say that you do not have the right to know, and I do not have the right to tell you about someone else’s mental health diagnosis or history.

Before reading further, try to release these assumptions from your mind.

How to Practice Empathy, Openness and Consideration When Discussing Mental Health

A.      Remember that mental health is one aspect of who we are.

Though it can be a significant part and hold a lot of sway over our lives, we are not our diagnosis.

B.      Understand that discussing mental health is not easy.

It’s legitimately scary.

When someone reveals their trauma or vulnerabilities, they are leaving themselves exposed.

And no one wants to be left vulnerable or open to further harm.

C.      Appreciate that being an ally for mental health requires work, trust and protection.

You can’t back out if you opt to be there for someone. They will rely on you.

At the same time, you cannot expect them to trust or open up to you quickly.

You must demonstrate again and again that you can be trusted.

D.     Accept that this is a give-and-take relationship.

Both parties must willingly participate and make an effort.

If your effort is not being reciprocated, then end the discussion.

And understand that just because you want to share your history does not mean the other person must do so.

E.      Recognize that all mental health discussions must take place in a safe space.

A safe space is crucial for offering a sense of protection.

It will also give both parties a clear understanding of how to participate in these difficult discussions.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Mental Health America – Time To Talk: Tips For Talking About Your Mental Health

CAMH – Addressing Stigma

McLean Hospital – Let’s Face It, No One Wants To Talk About Mental Health

What Is a Safe Space?

A safe space is an area (whether a physical or social environment) in which a person feels free to be themselves. This means the space is welcoming, accepting, and free from bias, criticisms and risks of physical or emotional harm. And can include acceptance of different values, sexuality, mental health, etc. 

For this post, I will focus on the social environment in a safe space and how to create it for mental health discussions.

If you are interested in reading more about physical safe spaces, check out these posts from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Very Well Mind – How To Create Your Own ‘Safe Space’

Thrive – How to Create Your Own Safe Space at Home

My Peer Toolkit – Creating a safe space (This information is focused on young people)

A socially safe space is a comfortable environment for open discussions.

It is also an environment where a person feels safe to decline or selectively participate in certain topics.

Essentially, we want to create an environment where a person knows that we are here when they want to talk and will respect them when they don’t.

A safe space is something we build together.

It requires both parties to offer security, trust and openness.

And it takes time, effort and vulnerability to maintain.

An X symbol to denote what a safe space is not.

It is not something you are entitled to because of your relationship or because you are a nice person.

It is also not a tit-for-tat exchange. You cannot expect someone to share their deepest secret because you felt comfortable sharing yours.

Understand and accept that everyone will share what they can when they can. And remember to appreciate the trust they have in you.

Tips to Create a Safe Environment to Discuss Mental Health

“We don’t create a safe space for someone. Instead, we create a safe space with someone.”

– Ryan Tan, Samaritans of Singapore

1.      Verbally State Your Intentions

Have a conversation to establish that you want to create a safe space with the person you are talking to.

And I recognize this can be easier said than done, so try planning for this conversation.

First, think of why you have chosen this person:

  • What is your current relationship?
  • What do you want your relationship to be?
  • Why do you feel safe with them? (Think of specific examples.)
  • What do you want to share with them (i.e., your experience or support)?

Read More | Why You Should Start Journaling

You don’t have to tell the person why you chose them, but you need to understand why you did.

Why you chose them will determine how you broach the topic and how hard you are willing to work on creating this safe space.

Second, choose and rehearse the words you want to use.

This is a meaningful discussion. You don’t need a prepared speech. But you will want to organize your thoughts so they don’t come out as confusing word vomit.

  • How will you start the conversation? Will you be direct and to the point or feel things out first?
  • How could you transition a conversation into this discussion?
  • Why do you want to build a safe space with them?
  • Might this conversation make them uncomfortable? How can you make it easier?
  • How can you clarify that you are open to discussing mental health without suggesting criticism?

One thing I will caution is not to approach someone and say that you want to discuss their mental health.

Focus on the prize of building a safe space together to serve both your journeys. And yes, being a support system is its own journey.

An infographic for the 5 steps to create a safe environment to discuss mental health: 1. Verbally State Your Intentions. 2. Establish Boundaries. 3. Do Not Disclose Too Much Too Fast 4. Build Trust 5. Reinforce Your Safe Space

2.      Establish Boundaries

Once you have opened the discussion to create a safe space, it’s time for the work to begin.

Boundaries are the main area where your empathy, openness and consideration skills will converge.

Remember that a safe space offers security, inclusion and respect.

And boundaries are the guidelines we share to protect ourselves and respect others. We may also consider them as a means of relaying our needs.

Some examples of boundaries that may create a safe space are:

  • Do not lie to me.
  • Do not share my story with others.
  • Tell me when you are uncomfortable sharing.
  • Understand that when I cannot share, it is not because I don’t trust you.

Again, these are just examples.

Your boundaries will be specific to your needs. They can be based on your personal history and current relationship with the person and be subject to change.

Four factors to establishing boundaries in a safe space:

  1. Consider what you need in a safe space and set it as a boundary.
  2. Verbally state your boundaries to ensure your needs are clear.
  3. Be open to accepting the boundaries set by the other person.
  4. Discuss and negotiate if your boundaries clash (i.e., you have opposing needs that may leave one or both of you uncomfortable).

When negotiating boundaries, keep in mind you are creating a safe space for each other.

