Self-Care Basics Bootcamp

-by Terah Kelleher, Technical Services Assistant

The wellness and self-care industries are packed full of ways to take care of yourself. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, self-care is the “activity of taking care of one’s own health, appearance, or well-being.” Self-care fads come and go but there are practices that remain constant. Think of the basic things we do every day for survival. We sleep, breathe, think, and move. Every day is a new opportunity to approach each of these activities in a healthy way to achieve a better quality of life.

HPU Libraries offer numerous wellness-promoting eBooks, print books, and DVDs that can be checked out with your HPU Passport card. This week, many of these resources are on display in front of the reference desk at Smith Library. As always, feel free to ask a librarian for a recommendation.

You may ask yourself, why is a librarian giving wellness advice? Yes, I’m a librarian here at HPU’s Smith Library but my first professional career began in 2003 as a massage therapist. I’ve been working with people to cultivate their self-care skills for over 15 years. Also, I’ve had to learn to take care of myself in the process.

As the semester starts, we can get into high-stress mode. Our first line of defense to combat this stress should be to give attention to our breathing, sleeping, exercise, and mental habits.

Breathe:

We can go without eating food for weeks and drinking water for days but can only go without air for a few minutes, says McKweown in his book, The Oxygen Advantage. McKweown continues by noting that we spend a huge part of our energy on what we drink and eat, leaving quality breathing by the wayside (p. 1). This book educates readers on the importance of getting adequate oxygen and offers practical breathing exercises.

Brule continues the homage to breathing in his book, Just Breathe: Mastering Breathwork. What is breathwork? Brule defines it as “ the use of Breath Awareness and Conscious Breathing for healing and growth, personal awakening, and transformation in spirit, mind, and body” (p. 3). He says that three basic skills of breathwork include awareness, relaxation, and breathing. Each can be a key message to the body. Awareness says “wake up,” relaxation says “let go,” and breathing says “take charge” (p. 5). How empowering this can be with something that is ours and moldable, if only we would put energy into doing so.

Intrigued? Here are some more HPU library resources centered around breathing.

Sleep:

In The Paradox of Sleep: The Story of Dreaming, Jouvet explains that “the human brain spends energy in thinking, in a similar way to a working muscle” (p. 8). Therefore, it makes sense that our brain needs recoup time in the form of sleep to function at its optimal level. In Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, Walker says sleep contributes to our brain’s ability “to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions and choices” (p. 7). Psychologically, sleep assists us to approach social and school events with a better mindset. Sleep boosts our immunity because it “restocks the armory of our immune system” and helps ward off illness (p. 7). Dement, in The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night’s Sleep, shares that “well-slept people are more engaged, can keep more ideas in their head simultaneously, and can think through new ideas more clearly” (p. 314).

These sleep books give great techniques to adopt to increase your sleep sufficiency, which can make college a smoother ride. Get a good night’s sleep and you’re much more likely to make a good grade on that exam! Click this link to see other sleep resources we have at HPU Libraries.

Think Positive:

Our minds are usually at the center of every task and mastering the mindset with which we best approach our daily lives is another key life skill. In Yoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress Relief, Lusk defines stress as anytime we feel threatened by real or imagined situations (p. 37). Also, the critical voice in our head can sometimes create these imagined threatening feelings. For example, if you are going to take a test and your thoughts say, “You’re going to fail!” This is not a helpful thought for studying for that test. Why not try to shoot for the positive alternative thoughts or not allowing these thoughts to ignite negative feelings at all inside of you? Just like physical exercise, this may take practice. Tolle, in The Power of Now, speaks of the healthy mind approach of observing your thoughts rather than letting them create negative emotions inside of you and staying in the present moment as a way to feel at peace. McKeown, author of #Now: The Surprising Truth about the Power of Now, mirrors Tolle’s ideas by explaining how we cannot change the past but we can change our future by being in control of what happens in the present moment.

So why not use the present moment to foster positive thoughts and feelings rather than negative? Meditation and mindfulness are also helpful approaches to create a positive mindset.

Move:

The Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research describes exercise as a physical activity that develops or maintains “one or more components of physical fitness and overall health.” In How to Be a Student: 100 Great Ideas and Practical Habits for Students Everywhere, Moore shares that exercise should be an essential element in a student’s life and that the effects of exercise include the following: increased alertness, oxygen flow, memory efficiency, energy levels, and creative mental patterns (p. 34). With the amount of sitting a student, faculty, or staff member can do in a semester, it is best to move when you can to counteract the lack of movement. A great way to start to choose what type of exercise you will like is to look at what gyms usually offer – Pilates, yoga, and cardio classes rooted in various styles of dance, boxing, weightlifting, and more.

Click on the links to see what HPU Library resources we have for each type of exercise: Pilates, yoga, and Cardio Dance. If you are curious about exercise in general, here’s a link to HPU Smith Library resources. Keep in mind, however, that it is always recommended to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.

By focusing on these basics self-care tools, you can start the semester off on a positive note. However, don’t get flustered if you slip up at first. The idea is to keep trying to foster these skills, and do the best you can to work toward optimal health and wellness.