6 Steps to Summer Self-Care

Author: Hannah Miskelley

With summer being around the corner, many look forward to sunny days and warmer nights. For some, summer brings a change in pace and a fresh mindset. The new season can bring new adjustments, such as a change in routine and/or support systems. For children and teens, summer can be an exciting time, but also a time of change in regard to routine and social interactions. Below are a few suggestions to incorporate into your summer routine to boost your overall physical and mental health.

  1. Maintain and Invest in Relationships: This summer, prioritize your support system and community. Developing a sense of meaningful connection within your relationships has been shown to boost overall well-being. 
  2. Make Time for Meditation, Prayer and Reflection: Summer brings beautiful sunrises and sunsets; try to find space in your day to unplug and find solitude. Meditation, whether in a spiritual sense, or just to check in with yourself is one of the easiest ways to improve our mental health.
  3. Get Outdoors: Connecting with nature, fresh air and sunlight does wonders for our mental health and mood. A couple of ways to incorporate getting outside daily could include taking a leisurely walk in the morning or after dinner, going for a hike, or taking your lunch break outside. 
  4. Try a New Exercise: Finding an exercise routine that makes you happy is a great way to boost endorphins and increase your overall physical and mental health. Try something new this summer like hiking, tennis, yoga, bike riding or even taking your strength training outside. 
  5. Review Your Current Sleep Schedule: When routines change in summer, due to school being out, increased vacations, and a later sunset, it is important to review your sleep schedule. It is recommended that we obtain 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep. A healthy, consistent sleep habit is an essential component of our mental health.
  6. Make a Summer Feel-Good Playlist: Music can be an effortless way to improve your mood and motivate you to get moving. Try to refresh your summer playlists and tune into what songs will boost your mood for the summer days ahead.

A change of seasons is a time for renewal and reflection. Even small changes to your routine can improve your self-care practice and overall mood. Make this summer the season of self-care!


Prioritizing Mental Wellbeing in the Summer


Author: Corinne Terhune

­­­­­­­­When people talk about compassion, what comes to mind? What even is compassion? Often, we think about compassion and empathy towards others, but when was the last time you extended that grace towards yourself? 

When we think about extending compassion towards others, that looks like recognizing their experiences and struggle, and then offering your presence and gifts to honor that suffering. Now, imagine what that would look like to offer those things to yourself, utilizing self-compassion. Instead of avoiding or ignoring your pain, recognize it and give grace towards it, like you would anyone else. 

The first step towards self-compassion is recognizing that you are human. All humans make mistakes, have imperfections, and have growth areas. This is part of the human experience! Can you begin to extend the same grace you extend a friend or family member when they show their shortcomings? In extending this compassion, we solidify our own self-worth. Self-worth is not just identifying strengths but having compassion for our growth areas. Your pain or struggle is worth looking at and recognizing. Through this recognition, you can begin to practice self-kindness versus self-judgment. Be curious about your actions rather than judge. 

So how do we put this into action? 

Mindfulness is a great first step. The idea behind this practice is that we allow the thought to pass by instead of dwelling on it. For example, the thought comes into your head that you should have remembered it was your friend’s birthday. How could you forget?! Instead of dwelling on this thought, letting it consume you, and taking a trip down the shame spiral, notice this thought and allow it to pass by. You could’ve remembered their birthday, but you forgot. You are only human, and you will try to do better next time. Imagine the thought drifting down a river: you notice it, and then it continues downstream. You can find instructions for this particular exercise down below.

In conclusion, our hope is through practicing self-compassion, you can begin to extend yourself compassion so that you can gain a better relationship with yourself and others. As therapists, we know that compassion towards yourself and others can be hard, and if you find yourself wanting help and guidance in this, call the Refuge Center to set up an appointment. You can do so at: 615-591-5262 or go to refugecenter.og

If you are interested in more information about self-compassion, visit self-compassion.org for great resources and information.

Mindfulness Exercise on observing thoughts

Here is an example of a meditation on observing thoughts (Harris, 2019):

(1) Sit in a comfortable position and either close your eyes or rest them gently on a fixed spot in the room.

(2) Visualize yourself sitting beside a gently flowing stream with leaves floating along the surface of the water. Pause 10 seconds.

(3) For the next few minutes, take each thought that enters your mind and place it on a leaf… let it float by.  Do this with each thought – pleasurable, painful, or neutral.  Even if you have joyous or enthusiastic thoughts, place them on a leaf and let them float by.

(4) If your thoughts momentarily stop, continue to watch the stream.  Sooner or later, your thoughts will start up again.  Pause 20 seconds.

(5) Allow the stream to flow at its own pace.  Don’t try to speed it up and rush your thoughts along.  You’re not trying to rush the leaves along or “get rid” of your thoughts.  You are allowing them to come and go at their own pace.

(6) If your mind says “This is dumb,” “I’m bored,” or “I’m not doing this right” place those thoughts on leaves, too, and let them pass.  Pause 20 seconds.

(7) If a leaf gets stuck, allow it to hang around until it’s ready to float by. If the thought comes up again, watch it float by another time.  Pause 20 seconds.

(8) If a difficult or painful feeling arises, simply acknowledge it. Say to yourself, “I notice myself having a feeling of boredom/impatience/frustration.”  Place those thoughts on leaves and allow them to float along. 

(9) From time to time, your thoughts may hook you and distract you from being fully present in this exercise. This is normal.  As soon as you realize that you have become sidetracked, gently bring your attention back to the visualization exercise.

Written by Corinne Terhune, Masters Level Intern at The Refuge Center for Counseling

Other resources:

Harris, R. (2019). ACT made simple: An easy-to-read primer on acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

Neff, K. (2020, July 9). Definition and three elements of self compassion: Kristin Neff. Self. https://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/ 

Self-Care: Prioritizing Your Body, Mind, and Soul

Author: Taylor Musarra

“Rest and self-care are so important.

When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. 

You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” -Eleanor Brown

When you hear the phrase “self-care”, what comes to mind? For some, it may be treating yourself to something nice. For others, it may be taking a trip and exploring somewhere new without any distractions or obligations of the busy world. It could be a spa day, an afternoon away from your phone, or even taking a “mental health” day. Sounds fun, and like something we would want to do, but is it a priority

Mental health awareness has become more prioritized over the recent years; it’s at “buzzword” status even. Isolation during COVID-19 caused many people to evaluate their own mental health during this time. Work-life balance was now intermingled as many individuals used their home as both their office and a place for living. It was easy to overlook self-care when you felt like there was no space to really implement it. Or when you felt like you were caring for yourself (and others) by simply being home. 

Now, post COVID-19, we continuously aim to work on arranging our lives and wellbeing so that we can feel a healthy balance between work and life. The world keeps spinning and often times we may feel like we need to move in conjunction or the earth will fall of its axis and us along with it. It can be so easy to lose ourselves in the midst of a busy life. It can feel overwhelming when priorities shift and when we feel like we can’t ever catch a break. For a lot of us: We often take care of others so much that we forget to take care of ourselves.  It can seem selfish, but in reality, it’s far from a selfish thing to do. 

“Self-care is done with the intention of caring for yourself, not with the intention to harm or take from others.”– Stephanie Grunewald

So how do we do it? Self-care can be split into four areas.. the things we do to recharge physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This can look different for everyone and it should. Each person needs something different in order to replenish themselves fully.

Physical self-care can involve anything that helps to improve your physical well-being. Taking a walk, running, working out, dancing, eating healthier, getting a good amount of sleep, or playing sports are all examples of this. But you might be thinking, “My life is so busy, I don’t have time to do any of that.” While that may be the case, there can be ways to integrate physical self-care even during your busiest days. Things like going to bed a little earlier, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking a walk during a phone meeting, or even packing a healthy meal instead of going out to eat during your lunch break can all contribute to ways of implementing physical aspects of self-care in your life. 

It can be hard to practice self-care when our bodies are mentally and emotionally exhausted. It can be difficult to turn your attention to yourself when there are so many things going on in both your life and the world around you. But it is important to check in with yourself mentally and emotionally from time to time. Practicing self-care mentally and emotionally can look like numerous things. One of my favorite ways to practice caring for my self is taking part in mindfulness exercises and reminding myself to be present in the moment. You could simply take a moment to ask yourself the question of “How am I feeling right now?” Taking 30 seconds out of your day to focus on deep breathing to help relax yourself can be a great self-care practice. You could even set aside 5 to 10 minutes a day to sit in the quiet and journal or reflect on how you are feeling in the presently.

Next, how do you take care of yourself spiritually? This form of self-care can also look different from person to person. Spirituality is a way to help individuals find a sense of connection whether it be religiously, with others, or with the world around them. It can also help people find a sense of meaning and purpose in their life. Spirituality self-care can involve praying, meditation, deep mindfulness exercises, or even spending time in nature. Checking-in with yourself spiritually by keeping a journal or focusing on your goals and values is another great practice of spiritual self-care. 

