Elizabeth (Liz) Chiotellis is currently an intern at Alameda Unified District in Alameda, California, which is located in the Bay Area.  Liz recently received her M.A. from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI and will be completed with her program at the end of her internship.

During graduate school and the COVID-19 pandemic, Liz has worked greatly on self-care and has supported many others on their journey to wellness as well.  Keeping a consistent daily self-care routine has been one of Liz's many ways to make her self-care sustainable.

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Self-Care Spotlight

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How do you make self-care doable and sustainable?

I love that sustainable is in this question. I have seen many people I am close to "fall off" in their self-care because they go full tilt and crash. I too have fallen victim to being overzealous and quickly burnt out on my lofty goals of 30-minute meditations and reading 15 books in two weeks on spirituality. I have learned that doing just a small amount of something good and letting it blossom organically serves me best, and helps to sustain. That way, I am finding things I love doing instead of forcing them.

What tip would you give to someone who is new to self-care?

Try things for a few weeks before giving up on them; if you don’t like it after the two-week period, stop. There are plenty of things to do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How does self-care fit into your daily/weekly routine?

Self-care fits into my daily routine because I make room for it; I prioritize it, and it is a prioritization born

of necessity.  My sanity hangs daily in the balance, and requires frequent and intentional attention.

This attention to self-care usually involves exercise, doing things with people I love, communicating

how I am feeling to someone who understands, creating music, meditation, and self-reflection. I have

learned that I need this dailyroutine to best understand my intentions and my emotions.

Holden Ray is a first-year school psychologist at the Christina School District in Delaware.  He received his Ed.S. at The University of Nebraska Omaha.  As an early career school psychologist, Holden recognizes the importance of self-care.  

Holden was asked some questions about his self-care, and here is what he shared:

What is an interesting or unique self-care activity that you do?

I have recently started tapping during meditation. I thought it was cockamamie nonsense previously, but decided to try it 

 anyways. I no longer think it is nonsense, or that it is nonsense and being open minded to it created a kind of placebo effect.  Regardless, I have been doing it for the last eight months or so, and it has been helping.  I was given a tapping pattern to follow at first from a therapist, but after a while, I started "free styling," treating my face and torso like a drum kit.  It is relaxing and nice.  It has served me greatly to be open-minded to new things.

How Does Self-Care Fit into Your Daily Routine?

 

I try to fit in self-care breaks and rituals into my daily schedule. I am a very routine and schedule-oriented person, so this ensures I don’t forget my self-care activities!  For example, I like to start my day with a morning walk, which energizes me and gives me the feeling of being productive.  I also like to take a short coffee/tea break in the afternoon, which helps to break up the long afternoon stretch of a workday.  In the evenings, I have been carving out time to do some leisure reading, which gives me something to look forward to!  On Fridays or on the weekends, I like to plan a fun happy hour with friends, which have been via Zoom lately.

What is One of Your Unique Self-Care Activities?

Cooking is something I am very passionate about!  I really like starting a recipe and seeing the end product, similar to finishing a work of art.  I realize laborious, messy, and time-consuming cooking projects like making homemade pasta may not be considered relaxing and a conventional form of self-care, but it definitely is for me.

What Tip Would You Give to Someone Who is New to Self-Care?

I would suggest starting out small and working your way up.  For example, try picking one or a few low-maintenance self-care activities (e.g., treat yourself to a nice meal/dessert once a week, take a break to listen to your favorite song, or go for a short walk) that can be built easily into your schedule.  Once you feel comfortable with that, try adding in some more or bigger activities, such as learning a new hobby.  Having an open mind helps as it may take some trial and error to see what works best for you.

What are Some Self-Care Pointers Specific for Graduate Students and Those in Their Early Career?

  • Find a time management system that works for you.  I like the cloud-based Google Calendar that is linked to all my devices.  I can also set up reminders and alerts that help me to stay on top of deadlines.

  • Build in time to unwind after a long day of class, work, internship, etc.

  • Carve out time during the week to solely spend on something fun and/or meaningful for you.  For example, I designated every Saturday as a day where I do not spend time on work or studying.

