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Focusing on well-being to decrease stress

We are all doing our best to navigate living in the midst of a pandemic. We are being pulled in many directions, not always knowing where we are going, why we are going there, and once there, realizing that we are expected to be everything to everyone. Can you relate? This is overwhelming and can have a profound impact on our own well-being. You may be wondering: “What can I do about it? How can I focus on my own well-being and do everything else that needs to be done?” The answer is with small deliberate steps every day.

The first step is prioritizing well-being. As adults, we often tend to the needs of those around us. Then, if there is time, we attend to our own. The problem is there is never enough time and we end up neglecting ourselves and our well-being. Over time the daily stressors will accumulate, eventually reaching a tipping point. When we reach the tipping point we are no longer able to support others and have a lower threshold for coping with additional stressors. It can result in a vicious cycle. To help and support those you love, you have to start by taking care of yourself, focusing on your well-being.

The next step is figuring out what works best for you! Self-care is not a one size fits all. Develop a list of things you enjoy. Some may involve more or less time, big or small activities, active or passive, indoor or outdoor, individual or group, and more. There is no one right way to self-care. Think about what helps you destress. For me, it is music. In my world, there is no better way to release the weight of daily stressors and worry than listening to a great song. What is on your list? Take some time and write it down. Include as many self-care ideas on your list as possible. If you are having trouble generating ideas please check out the self-care tool boxes on the Central Rivers AEA’s Well-Being website at www.centralriversaea.org.

When you’ve identified what works for you, make a list of the obstacles you will encounter when incorporating these activities into your daily life. For most of us, the biggest obstacle is time. Keep in mind that self-care does not need to be time-consuming. It can be a brief breathing or mindfulness practice, a short walk, calling a friend or family member, a virtual coffee date, setting up a routine, a mini dance session, etc. Whatever works best for you!

Now that you have a list of possible self-care practices to improve well-being and potential obstacles write down possible solutions to overcome the obstacles. Where are your opportunities to prioritize self-care? When reviewing possible solutions explore the pros and cons of each option. Keep in mind what is realistic for you! Dedicating time to focus on your well-being will be worth it. You are worth it and deserve it.

Next, make a plan. Set yourself up for success. Identify specific actions you will take every day to include self-care, then do it! Daily positive experiences, regardless of how small, accumulate over time and have a significant impact on your well-being. Focusing on your well-being will help both you and your loved ones continue to decrease stress, increase well-being, and navigate life during the pandemic and beyond. Remember to include celebrations for following your plan and give yourself grace, we are all doing the best we can.

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Dana Miller is a school psychologist with Central Rivers Area Education Agency, based out of Cedar Falls.

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