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Lifestyle website of Professional Model and Nutritionist, Brooke Slade. 

Self Care with Brooke

Self-care, to me, is the single most important practice in life. You have to show up for yourself, first, before you are able to show up for anything or anyone else. Here, I explore self-care methods, practices and share ways to incorporate more self-care to everyday life.

Filtering by Tag: vulnerability

Self-Care Practices for Emotional Wellness

Brooke Slade

October is Emotional Wellness Month and, because of this, I thought it would be a great time to dive deeper into one of my favorite topics: self-care. Maintaining our emotional wellness is just as important as maintaining our physical wellness. Our emotions can affect how we navigate our days and, ultimately, how we live. Think about it, it’s no mistake that your work day may seem more difficult while experiencing an emotionally taxing event. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), how you feel can affect your ability to carry out everyday activities, your relationships, and your overall mental health.

Inspired by this month’s theme, I wanted to share a few self-care practices that focus specifically on supporting and improving emotional wellness. These practices are what I turn to when I am looking to work with and work through emotions.

Self-Care Practices for Emotional Wellness

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There are times when our thoughts are wrapped up in our emotions and they become so thick and cloudy that it may seem difficult to navigate or find the mental space to process. Times like this, I turn to writing. Writing gives your emotions a place to go, a place to land outside of your body. The process of purge-writing is simple: you are giving life to your emotions word by word and freeing your mind and body of their weight.

Purge Writing in Steps

  1. Find a place to put your words. This can be a journal, the notes app on your phone, or on a piece of scrap paper— anywhere is okay.

  2. Write whatever’s on your mind and do not censor yourself. Let it all out. Express yourself however you need to.

  3. Write as little or as much as you need to. There’s no set amount of pages or words—the goal is to release.

  4. Center yourself. After you’ve let it all out, find your center, your peace. You can do this by placing your hand on your heart and moving your attention to your heartbeat or the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.

  5. Create closure. Now that your feelings are out—leave them where you put them. When journaling, I create closure by folding the pages in. When writing on a stray sheet of paper, I receive closure by shredding or crumbling the paper.

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Square Breathing

When emotions are high (or low), breathing exercises are always a good idea. Medical research suggests that regular deep-breathing exercises can reduce anxiety & depression, encourage muscle relaxation, stabilize blood pressure and decrease stress. Currently, my go-to breathing exercise is square breathing. It helps me to be mindful, still and centered while replenishing my body.

Square Breathing in Steps

  1. Find a comfortable position, either seated or lying on your back.

  2. Inhale while counting 1…2…3…4

  3. Hold your breath & count 1…2…3…4

  4. Exhale while counting 1…2…3…4

  5. Hold your breath & count 1…2…3…4

  6. Repeat

Need more guidance? Here’s a tutorial.

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Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

My emotions always feel off when I haven’t had enough sleep. If I haven’t had at least 7 hours the night before, my day (and emotions) feel all over the place. “Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood.” (Sleep and Mood, Harvard Health). While it can be hard to get “normal sleep”, especially if you are prone to sleeplessness or insomnia, you can improve your sleep by amping up your sleep hygiene.

Tips for Better Rest

  1. Set your bedtime. Setting a bedtime (and sticking to it) will help your body form the habit of seeking rest at a specific time.

  2. Brain dump. Thoughts and emotions can keep us up at night. Practice a little purge writing before bed so that you can rest with a clear mind.

  3. Create a bedtime ritual. Getting yourself ready for bed helps your body slowly relax. My bedtime ritual? A warm shower or bath followed by a cup of hot tea.

My Self-Care "Aha!" Moment & How I Define Self-Care

Brooke Slade

Despite what you might be thinking, self-care is not the same thing as pampering, although some pampering is certainly nice now and then. At its root, self-care includes any intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
— Shelley Hunter Hillesheim, Self-Care 101

Self-care is trending right now and, as a self-care advocate, sure, I have mixed feelings about that. I don't want it to lose its value. However, I am happy that its trending.