  • Use positive self-talk!  Think of some kind of mantra that is helpful to bear in mind, especially when times get hectic.

What are Some Self-Care Pointers Specific to COVID-19?

  • Maintain structure during your day/week.  This is especially important for those working or studying entirely remotely, as the days can blend together.  Setting small goals for each day and having a to-do list are easy ways to help build structure.

  • Remember to exercise!  If the gyms are not open, try going on daily walks/runs every day.  Youtube has countless exercise videos delivered in a class style format including, but not limited to: yoga, meditation, Zumba, barre, pilates, and other no-equipment workouts.

  • Connect with others!  Try to schedule FaceTime/Zoom/phone calls with friends and family.  For me, I’ve been having weekly Zoom happy hour chats with friends, a weekly family Yahtzee tournament, which is an easy game to play remotely.  Another option for playing games are websites called “Board Game Arena” and “Tabletopia” which allow you to play board games online with others.

  • Practice gratitude by thinking of something positive that happened each day.

  • Try engaging in some activity you may not have had time to do in the hustle and bustle of typical life.  This could include getting rid of things you don’t need, or trying new recipes or a hobby.

How does self-care fit into your daily/weekly routine?

I am currently working full-time as a school psychologist and working on my doctorate, so I have to be really intentional with how I use my time. My self-care is woven throughout my day. I try to take a few minutes alone each morning before I step into the hustle and bustle of kids, carlines, and all the things! I used to check my emails first thing in the morning when I would wake, but finally realized those things can wait a short time until I get into my office, which frees up some morning time. In the afternoons, I try to make a concerted effort to be present with my family during meal times, because those are the people who fill my bucket. 

What is an interesting or unique self-care activity that you do?

I love to get outside in nature and look at things that are green and lush and just not my computer screen, LOL! I have 3 boys and they are all scouts so they encourage me to get outdoors often. My other indulgence is Audible. I love biographies, especially underdog stories, but between work, grad school, and kids, I don't have the time I would like to read. I listen to Audiobooks in my car everyday. Some of my favorites have been Educated, Eunice, RBG's biography, and literally every book Malcolm Gladwell authors. Podcasts are also great, too! It gives me a good mental separation when I leave work and go home to my family. 

How do you make self-care doable and sustainable?

The key word is INTENTION. I have to be intentional with my time and I have to remember it is ok to invest in myself in this way. For a long time I suffered from a condition called "Mom Guilt" and thought any spare moment should be spent on my kids or I wouldn't reach some unattainable level of mom of the year.....but in time I have learned I am a better mother when I take the time to take care of myself. I also keep myself accountable to a small group of fellow school psychs. We vent and share our lives with one another, which is also a buffer to stress, just having people that we relate to, but we also hold each other accountable and remind each other to engage in self-care. 

 

What tip would you give to someone who is new to self-care?

Schedule it. If you don't intentionally schedule, it won't happen. It cannot be something you get to when you get to it. Don't think you don't have time when that brisk walk or a few minutes to meditate could actually help you focus better and return to task with more efficiency afterwards. Your body and mind sure have a way of letting you know when you are neglecting them. Give yourself permission to make yourself a priority; It's really ok. You cannot pour from an empty bucket. 

 

What are some things you have had to do specifically to adjust your self-care during a pandemic?

Set some boundaries! At  the beginning of Corona, there was this blurred line between work and home because of course, they became one and the same. I created a designated space in the house for my work area and created a transition routine when it was time to put it all down for the day, including changing into comfy clothes, writing myself a to do list for the next day, and reminding myself that the list could wait until the next day. I heard of some people listening to a few minutes of music as they would in the car on the way home to send the brain a message that it was transition from work to home time. Figure out whatever works for you in shutting off your brain.

Our most recent and long-overdue Self-Care Spotlight is Amber Boykin!

Amber is a school psychologist and PBiS Coordinator at Lincoln Parish Schools in Ruston, (Northern) Louisiana.  In addition, Amber is the Louisiana NASP Delegate and is a part of her state school psychology association.  Amber is incredibly dedicated to the profession, including supporting and promoting colleagues, whether it is through teaching, service, and/or media.

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