Some time ago a heartwarming video went viral on Reddit which showed police officers in the Netherlands arriving at the scene of a car accident involving two children. In hand, the police officers carried brown teddy bears shielded from the rain in plastic sheaths. They handed the stuffed bears over to the children, and almost instantly the children looked soothed.
The teddy bear method of crisis intervention is an excellent lesson in self-care because their environment didn't change. They were still standing on the side of the cold-rainy highway as a result of a frightening experience. Still, at that moment there was something comforting to shift their focus a little from the chaos around them. Likewise, when so much is outside of your control, it's important to soothe yourself in spite of the circumstances, and your focus is the key.
You're Nearly Always Focused On Something
Unless you are in a state of meditation or asleep, something always has your focus and that something is summoning emotion from you. If you turn a funny movie on and focus on it, you feel cheerful. But, if you turn on a funny movie and then shift your focus to work emails from co-workers you don’t like, you don’t feel so good. Although that same movie is playing and is offering the same experience, you not focusing on it means you can’t receive the benefit of it. Make sense?
Create An Easily Accessible Self-Care Toolkit
In the instance of the teddy bear for crisis intervention, the bear was merely a pre-planned tried and true tool in a kit that the police officers knew would shift the children's focus. For you, your tried and true tools may be cute animal gifs that are easily accessible on your phone. Or, perhaps there's a song that you can't help but dance to. The point is to figure out what makes you feel better and have it handy before you need it. Then, even when you’re in the middle of an unwanted situation, you can soothe yourself a little while the details are being worked out. With focus, a little goes a long way.
Create Your Kit While You're Amped Up
The best time to gather your tools is while you feel good. If you find yourself jamming to a new song save it to a special self-care playlist. If you stumbled on the mother-load of funny videos and gifs, save those mofos to a particular self-care photo album. Hell, hug a teddy bear with your grown ass. There’s no shame in the self-care game. Whatever you feel inspired to do when you’re happy is what you should do when you’re not.
Be Mindful, Other People Want To Feel Good Too
If you can, try not to include other people in said kit and here’s why. Most people cannot drop what they’re doing at the dime of a hat to be your emotional sounding board. Additionally, most people aren't practiced in managing their own emotions. Therefore, them soothing you can be an emotional drain for them.
You can tell if your energy is drained if when you hang up the phone, you feel worse than when you answered it. Sometimes you can call someone while in a lousy mood and perhaps they were only in a slightly better mood, so the conversation still descended into a bitch-fest that left you both angry. I'm sure you catch my drift.
Friends are absolutely a component of self-care, but they are not your tools. So, be mindful of where your power comes from and that what you're looking for are consistent methods of soothing yourself into a better and better feeling place.
Self-Care Is About Feeling Better And BETTER
Although the inspiration for this piece is a video of an emotionally challenging situation, I want to stress that your self-care kit should not be relegated to negative situations. Self-care is the practice of gassing up your emotional engine. It is a tool to get you to the next rung on the emotional ladder from wherever you are.
There is no ceiling to how good you can feel and you should always be striving for that next level. When you feel sad, self-care yourself into feeling okay. Then, self-care yourself into feeling good. Then, self-care yourself into feeling great. Then, self-care yourself into feeling elated.
Just keep going. Break your self-care kit out over and over and keep adding tools while you're in that ever good-feeling emotional place. Otherwise, you may be holding yourself in a delicate stage of living one unwanted experience from an emotional meltdown.
Feeling Good Takes Practice
It may seem unnatural to attempt to shift your focus via a self-care kit, but everything feels inauthentic until you get good at it. Artists don't start out creating masterpieces. And, you probably didn't show up on day one of your job knowing all the ends and outs. But, there was a moment after a period of training or practice where you felt like you at least knew enough to be dangerous.The same holds true for self-care and being deliberate about managing your emotions. The goal is to get good, and that takes time. But, like with anything, you do the best you can and wake up the next day to try again.
So, did this piece resonate? Do you feel inspired to be more strategic about your self-care practices? What’s in your toolbox so far? Let’s chat in the comments below. I’m standing by.