Self-Care Challenge for May: Mental Health Awareness Month
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and although this theme is designated to a particular month, it's been a central one to my entire existence. My father suffered from severe bi-polar disorder and complex PTSD before he passed away six months ago, my mother suffers from complex PTSD, and I too, suffered from complex PTSD for a significant portion of my life, given mental illness played a detrimental role in my childhood. Several years ago, I began a radical healing journey, which lead me into my profession as a trauma-informed mental health practitioner and self-care coach; I realized that helping humans heal was my calling and to this day, I feel passionately fulfilled in my purpose.
Having a private practice and working with incredibly courageous human beings inspires and humbles me daily. I watch women battle anxiety and dedicate everything they have into healing and resiliency. Unfortunately, it's still just as easy to fill yourself with negative self-talk, shame, and feelings of not doing enough, even after putting in all that work. However, as a coach, therapist, and human being who still has to keep her own shit in check in order to thrive; I bare witness to the unprecedented strength and vulnerably my clients, family members, and close friends exhibit.
With that being said, I want to proclaim two things...
You are not weak, never weak, and it's not your fault. Battling negative aspects of yourself everyday makes you a warrior. You are not damaged goods or broken because your illness does not define you; you are a beautiful human being with needs, wants, desires, and a hell of a story. You are healing, rediscovering, and taking all those pieces of your pain and building a stunning mosaic of survival, courage, and radical self-love. You are allowed to have fun and be happy, just as much as you're allowed to cry, stay in bed, and grieve.
Mental Health Awareness Month is about you and taking-care of yourself; it's about honoring each attempt you make to give yourself a fresh start every day.
I went ahead and illustrated a self-care challenge for anyone that would like to participate. You're more than welcome to do it on your own terms, but if you'd like to fully particulate, please complete each challenge by posting your challenges on Instagram with the hashtag #selfcarewithvictoria and tagging me, @victoria.emanuela by May 31st. You'll be entered to win two free sessions with me, Natural Vitality's anti-stress magnesium powder, and $25 to Whole Foods!
This challenge is created to help you invest in a positive and validating relationship with yourself; body, mind, and spirit.
"If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend?"
Victoria's Self-Care Challenge
Challenge one: BreatHe
Practice belly breathing and the 4-7-8 breath for 10 minutes each.
A. Find a comfortable position to sit or lay in, relaxing the body as best you can.
B. Place your hand over your abdomen. Inhale slowly through your nose and as far down into your belly as possible. You should feel your belly move your hand upwards during the inhale, and your belly should rise further than your chest.
C. Pause for a short moment as you hold your breath.
D. Take your time slowly exhaling fully and completely through the mouth, as your belly deflates until there is no air left inside.
Watch this video for more guidance
4 - 7 - 8 Breath:
A. Sit or lay comfortably, take a moment, and notice your breath.
B. Inhale through your nose and into the belly, expanding the diaphragm for 4 full counts.
C. Hold your breath for 7 counts.
D. Exhale completely for 8 counts, forcing the air out of the mouth making a "woosh" sound, as you bring your diaphragm back in.
Watch this video for more guidance!
Challenge two: Ask for praise
Ask someone who loves you for praise.
It's not narcissistic! It's actually a stigma in our culture to be shamed when asking for things we need, especially for our mental health. The ones who love us often think to themselves about how wonderful we are, but sometimes they just don't think to express it. Everyone deserves to feel validated and reminded that they're more than just what their inner critic tells them, so here's your chance to feel good about yourself and hear some words of kindness!
Challenge three: Write yourself a love letter
Put that negative self-talk aside, tell your inner critic to fuck off, and give yourself some well deserved credit. Think about how far you've come and how hard you work every week toward healing. Apologize for being mean to yourself and give yourself some saucy compliments because there are so many amazing things about who you are. If this challenge feels awkward, try writing all the things you'd love someone to say to you, but write them to yourself instead!
*Mail this letter to yourself. Yes, go to the post office, get a stamp, and wait for it to show up in your mail in a few days.
Challenge four: Go Earthing
Balance your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system by placing your bare feet on the ground for 30 minutes; be it grass, dirt, sand or concrete! Earth is naturally flooded with electrons and electrical fields. Sounds fancy, right? Both of which are super important for the functioning of your body's natural rhythms, immune system, and general physiology. Research shows that Earthing can decrease inflammation in the body and calm anxiety just by simply grounding yourself.
Challenge five: Leave notes on stranger's windshields
The best way to feel better about ourselves is by making others feel good! Studies show that volunteering, giving a hand, or making someone feel special enhances our well-being and even decreases the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Cut up some scrap paper and write 10 positive notes, then stick them on random car windshields to bring some healing into this world. We get what we give!
Challenge six: Nourish Yourself
Pick a day to nourish your mind and body by choosing to eat healing meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Load up on greens, cut out processed food, drink kombucha or fresh juices, and make healthy choices that leave you feeling balanced and better.
Challenge seven: List reasons why life is good
Anxiety, depression, and living with a mental illness tends to distort our thinking and turn molehills into mountains, making it easy to ruminate on what's going wrong in our lives and where we're falling short. For this challenge, shift your perspective and make a list of 20 reasons, be a little or significant, of all the positive things going on in your life.
Challenge eight: Play outside
Many people take life too seriously, especially when battling anxiety. We stop prioritizing playfulness, laughter, and being silly. The act of play is incredibly healing and great for our mental health. When we're able to be playful, life seems a lot less intense, and our ability to shift our focus into lightheartedness becomes much easier. For many of us, there's a wounded inner child at the core of our pain, and it's important to engage with them. Take yourself to the park and play outside for two hours; swing, do cart-wheels, lay in the grass, fly a kite, eat popsicles, and whatever feels fun!
Challenge nine: Do something you've been putting off
Anxiety can make the most basic chores or errands seem incredibly daunting, which often leads to inaction, like procrastination, and even more anxiety! For this challenge, do something you've been avoiding that's been causing you stress. Ask for help and get it done, it'll feel amazing to have it off your plate.
Challenge ten: Tell someone how much they mean to you
Expressing gratitude and words of love not only brightens people's day, but it creates a space of intimacy, vulnerability, and validation between people. Telling someone how much they mean to you helps us practice positive vulnerability and affirms our relationships, which in turn helps build trust, support, and stronger bonds. Tell someone how much they mean to you by speaking, writing a letter, poem, or whatever it takes to convey your most genuine thoughts.
All the more power to you for telling more than just one person. Love is free!
Good luck on your journey to a healthier, brighter, and balanced life. I'm rooting for you!