Negotiating boundaries can take a lot of work and compromise.

Just remember why you wanted this safe space and give it the effort it deserves.

And know it may not be easy, but this conversation is crucial.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Psych Central – 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries

Real Simple – This Is What It Looks Like to Set Personal and Emotional Boundaries

3.      Do Not Disclose Too Much Too Fast

You’ve discussed your desire to create a safe space and have established boundaries. So it may feel like it’s time to tell your life story. Not so fast!

It can feel exciting to have someone you can share with. But being too open comes with many downsides.

First, you don’t want to trauma dump on others.

And this could be done by either party. Sometimes an ally will dump their whole history to encourage the other person to share theirs. But while you may feel a sense of relief, you have now burdened or possibly hurt the other person.

Instead, start learning how to discuss trauma constructively. This includes finding a balance between under-sharing and oversharing. And allow room for the other person to assert their boundaries and protect their well-being.

Second, oversharing very quickly does not demonstrate trust.

Instead, it can be perceived as attention-seeking behaviour.

Consider a safe space like it’s an unknown body of water. You don’t know how deep it is. And if you dive right in, you may end up hurt or appear untrustworthy for being reckless.

Treat this space with care.

Third, you never want to give the impression that you would share this personal information with just anyone.

On the contrary, demonstrate that this information is something that you keep close and only share with select people.

Build trust slowly by sharing information in small doses over a few conversations.

This will also go a long way in creating a trusted, safe space.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Psych Central – Trauma Dumping: Why Considering the Impact of Oversharing Matters

Very Well Mind – When Oversharing Turns into Trauma Dumping, and How to Stop

Forbes – There Is A Clear Line Between Oversharing And Being Authentic — Here’s How To Avoid Crossing It

4.      Build Trust

You want to demonstrate both your trust and trustworthiness.

Showing trust does not only mean being vulnerable. Vulnerability is actually something you work towards. And you cannot be genuinely vulnerable before building a foundation of trust.

How do you build trust?

  • Be honest and reliable.
  • Be open with what you are comfortable sharing.
  • Demonstrate you feel secure with stopping a conversation if you are uncomfortable.
  • Verbally assert your current boundaries and open a discussion when you want to change them.
  • Listen and show understanding.
  • Let the other person know you appreciate their trust and confidence.
  • Ensure your actions align with your words.
  • Do not offer solutions, criticize or dismiss an experience.

Once you gain trust, never discussing what you have been told in confidence with or around a third party is crucial. This includes alluding to or hinting at having private information.

I’m not sure why some people do this. Perhaps they are bragging about having a close relationship. Or maybe they wrongly assume this shows they won’t tell anyone specific details. I honestly don’t know.

But it’s best to keep the fact that you are a trusted confidant a secret.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Talk Space – How to Make Every Space a Safe Space

Positive Psychology – 10 Ways To Build Trust in a Relationship

5.      Reinforce Your Safe Space

Remember that the safe space is for both of you. You will want to share your feelings and follow up with the other person.

Check in to ensure the space still feels safe and comfortable to all parties involved.

  • If any boundaries need to be changed, adjust them.
  • If the discussions have been too difficult, ask to take a step back.
  • If trust has been bent or broken, discuss it.

How often you check in depends on your relationship and how frequently you discuss difficult topics.

It’s also important to check in on the other person whenever you feel unsure about something.

For example, I’ve experienced moments when I was unsure if I had pushed against a boundary. Once I realized I may have made a mistake, I would state, “Please let me know if I’m being too much or if you feel uncomfortable.”

Again, maintaining a safe space requires constant work. But keeping communication focused on consideration for each other will make the work easier.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Ourselves Black – Breaking The Stigma: 4 Ways To Start The Mental Health Conversation

Think Mental Health – How to start the conversation

Sage Thinking – Creating Safe Spaces for Courageous Conversations

The Ladders – How to make every space a safe space

How Boundaries May Change in A Safe Space

You may be wondering why I keep mentioning adjusting or changing boundaries.

The ability to change boundaries is what makes a space safe.

Your comfort with and trust in the other person will be ever-evolving.

I will outline three possible stages in maintaining a safe space from the perspective of someone sharing their trauma. This will give you an idea of what it could look like.

However, everyone’s journey is different, so please do not judge your safe space against these examples.

In stage one, you may feel very guarded and unsure if this person is safe. You know that you want to tryto create a close relationship, but you also want to protect yourself.

You will likely have rigid boundaries using “do not” or “cannot” wording. This is because telling others what is not acceptable to you provides protection.

In stage two, the other person has demonstrated they are trustworthy. You may begin to feel secure but not yet ready to open up fully.

This is a good time to re-assess and discuss your boundaries.

Perhaps you will change your boundaries from “do not” rules into “if I’m feeling [emotion], I will/won’t [action]” statements. This tells the other person that you feel more comfortable exploring difficult topics and secure with showing some vulnerability.

In stage three, you may feel confident that you are in a truly safe space. This doesn’t mean that you will be an open book. Instead, it means that you will clearly understand what you can and want to share.

You will still have boundaries. And some may still use “do not” wording, and others may still include if/then statements. But maybe you will create a new personal boundary for yourself to follow.

It is also possible that someone may downgrade from stage 2 to stage 1. This could result from a problem in the safe space or an external factor.

It’s important to understand that a safe space will always require boundaries. And that’s a good thing.

