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    I hope you are enjoying some warmer days and sunshine. With the official start of spring just a few days away, I would like to discuss the idea of letting go of what no longer serves you. Spring is a time of renewal, of planting new seeds. In efforts to make way for the newness of the season (physically, mentally and emotionally), it may be necessary to let go of a thing or two.

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    Happy 2018! I hope the new year finds you happy and healthy. One of my yoga teachers shared that a friend of hers had wished her a "Happy NOW Year". This was her friends way of reminding her of the importance of being in the now, or in the present moment.

    Keeping ourselves in the present is of course challenging for many reasons including the pressure to multitask and constantly being barraged by new information via technology. The new year is a perfect time to set an intention to be more mindful.

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    With the holiday season in full swing, many of us may find ourselves already feeling a bit over tired, over spent and over socialized. While this time of year may invoke feelings of love and joy, it can also be a time of increased demands and being pulled in many directions.

    During the season of giving, don't forget to give to yourself first. No one wants to begin the new year feeling exhausted, burned out and broke. With the feeling of one more party to attend, one more gift to buy, or one more dish to make, sticking to your boundaries can be a real challenge.

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    With the busy time of year upon us, I thought it was a good time to write about the concept of maintaining center. I know for me personally, with the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the year drawing to a close, this is always an exceptionally challenging time for me to uphold a sense of calm.

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    I hope you have had the opportunity since last post to reflect on how and when you may or may not be self-compassionate. Studies show 80 percent of us treat others with more compassion and kindness than we offer to ourselves. When our friends have a bad day or are struggling, we jump in to support them in any way we can; when it's our own self who is having a bad day, or has failed at something, we generally beat ourselves up with self-judgment and self-criticism.

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    First of all, let me say thank you for your patience with me in the gap between blog posts. I took on some extra professional responsibilities this summer, and while I'm proud to say I managed to keep up with my personal practice of self-care; I'm sorry that my self-care blog did indeed get put on the back burner. Needless to say, I thought it was good timing to write about self-compassion.

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    In keeping with the theme of self-awareness, I would like to share an activity called Personal Good. I learned this activity from a Communities in Schools Chicago social/emotional training with local expert Caryn Curry. I appreciate this activity for it provides space to reflect on our bigger picture, things which may get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It sheds light on many aspects of our personalities.

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    In the self-care classes I teach, we always take some time to reflect on self-awareness. I share with my students that while it takes a certain amount of self-awareness to practice self-care, the practice itself also builds self-awareness.

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    Often when I talk to adults about self-care the conversation leads to changes people want to make in their life. These changes may be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. This seems natural as taking the time to recognize where we do and don't take care of ourselves builds self-awareness and from awareness blossoms evolution (a.k.a. change).

    Many have probably read a quote or two about change being one of the only things we can count on in life. We also know that change can be difficult. People often ask where do I start, how do I get motivated?

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    How many of you have kept a journal at some point in your life? A journal can take many forms including a diary, a gratitude journal, daily affirmations, or simply a space to work through life challenges or celebrate success. Committing to writing in a journal on a regular basis can be a great way to practice self-care as journaling encourages self-awareness, mindfulness, self-confidence, and healing.

    Exactly how you might ask? Let's break each of these self-care benefits down:

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    Back in December when I posted about the four elements of self-care I briefly mentioned stepping outside of your comfort zone as a means of promoting competence. I would like to further explore this idea.

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    When was the last time you gave yourself a pat on the back or acknowledged a job you did well? Giving self-praise can be challenging at best, and can even feel egotistical at worst. All human beings have a strong inherent need to be recognized and valued. The truth is, we all need a balance between being able to acknowledge ourselves and needing acknowledgement from others.

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    How easy is it for you to say "no" to others? I often hear people who are stressed out or over-committed admit, "I have a hard time saying no". Few would argue that uttering this little, two-letter word is more difficult for some than others. Saying "no" when necessary, is a tool we all need in our self-care toolbox.

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    If I asked you to take a look at your to-do list, how many of you would have self-care, or "take time for me" on that list? If you do, congratulations! Most often, I find there are three scenarios that exist around scheduling time for self-care:

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    Boundaries are a vital aspect of self-care. Establishing boundaries can help one manage stress, accomplish goals, get enough sleep, and enjoy a healthy personal and professional life. For some of us, setting and maintaining boundaries is much easier said than done!
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    Happy 2017! This is the time of year when many of us make new year's resolutions. While new year's resolutions are a great way to start off the new year feeling our best, research shows that while about 50% of Americans make new year's resolutions, only 8% actually achieve them.

    This new year, I invite you to consider creating something different, something which will encourage you to be your best self in 2017 and beyond. Just what exactly am I speaking of you might ask… a personal mission statement!

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    There are many different elements, or facets to self-care. When I think of self-care, I immediately think of taking care of myself physically. I know for me personally, part of practicing self-care is eating right and getting some physical activity every day.

    I appreciate Kristin Souers' model of what she calls the "Top Four Components of Self-Care" which include health, love, competence, and gratitude. Her components challenged me to think a little outside of the box when thinking about self-care. Let's break each one down:

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    One of my favorite quotes about self-care comes from poet laureate Audre Lorde –

    "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation."

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    Welcome to the Refill Your Cup with Self-Care blog!

    I'm Michele Crawford, and I'm a Community Health Educator with Cook County Extension. Over the past few years I've become increasingly interested in and more aware of the importance of the practice of self-care.

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    What do you think of when you hear the words self-care? These words may invoke images of a beach vacation, getting a massage, or taking time to indulge in curling up with your favorite book. These are all indeed ways we might take a little time for ourselves to recharge our battery so to speak.

    Self-care however, is not exclusive of pampering oneself. In fact, some say comfort is not the goal of self-care! While self-care is not a written script, and each individual has different needs, the practice of self-care may also include: