Self-Care Guest Blog by Kelly

My name is Kelly Barry. I’m a recent addition to the 1N5 team, working as a Program Manager, primarily in the corporate space. I’ve spent the past 13 years in corporate wellness as a public health educator and a health and wellness coach. During this time I worked with thousands of employees across the country one-on-one and as an organization. I’m passionate about normalizing conversations around mental health and evidence-based resources, creating spaces of support and inclusivity, and empowering individuals to discover what allows them to thrive.

I have A LOT of experience with self-care. My area of focus in my master’s degree was in stress and evidence-based coping skills. But I also have a personal motivator to practice self-care;  I’ve lived with depression since my early teens. Some seasons of life are very different than others. Just like your tools in your tool belt are not one-tool-works-for-all, I vary my self-care practice a lot depending on the season I find myself in. Regardless of the season (and how I am or am not experiencing my depression), prioritizing my self-care isn’t an option. It’s as ingrained in my habits as brushing my teeth. Because, in my experience, the costs of not prioritizing self-care are too high. I can end up in a place mentally, physically, and emotionally I do not want to be.

I do a lot of different things to take care of myself. Foundationally, it starts by pausing to understand how I’m feeling and what my needs are. I exercise most days a week; it provides a space to decompress and also makes me feel empowered by what my body can do. I have to get good sleep; it impacts EVERYTHING for me. I probably function best with closer to 9 hours. I make sure I eat regularly throughout the day. “Hangry” is real and making sure I’m getting some good protein, fiber, and fats helps me operate from the best possible mood and thinking space. If I’m feeling really drained, being in nature restores my soul. That could be just sitting outside for a couple minutes, going for a walk in my neighborhood, or hitting a trail for a hike in the woods. Nature is my happy place. There is also a lot of evidence around the mental health benefits of being in a green-space. 

Probably the one practice I’ve picked up in recent years that’s been the most helpful is practicing self-compassion. For me, that has looked like accepting and not judging my own limitations. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others, but we all have our own strengths and limitations. Pushing myself when my energy levels are depleted or I’m past capacity, has led to exhaustion, feelings of “try harder, stupid”, burnout, and sometimes depression. I have strengths others do not, and vice versa. Accepting that isn’t saying I’m “less than” or broken in any way, it simply makes me human. 

Understanding my own limitations has also meant self-care is sometimes asking others for help, more specifically asking professionals for help. That means working with my primary care doctor on medication that helps me feel the best I can and sometimes working with a therapist to learn more tools to help navigate difficult seasons. Just as those that identify with the “1N5” are not alone in their experiences (mental illness is common), we do not need to navigate those experiences alone.

Self-care isn’t selfish. You cannot do any of the things you prioritize (work, caring for your family, participating in a hobby, etc.) if you’ve got nothing left in the tank. “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” “You have to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.” We’ve heard them so many times, but like my high school literature teacher said, “if you see something repeated that usually means it’s important.” 

Look for opportunities to put things into every day that makes you feel alive and experience joy. Lean into those relationships. Plan fun things to look forward to. Look at dog videos on Instagram (personally, golden retrievers spark a lot of joy in my soul). The key is to be INTENTIONAL.