Try to remain empathetic, open and considerate.

How to discuss mental health. 5 tips to create a safe environment.

Summary

If you are new to discussing mental health, I hope you will find this information useful. Just having an interest in starting these conversations is an excellent first step. Remember that being a support system requires a lot of discussions, effort and patience with minimal reward. You will make mistakes. And you may never understand how someone feels or the full details of their journey. But it means a lot to anyone working on their mental health to know that someone is there or wants to be there.

Takeaways

  • Try to release negative and harmful assumptions about mental health from your mind.
  • Focus on creating a safe space and understand what that looks like.
  • Start working on your empathy, openness and consideration skills.
  • Use empathy to understand that sharing information can be difficult and takes time.
  • Also, respect that you may never get full details and that’s okay.
  • Use openness to talk to your person and let them tell you what they need from you.
  • Never assume you know what is best.
  • Use consideration to create and respect boundaries.
  • And understand that it is not disrespectful when a person does not open up to you.
  • Keep trying not by asking or demanding more answers, but rather by asserting I am here if you need to talk.

Did I miss any negative assumptions about mental health? Also, as a safe space will look different for everyone, please share your opinion in the comments on how to create a safe space.

5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

We all have a fascination with personality quizzes.

We enjoy measuring our compatibility, discovering our spirit animal, and finding our Hogwarts house (I’m Hufflepuff, y’all!). 

Regardless of the test, receiving a general assessment of our personality is incredibly interesting.

But their value goes beyond simple fun as they are a considerable resource for personal growth.

And the internet is awash with easy quizzes created by psychologists for this exact use.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

5 free personality quizzes to start your self-discovery

Quizzes to Support a Personal Growth Journey

Personality tests offer a unique outsider’s perspective to help us be introspective and self-analyze.

By answering a few questions at the start of our journey, we can discover strengths and weaknesses that we might not realize we have.

Once we identify the areas we want to focus on and improve, we can set our goals.

Then we can judge our progress by retaking the tests during the journey.

5 Free Personality Quizzes

Below is a list of 5 personality quizzes that I have found most informative on my journey.

(I have no affiliation with these websites. And please note that the links will take you away from the Introvert Proofing website, and you will be subject to the Privacy Policy of those individual websites.)

All the quizzes provide a test and free, basic results. However, I will indicate anywhere additional fees may be required for in-depth results.

I have ordered the list based on the amount of free information offered on each website.

Guidelines for Completing the Quizzes

The quizzes are all multiple choice, and there are no wrong answers. To get the best results:

  1. Answer honestly and with the first answer that comes to mind.
  2. Do not overthink your responses.
  3. Do not try to answer based on what you think you should choose.

Once you have your results, think about the traits you identify with—positive and negative. Again, these are general results, so some characteristics may not apply to you. Now you can begin to focus on those traits you want to improve.

How do personality quizzes support your journey? 1. A unique outsider's perspective. 2. Discover hidden strengths and weaknesses. 3. Provide focus to set goals. 4. Track progress.

Grab yourself a beverage and get comfy; it’s time to discover who you are.

1.      16Personalities

This quiz takes roughly 10 minutes to complete.

The amount of free information on the website is rather impressive. For example, each personality type includes data for the following categories: introduction, strengths and weaknesses, romantic relationships, friendships, parenthood, career paths, workplace habits, and conclusion. Some free articles and a newsletter subscription are also available.

For more detailed information, you may pay for a premium profile. There are 3 one-time payment options that all provide an e-book specific to your personality type and access to their web content for 1 year:

  1. Basic: $29.00
  2. Basic plus access to additional tests $49.00
  3. Basic plus access to additional tests and all 16 personality e-books $169.00.

With this quiz, I learned that I am an INFJ-T, a rare personality type. It explains many of my struggles and reveals some pretty impressive strengths!

2.      Interpersonal Skills Self-Assessment

This quiz from Skills You Need takes about 15 minutes to complete.

The results are completely free. You will have the option to receive the results via email, or you may skip that option and copy/paste the results into a saveable document.

Interpersonal skills are all about how we interact with other people. And this quiz provides our percentage scores in the following categories: listening skills, emotional intelligence, verbal communication, and communicating in groups.

The results provide links to their pages with further information on developing these skills.

This quiz was important for my journey as I am very introverted. And to have the experiences I always dreamed of, I needed to identify the skills I lack.

I ranked well in emotional intelligence but need to improve in group communication. I’m working on it.

| Read more: Are Introverts Rude?

3.      Who Am I? Visual DNA

This quiz takes 10 minutes to complete.

I find this quiz format quite interesting as it provides pictures for you to react, analyze and respond to.

The results are completely free. You will receive a printable PDF showing the percentages you scored under 5 categories. And each category then explains what this means about your personality.

Note: To keep this test free, they ask that you do a brand/advertising test. It is completely optional and can be skipped to take you directly to your results. But they are well-worth the support.

The website does not provide additional information beyond the PDF. However, I like it as an interesting assessment.

This quiz encouraged me to share my journey and start my blog.

4.      Enneagram

This quiz from Truity takes 10-15 minutes to complete.

The free results are presented in a pie chart showing which personality type you most identify with.

A full 18-page report of your test results is available for $29.00.

However, the website also provides information for all 9 enneagram personalities, including their personality types, core values, relationships, and tips for growth. Read more

Enneagram is also very trendy at the moment, so you may find additional information for your number through an online search.