I'm hoping that the current trendiness of self-care will lead more people to dig deeper and discover the importance of true self-care, develop their own definition of self-care and implement self-care practices. It may sound a bit dramatic, but, self-care saved my life. It changed the way I think about myself, the ways I interact with others, and the thoughts I have about others and the world.

It was after spending the bulk of my mid-messy-twenties doing the absolute most that I realized I needed to stop and reevaluate the way I was treating myself. What led to my exact self-care "aha!" moment? It was the day after my 27th birthday festivities, I woke up in my tiny bedroom in Bed-Stuy next to one of my best girlfriends, still wearing my makeup and outfit from the night before and feeling insanely ill. This ill-feeling wasn't your regular hangover, my entire body felt as if it was ready to shut down. I couldn't eat anything, I couldn't even stomach water.

I went to the hospital and was diagnosed with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. For me, this was a gut-punch because I was a "model who lived a healthy lifestyle" (serious side-eye to my younger self). In reality, my lifestyle wasn't very healthy at all, I ate and exercised for body-size at the time. I wasn't concerned with being healthy, I thought that thin = healthy. So, that meant I could eat steak and chocolate cake washed down with a couple of glasses of Pinot as long as I had some greens and made it to the gym the next day. 

Finding out I had GERD was a wake up call. For the first time in my life, I had a health complication that, if not treated properly, could change my life. My mother is a colon cancer survivor whose beginning symptoms were regular digestive issues; it was time for a lifestyle change.

Initially, the notion of self-care sounded to me (as it sounds to many people) as something completely self-indulgent. As someone who was already being called-out for leading a "dangerously selfish lifestyle", I felt the last thing I needed to do was invest more time and energy into myself because I was already "self absorbed" as is. Clearly, I had no idea of the true meaning of self-care. I thought of self-care as amping-up the things I already did to make myself feel good--so that just meant more manicures, beach days, glasses of wine and shopping days. No? No. 

So how did I begin to understand the actual meaning of self-care? Well, there were many factors, because it was also at this time that I was beginning to transition from carefree-ignorance-is-bliss-model-who-danced-on-couches to half-woke-baby-feminist but, the major influences were...

1) Talks with a woke-as-fuck-feminist-activist-educator friend.

2) Group talks with my roommates who were also Black women living the NYC hustle and becoming more intentional about self-care.

3) Seeing Angela Davis speak. Hearing her story, from her mouth to my ears motivated me to take care of myself so that I can better care for my community; specifically other black women and black girls.

4) Being introduced to Audre Lorde's story and work. This was the first time I'd heard of self-care, for Black women, to not only be necessary but a political act. 

I began to take better care of myself. I started with my diet. I began to avoid certain foods and became more intentional about eating fruits and vegetables. I began to treat myself to a green juice after the gym rather than a doughnut. I began to cook for myself, using mostly vegetables (I couldn't afford much meat anyway on my starving-artist budget at the time). I began to walk more; from Brooklyn to Manhattan, from Midtown to Soho. I gave my spirit what it needed; I wrote, I found a church I liked, I took frequent trips to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. I shared myself differently, I began to pay more attention to my friends and family, offering love and support rather than gossip and good times. I noticed my life starting to change. No, I wasn't "whole and healed" overnight, in many ways I was still messy and would sometimes dismiss my dietary restrictions; but I was different. I cared for myself in a new way, I cared about myself in a new way, I felt more worthy. I was doing the work.

Over time, I came to understand that self-care is not selfish it all. Self-care is a necessary part of life, as necessary as eating and sleeping. I began to understand that self-care is required, it is the only way that I can replenish what I give to the world, daily--so that I can wake up and give again the next day. I learned that self-care is not simply indulging or spoiling myself; its digging deeper and listening to what my mind, body and spirit needs; refilling the cup from which I pour. 

My definition of self-care is the act of giving yourself what you need in order to create and maintain mind-body-spirit wellness. To me, it is the single most important practice in life. You have to show up for yourself, first, before you are able to show up for anything or anyone else. 

How do you define self-care for yourself? What was your self-care "aha!" moment? Leave a comment! I'm always interested in hearing your thoughts.