Self-care will look different for every person. When we learn how to take care of ourselves, we can take better care and serve those around us. It is so easy to lose yourself in life because you are being pulled in a hundred different directions. Prioritizing others can be easier than prioritizing yourself, but I implore you to try to take time to implement self-care in your daily routine. It is important to keep in mind that self-care tasks should not feel like a burden or a chore but rather something you enjoy doing or find peace or pleasure in. Here are some a few great resources to find different self-care practices if you are not sure where to start.

Finally, reaching out to a mental health professional can be another great resource to utilize and an incredible self-care tool. Here at The Refuge Center, we are prepared to walk alongside you through your self-care and healing journey. We can work with you to find that balance between your busy life and prioritizing yourself, while also arming you with strategies to implement better self-care habits that can contribute to a more balanced mental health. 

Blog written by Master’s Level Intern, Taylor Musarra

West Tennessee Healthcare. Why self-care is an essential for your mental health. (2021, April 27). https://www.wth.org/blog/why-self-care-is-an-essential-for-your-mental-health/

Restorative Counseling. Is self-care selfish? (2023) https://rcchicago.org/self-care/#:~:text=2)%20Self%2Dcare%20is%20done,resources%20without%20depleting%20someone%20else’s.

Building Appreciation in Your Relationship

Author: Kat Thompson

If someone asked you what the culture of your relationship is, what comes to mind? If you’re honest, maybe words like complacency, stress, chaos, bickering, or even numbness come to mind. If so… you are not alone. As relationships grow and adjust through different seasons of life, it is common to lose the feelings of romance, spontaneity, and excitement that are commonplace in the beginning stages of your relationship. Though relationship dynamics ebb and flow naturally, one foundation to a lasting and successful relationship is building a culture of appreciation. 

Whether your relationship is struggling or you feel like you’re in a great place, focusing on building appreciation for your partner is one of the best investments you can make in your relationship. 

Here are some practical tools and ideas to help you cultivate a culture of appreciation with your partner: 

First, think small things often. Changing the culture of your relationship doesn’t have to take a huge demolition and gutting; you can work on one small renovation at a time. Relationship researchers John and Julie Gottman give these ideas for incorporating small things into your daily routine.

1. Before leaving for the day, share a kiss lasting at least 6 seconds

2. When you think kind and appreciative thoughts about your partner, say it!

Think: what’s something I love about my partner’s personality and when did they display it, catch your partner doing something right, and tell them, write a quick love note, send a text to let them know you’re thinking of them

3. Use loving touch by holding hands, hugging, holding, kissing

4. Implement routine date nights

5. Build an appreciation ritual into your day. Can you set aside 5 minutes at the start or end of the day where you share a few things you love or appreciate about each other?

Still not sure where to start? Here are some conversation starters to prompt appreciation and connecting conversations. 

Gratitude and Appreciation

  • “Thanks for supporting me when I talked about my ….”
  • “You are a great parent. I love watching you ….. with the kids”
  • “I really appreciate you being so affectionate lately.” (Give specifics)
  • “I really appreciated our conversation about…” 
  • “When you …. it really made me feel prioritized”
  • “I am really proud of you for…. “
  • “One of the qualities that I love most about you is…”
  • “You really helped me by…”
  • “Thank you for cooking…. I loved it”

Fondness and Admiration

  • “Something I find so endearing in you is…”
  • “What was your favorite date we’ve been on?”
  • “The first thing I noticed about you was…”
  • “I think you look great in this photo….”
  • “I really enjoyed …. With you”
  • Talk about the moment you decided to commit to the other person
  • Describe your favorite romantic relationship moment
  • Discuss the first time you met 

Connection and Discovery

  • “What’s a vacation you dream of?”
  • “Something only you know about me is…”
  • “I love watching you succeed in…”
  • “What’s something you want to do together this weekend?”
  • “What are your expectations about… (an upcoming event)”
  • “What’s your favorite way to spend an evening?”
  • “What turns you on?”
  • “What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?”
  • “What are you most looking forward to right now?”
  • Talk about your common goals
  • Talk about how to improve lovemaking

My hope is that you find these lists helpful to start thinking about new ways to build a foundational culture of appreciation within your relationship. As therapists, we know that relationships are hard, and if you find yourself wanting more support individually or as a couple, call The Refuge Center today to set up an appointment.

I challenge you to find a prompt that stuck out to you and do itMy hope is that in committing to doing small things often, the culture of your relationship will change to become more connective, supportive, and satisfying. 

More resources: The Gottman Card Decks app – click here to download; Small Things Often podcast – click here to listen

Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (2017). Small things often: How to build a positive, lasting relationship. The Gottman Institute, Inc.