I’ve taken this quiz twice over a several-month period. My initial result was a 9, and my second a 1.

5.      Emotional Intelligence Test

This quiz from Psychology Today takes 45 minutes to complete.

The test offers situations and asks how you would respond in order to assess your self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and social skills.

I am a firm believer that EQ is influential in personal growth, mental health, and relationships.

The results are provided with a rating out of 100 and one paragraph explaining if you’re doing well or not. So not a whole lot of free information.

However, a full report is available for $9.95.

I recently scored an 81 for my ability to read others’ emotions and understand myself. Unfortunately, I had taken this quiz earlier in my journey but did not document my results at that time. And I don’t want to speculate on a number. However, I do know that my score has improved!

Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Summary

I hope that you will find these quizzes fun and informative.

Maybe the results will surprise you, and you can better understand who you are.

As for your journey, I hope your results will help you to celebrate your strengths, identify your weaknesses and set your personal growth goals.

Have you used any personality quizzes during your journey? Please share them in the comments below!

7 Strategies for Coping with Morning Anxiety

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

When does your anxiety usually hit?

I’m hardest hit in the morning—right when I wake up.

Anxious thoughts always seem to float through my final REM cycle of the night.

It is the worst alarm clock ever.

Pinterest Image: Seven self-care strategies to cope with morning anxiety

My mind is constantly working.

As an office worker and again as a teacher, I would constantly be thinking about what I needed to do at work and the best way to accomplish it. And now, with my blog, I’m always thinking of new content and how to present it.

No matter what kind of job I have, I lose sleep thinking about it.

And then there are all the other things that I worry about: a bill that needs to be paid, heavy rainfall, questioning if I turned off the stove or a what-if scenario that I’m running late.

Any of these things will force me to sit bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat, heart hammering away as if the world is ending.

Anxiety is a terrible way to start the day.

But I have learned how to manage my anxious mornings with time-intensive strategies; and none of them are ignoring it until it goes away

We can fake confidence, but we can’t deceive our mental health.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Healthline – Why Do I Have Anxiety in the Morning?

Well and Good – How to Prevent Morning Anxiety From Totally Ruining Your Day

Anxiety Specialists of Atlanta – Waking up Exhausted and Anxious?

1. Take a Day

Some people offer this as a last resort, but having a day for yourself is vital.

I think everyone should take a day more often. But I realize that this is not always an option for everyone based on your job or economic necessity.

If your job offers mental health days or sick days, take them.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent, ask your partner or a family member to take over for a few hours.

Calling work may add a little more nervousness to your morning. And I have always needed to convince myself to do it, but I have never regretted making the call.

Dedicate the entire day to yourself if you can.

Catch up on the sleep that was attacked.

Do your comforting activities.

Ignore social media for the whole day (I’ll explain why later).

And just relax. And I mean, really relax.

If part of your anxiety revolves around unfinished household chores, set a one-hour timer to get some (not all) done. Then save the remainder of the day for yourself.

My typical mental health day is filled with the comforting and stress-relieving activities I enjoy:

  • Sleeping for as long as possible with Do Not Disturb in full effect.
  • A shower to relax tense muscles and keep my skin healthy.
  • Wearing daytime pyjamas.
  • Drinking a warm beverage, but I try to avoid caffeine as it won’t soothe an anxious body.
  • And listening to an audiobook while working on a puzzle to focus my mind.

Again, these are the activities that I enjoy and I find calming.

When you take a day for yourself, fill it with the activities that comfort you. You can exercise, do crafts, bake, or do anything that feels calming to you.

It’s your day.

The main point is to rest your body and your mind.

2. Make a To-Do List

Anxiety sometimes leaves me feeling as if I am lazy, inept, and unproductive.

When an anxiety attack hits first thing in the morning, the idea of getting through the day can be daunting.

It’s already hard to get out of bed and only gets worse as the day’s tasks continue to build up.

Write a list on paper or your phone to get those tasks out of your mind.

When you accomplish a task, you can check it off.

It’s hard to explain but seeing all the check marks on a completed list is uplifting.

Even if I have completed a task before making a list, I will write it down for the simple joy of checking it off.

A to-do list helps me to focus. I know what I need to do, and I can track my progress for the day.

I can also limit my list based on what my current energy can accomplish.

If I have ten tasks but only the energy for four, I list the four most important things I need to do today. The act of finishing those four tasks may give me the energy to complete another two, three or four. And if I can’t do all ten, I reassure myself by looking at what I have achieved today.

My list will prove to my mind that I am competent and productive.

3. Feel for 15

This suggestion will take time and practice to master, but it’s entirely worth the effort.

Emotional intelligence is all about being aware of, understanding and managing our emotions.

No one likes to feel angry, sad, or anxious. These are heavy emotions that wear on our bodies. 

But we need to experience all emotions in their turn.

When anxiety hits, give yourself a set amount of time to feel through it.

You will dictate the amount of time you are prepared to give to your anxious thoughts.

This can be done in bed, in the shower or on the bus ride to work.

When my chest is bursting, I allow my mind 15 minutes to be anxious.

I will start by asking myself aloud, 

Okay, what are we freaking out about? 

Then my mind will flow through every negative and positive thought for 15 minutes.

That time allows me to be introspective about the issue(s) that triggered my anxiety and possible solutions.

I also use my physical coping mechanisms to calm my body during this time.

| Read more: How to Self-Soothe During a Panic Attack

The anxious thought may return later.

However, I can self-soothe with the reassurance that I already gave it time:

“No. I’ve already worried about that. Let it go.”

Through practice, I have found that 15 minutes works best for me.

If you need more or less time, take it.

Try not to suppress your anxiety, anger or sadness. I am happier for feeling all of my emotions.

4. Journal

The old faithful.

The basics of journaling are getting your feelings out of your mind.

Use it to understand and work through your thoughts and experiences. 

It doesn’t matter how you write; just write:

  • Freewrite
  • Jot notes
  • Poems
  • Lyrics
  • Comics

When I am anxious, I freewrite in my journal and let my mind go on its journey. 

Sometimes it just relieves me from the weight of overwhelming thoughts. 

And sometimes, it helps me find solutions.

Writing is a comforting activity for me. Just the feeling of writing with a pen on paper is calming. 

Please never feel embarrassed about starting a journal. It’s personal, and it’s helpful.

5. Use Affirmations

An affirmation is a positive statement we can use to recondition our minds.

It is a mindful activity that we need to prepare and practice during calm moments. Consider it like preparing your arsenal for when anxiety attacks.

You can find an overwhelming number of affirmations through Google. But I would suggest using those as examples only.

I find affirmations are more successful when meaningful and personal.

| Read more: Generate Positivity With Affirmations

You can also choose the number of affirmations that you need. Rely on one or choose from a collection to suit your present circumstances.

Should an anxiety attack hit me, I choose one of my affirmations and repeat it in my mind or out loud while looking into a mirror.

And I don’t just use affirmations when I am feeling anxious. I have five daily affirmations that I say to myself in the morning and night.

I find they don’t just protect me; they can also set my mood.

6. Do Not Use Social Media

I know that scrolling through Instagram or Facebook can feel relieving; we can see cute animals or funny videos.

But we have zero control over what we will see on social media.

Your friends and family can share personal updates or news stories that you are not prepared for.

Or you may start watching a cute animal video just to find out it’s an in memoriam—this happened to me recently.

If you’re already feeling anxious, stay offline.

Similarly, be deliberate about when you check the news. It’s important to stay informed. But a majority of the stories are negative.

I don’t need to compound an anxious day with further doom and gloom.

Choose a comforting activity that you can control.

7. Do Not Use Negative Self-Talk

Anxiety will try to convince you that you suck.

But your mind is lying to you.

You are worth so much more than every negative thought.

And you owe it to yourself to be encouraging and optimistic.

I would never speak to the people I love how my mind speaks to me.

I consciously reassure myself that I am safe and loved and better than my mind wants me to believe.

Pinterest image: Transform your mind. How to overcome morning anxiety. Anxiety is a terrible way to start the day. 
Learn how to manage anxious mornings with 
time-intensive strategies.

I hope that you have noticed the common theme among my coping strategies is self-care: giving time to the care of my mind, body and emotions.

For an anxious person, it can feel like the best solution to our struggle is to become numb and just follow through the motions of the day.

But we are not robots.

I want to live a fulfilling life, not just survive the day.

Blocking out feelings to avoid the bad ones also blocks out everything positive, happy and exciting.

Pushing through to endure beyond enduring draws a heavy cost on our health.

And not giving time to our difficult emotions does not control them. It actually takes all control from us.

Knowing the best strategies to serve your anxiety will first depend on what your anxiety triggers are.

| Read more: 100 Anxiety Triggers

Try to keep in mind that most mental health remedies, strategies and skills take practice, time and effort.

There is no quick or easy solution so give yourself time to find the perfect strategies to serve you.

When does your anxiety usually hit? And what is your most successful coping strategy? Share it in the comments below!

Generate Positivity With Affirmations

What’s the state of your internal monologue? Are you encouraging? Or do you ridicule yourself?

Most of us use negative statements regularly:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I can’t do it.
  • I suck.

Whether we say them out loud or in our heads, they do nothing but convince us that we are not worthy of our goals.

But we don’t deserve this negative narrative.

Start speaking to yourself with the same kindness you would offer to the people you cherish.

Affirming your positive life: The benefits of creating your own affirmations and the easy 4-step process to write positivity into your life

The Stigma of Affirmations

I didn’t use to believe in affirmations.

I was deterred by the stigma surrounding people who use words to bolster self-confidence.

Affirmations were often demonstrated by seemingly neurotic, low self-esteem people in movies and TV shows. It gave the impression that affirmations are silly. “A reasonable person would never look in a mirror and tell themselves how great they are”—wrong.

Such negative representations of effective mental health practices keep many people from seeking the help they need. And the support they deserve.

It coincides with the misconceptions that self-care is selfish and that we shouldn’t discuss mental health.

Affirmations are effective, and we should not be afraid to try them.

What is An Affirmation?

Affirmations are positive statements that we use to refresh our minds.

And just as negative talk can erode our self-image, the opposite is true.

  • I am good enough.
  • I can do it.
  • I’m great.

Affirmations can be used to target any part of your life or mentality that you want to change. Make a positive impact on your self-care, self-esteem, career, relationships, or mental health.

Benefits of Creating Your Affirmations

The process has its own benefits.

The internet has many examples of affirmations.  And they’re helpful if you connect with the statements.

However, I believe that the most effective affirmations are those you create for yourself.

Why is that?

Well, let me tell you.

The process has its own benefits.

First, creating affirmations requires self-reflection. Because as we start identifying what we want to change, we discover the root of the negativity.

Second, once we know the root, the positive statements can target those specific negative thoughts.

Last, what we target becomes our goal. Goals provide a means to judge our growth. And seeing our growth encourages us to continue on our journey.

Features of An Effective Affirmation

1.      Positive vibes only.

An affirmation should be positive.

Try not to include any statements that allude to the negative thoughts. This will only draw focus to the negative.

Try not to include words like don’t, won’t and can’t.

Examples of weak affirmations:

  • I don’t suck.
  • I won’t tell myself I can’t do it.
  • I can’t say I’m not worthy.

We want to rephrase the complete sentence into something positive.

2.      Be realistic.

Ensure your goal is believable and achievable. You may be discouraged if it is too far out of your grasp.

Don’t be afraid to set smaller goals while you progress to the big ones.

Say your goal is to get a promotion. That big goal is your endgame.

Set small goals to help get you there:

  • Grow your confidence.
  • Start telling yourself how well you do your job.
  • Start growing your leadership skills.
  • Identify your weaknesses and consider how you can turn them into strengths.

Create affirmations to support each of these goals.

You can also use affirmations to prepare for this journey. For example, use phrases like “I am open to…” and “I am in the process of…” to help you negotiate with your negative mind.

Use your affirmations to inspire: you may not be there yet, but you’re working on it.

3.      Stay in the present.

It is best to write in the present tense using I and my phrases like “I am…” or “I can…” or “My strengths….”

You want to influence your mind’s acceptance that you already possess these positive features.

4.      Focus on the self.

Use affirmations to positively change the things you can control.

Instead of affirming, “My co-workers will like me,” try, “I can accept if they don’t.”

You cannot control what other people think or do. But you can control your reaction.

This journey is about you. Accept yourself, love yourself and grow.

And understand that you may outgrow the negative influencers in your life.

5.      No deadlines.

A sure-fire way to disappoint yourself is to set a progress deadline.

Sometimes the negative thoughts have deep roots. They’ve had years to grow.

And while we can encourage change, we cannot force it. The change will come as you practice your affirmations and work towards your goals.

So try to keep your affirmations free from time expressions like “this time next year,” “by the end of the month,” or “in 30 days.”

6.      Short and sweet.

Keep the affirmation short and to the point. It should be memorable.

You will be repeating your affirmations multiple times a day. And you don’t want to get caught up in trying to remember the wording.

As you begin practicing your affirmations, you may decide to edit the phrasing. That’s great!

Adjust the statements to suit your needs.

Create An Affirmation in Four Steps

Creating an affirmation only takes a few steps.

1.      Set up your page.

(a)      Add a title.

The title is entirely optional but can help keep you organized. The title may be especially beneficial as your journey begins branching into different areas.

For example:

  • Affirmations for self-care
  • Affirmations for my career
  • Affirmations for emotional intelligence

(b)      Divide the page into two columns.

Either fold a page in half or draw a line down the center.

2.      List your negative qualities.

In the left column, write your negatives.

Try to be as specific as possible.

To help you create this list, you could refer to your journal entries, take time to self-reflect, or consider feedback from others.

I will use the example of “I feel uncomfortable standing in front of a class.” (I think first-time teachers and anyone who has hosted a meeting will understand.)

But this is very broad. Yes, I wish I was more comfortable, but what qualities hold me back?

I want to focus on what makes me feel uncomfortable by asking myself questions:

  • What is the cause?
  • Am I afraid?
  • What specifically am I afraid of?
  • Am I nervous about my skills as a teacher?
  • Am I nervous about how my students will behave?
  • Do I feel under-prepared?

Through this process, I may realize the problem stems from an old memory of tripping in class. (I move a lot while teaching, and I’ve bumped into everything!)

In my list, I will write: “I am afraid of making mistakes.”

3.      Write your affirmations.

In the right column, rephrase the negatives into positives.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the positive aspects of these qualities?
  • How might the “weaknesses” be useful?
  • How would you encourage your friends if they said these things about themselves?

Try to use strong words. A thesaurus helps change your wording from good to great.

Remember: you can edit the affirmation at any time.

Let’s write an affirmation for my “I am afraid of making mistakes” example.

Now, let’s figure out the perfect phrase:

  • Every mistake is a chance to learn.
    • Too many words.
  • My mistakes are learning opportunities.
    • I can get better wording.
  • My mistakes influence progress.
    • Perfect! (I used a thesaurus.)

This affirmation is positive, realistic, about me, has no deadlines and, most importantly, is short.

It also encourages my mind to forgive and view mistakes positively.

4.      Stay to the right.

After you write your affirmation, scratch out the negative thought.

It’s finished. Take it off your list and out of your mind.

And highlight the affirmation in a bright colour.

Practice Makes Impact

You want to remember to practice your affirmations daily.

Display the affirmation.

Don’t share it online. But put the affirmation somewhere you will see it.

I like to keep my affirmations on sticky notes, posted next to a mirror or on my closet door.

I use bright colours to connect my mind to the affirmation. For example, I may highlight my affirmation in orange. Then if I use my orange highlighter at work, I will say the affirmation. 

Say the affirmation.

Self-improvement is all about practice. And we practice positive thinking by affirming positive thoughts.

Speak the affirmation out loud for five minutes, three times a day. You can set the schedule, but the standard practice is morning, afternoon and evening.

Try saying the affirmations while looking in the mirror. Make eye contact with yourself. Don’t rush it. Let the phrases sink in.

Try to include your breathing exercise:

Deep breath in → Hold → Exhale slowly → Speak your affirmation

But what if you’re at work or out with friends? Try to write your affirmation multiple times in a notebook. You may also use the Notes app on your phone. This exercise reminds you to think of your affirmations.

Share the affirmation.

If you have a safe person supporting your journey, share your affirmations with them.

For one, they can provide feedback to make the affirmation stronger.

And for another, they can repeat your affirmation to you.

The purpose of an affirmation is to change your self-image. And some of the negative images we have about ourselves come from external factors. So having another person re-affirm that you have these positive qualities is invaluable.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Cleveland Clinic – Do Positive Affirmations Work? What Experts Say

Mind Tools – Using Affirmations

Psychology Today – Affirmations: The Why, What, How, and What If?

My First Affirmations

Most people who provide how-to lists don’t offer examples like this. Perhaps it’s because it’s terrifying to show our vulnerabilities. But this is the purpose of this blog. I hope you will find it helpful.

These were the first affirmations I ever wrote for myself. They took all night as I kept narrowing down the negative side. I really wanted a clear base to build from.

An example of my first affirmations, shown exactly as I described the 4 steps to create affirmations

Looking at these examples now, I think they could use some improvement. However, at the time, they felt right, and they supported me.

After writing these affirmations, I wrote them on a post-it and hung them next to my bedroom mirror.

I felt ridiculous when I started using them, as I still felt the stigma. But I wanted to make positive changes, and I trusted the judgement of my friends who used affirmations.

I started saying them when I was getting dressed, during my lunch break and through my nightly shower.

I did find six affirmations challenging to manage at first.

It was challenging to remember all six and their exact wording. Plus some of them are just too long.

I would start by creating only one or two at a time and slowly adding more.

And edit them as you need to.

Have you ever created an affirmation? What advice would you share?

How to Self-Soothe During a Panic Attack

Even before the diagnosis, I’ve always had coping mechanisms for my anxiety.

Yes, anxiety and panic attacks are not the same thing. However, one may spark the other.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

Some self-soothing techniques came about somewhat subconsciously. Others were deliberately applied. The more deliberate actions were found when I seriously researched my anxiety disorder.

I have tried a long, varied list of activities and methods.

Eventually, I adopted the techniques I found that successfully calm my mind and body.

I prefer practicing multiple self-soothing techniques. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. There’s no cure-all.
  2. It’s best to use different coping mechanisms for different situations.
  3. We should remain open to trying new methods.

In this post, I will give you a few physical and mental coping mechanisms to try.

Physical Coping Mechanisms for Anxiety

The following methods involve external stimulation to calm anxiety.

1.      Holding Thumb to Palm

This is one technique I found by chance.

When I am in a social situation, I become very aware of my hands. To alleviate the awareness, I hold them together.

One day I realized how relieving it is to hold my thumb in my palm.

How to do it:

I am right-handed, so I will hold my right thumb in my left palm. I put my right hand over my left. My right thumb rests flat against my left palm. And my left thumb rests over my right hand.

If you are left-handed, using the opposite hands will be as effective.

A demonstration of how to hold your thumb to the palm of your opposite hand

Notes:

You may need to apply light pressure through your thumb. But it should not feel as though you are gripping your hands.

It is best to hold skin-to-skin. Do not dig your nails into your palm.

Benefits:

I honestly don’t know how it works. But it is very calming.

Perhaps it is slightly grounding. The physical sensation distracts from the mental distress.

Why I like it:

Although it’s physical, others won’t notice when you use this technique. I have done this while teaching or standing in a meeting.

2.      Breathing

The perk of this technique is that it has benefits for both your body and your mind.

How to do it:

Take a deep breath through your nose for at least 4 seconds. Hold it for at least 7 seconds. And slowly exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat three times. Adjust the time to suit your body.

Notes:

During this practice, try not to inhale through your mouth.

Our nose is designed for breathing. That’s its primary purpose, and, for most of us, it’s great at it.

You may find that you are out of breath after breathing through your mouth. This is because our mouth doesn’t fill our lungs quite as well as our nose does. So our mouth can take a big breath, but it won’t reach as deep into the lungs.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Verywell Mind – 8 Deep Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

Right As Rain – This Is Why Deep Breathing Makes You Feel so Chill

Healthline – What Is the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique?

Benefits:

Deep breathing opens the lungs and sends more oxygen to your body. Greater oxygen circulation improves your lungs, muscles and brain.

Also, focusing on your breathing will pull focus away from your anxious thoughts.

During the exercise, the mind concentrates on the air moving through the nose sitting in the lungs and pushing out through the mouth.

Why I like it:

Breathing exercises are lovely. As your body begins to feel better, so will your mind.

3.      Holding a cold water bottle

This is a new technique I’ve been practicing, thanks to a recommendation from a friend.

How to do it:

Grab a water bottle and cup it between your hands. The bottle does not need to be ice cold—that is much too uncomfortable for my sensitive hands. But it should be cooler than your hands.

Hold the bottle for as long as you need to.

Notes:

If you are near a body of water, you may also find just placing your palm over the water’s surface to be calming. Feeling the water lightly lap against the palm is peaceful.

And please know that I am jealous if you are near a lake. I wish I were near a lake.

You can also try holding ice, which I only just found out is currently a trend—I must be getting old for being so far out of the loop.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Medical News Today – Anxiety and hot flashes: What is the link?

Parade – TikTokkers Are Using Ice Cubes to Stop Panic Attacks—But Does This Trick Work?

Stylist – How to Calm Anxiety At Night

Benefits:

Hot flashes are one symptom of anxiety/panic attacks. In response to stress, our body releases hormones and our blood circulation increases.

Think of how relieved and refreshed you feel standing near an air conditioner. Holding the bottle provides a similar cooling effect.

The bottle also applies pressure to the palms, which provides some grounding.

Why I like it:

It’s very handy (pun intended) as I always have my support water bottle nearby. I’ve both slept and taught while holding my water bottle.

Mental Coping Mechanisms for Anxiety

These methods involve internal calming practices or talking ourselves through a panic attack.

1.      Say your reassurances and affirmations

I decided to group both reassurances and affirmations because they are similar practices. But they are not the same thing.

A reassurance is a statement (and/or action) to relieve fears and doubts.

An affirmation is a positive statement to combat negative thoughts.

Again, very similar but slightly different.

You can also think of a reassurance as supporting your reality while an affirmation supports your mentality.

Note: Try combining these phrases with the breathing exercise.

A.      Reassurances

When an external force is triggering my anxiety, I choose to fight back with a reassurance. I know how I would speak to my friends, so I have chosen to be similarly kind to myself.

How to do it:

Assess the situation to find what triggered the attack. Tell yourself that you are safe. And be specific. What are you safe from and why?

For example, let’s say you are panicking because you’re in the middle of a crowd.

“It’s okay. I’m okay. It’s normal to be scared in a crowd. I’m safe. No one here wants to hurt me.”

Repeat these sentences as often as you need. Say them aloud or in your head.

Notes:

I intentionally use multiple sentences when I reassure myself.

I like to start with a short sentence to grab my mind’s attention. I also repeat it with the change from it (the situation) to I (myself) to draw focus to me.

The rest of the statements are about my feelings, safety, and a clear reason why I am safe.

Benefits:

Learning to reassure yourself will give you a lot of power.

You will begin to understand the basis of your fear. Then once you identify it, you are better positioned to manage it.

Using the same example: I am still uncomfortable in a crowd, but I won’t avoid them. And solo adventures have become possible.

Why I like it:

Reassurances can be created on the spot.

B.       Affirmations

My affirmations flip the script when my mind forces my anxiety to panic.

How to do it:

Refer to your cache of affirmations. Choose one or two affirmations that fit the situation. Slowly speak the affirmation to yourself—aloud or in your head. Repeat it until you feel calm.

The best affirmation will depend on what triggered the attack.

Notes:

Affirmations require pre-planning and practice.

Read more: How to Create Unique Affirmations

Benefits:

Affirmations will help you to reprogram your mind.

You may begin to see yourself in a different light. And you will grow confidence in your ability to live with your anxiety and panic attacks.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Mind Tools – Using Affirmations

Happier Human – 45 Positive Affirmations for Anxiety Relief and Stress Reduction

Chopra – 7 Benefits of a Daily Affirmation Plan

Why I like it:

The more often that I use affirmations, the more I trust myself.

2.      Lists

This technique may or may not have been inspired by Dame Julie Andrews.

How to do it:

When the panic attack begins, start listing things in your mind or on paper.

Your list could be things you find comforting, the people you trust, or your tasks for the day.


“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens / Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens / Brown paper packages tied up with strings / These are a few of my favourite things”

Rodgers and Hammerstein, “The Sound of Music” (1959)

Notes:

You may speak through your list or repeat it over in your head.

If you choose to list your tasks for the day, write them down. Keep the number of tasks limited to the few most important things that must be done today. As you complete the tasks, you will get the bonus of being able to check them off.

Benefits:

Lists provide focus.

Your panic attack may want you to hyper-focus on something your mind has determined to be going wrong. By making a list, you adjust that focus. And you will take back power from your hectic mind.

Why I like it:

Lists are easy to create, and I get so much enjoyment from checkmarks.  

3.      Journaling

A lot of relief can come from unleashing your feelings and fears on the page.

How to do it:

Write in your journal or make notes on a mobile app.

You can give details about what is causing the panic attack. Or you can track your feelings and symptoms.

Benefits:

Journaling gives you the ability to release what is attacking your mind. Getting the thoughts and fears out of your head is a big relief.

It will also give you notes about what you were feeling and why. Then you can reflect on the situation at a later time.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Very Well Mind – Journal Writing as a Tool for Coping With Panic and Anxiety

Don’t Panic, Do This – THE Best Panic Attack Diary Template (Anxiety Journaling 101)

Bustle – 7 Types Of Journaling That Can Help You Manage Anxiety

Why I like it:

Putting pen to paper has always been calming to me. I feel better after I write.

How to self-soothe during a panic attack

And there you have it, seven methods to self-soothe during a panic attack.

I hope you will find a few of these suggestions helpful.

Again, some of the techniques I listed may not work for you. But I hope you will continue researching more coping strategies—even the seemingly strange ones.

Try to have a balance of mental and physical techniques.

You want to treat your symptoms, ground yourself in reality and calm your mind.

If you have any strategies to share, please leave them in the comments.