Self Care: The Whys and Hows

Self Care: The Whys and Hows

We’ve all heard the directions for the oxygen mask on the airplane, right? Before takeoff, the flight attendants remind you that you have to put your mask on before you help others with theirs. So it goes with the concept of self care: We have to help ourselves first, otherwise we can’t truly be of assistance to anyone else. 

But what happens when life happens? When parent guilt sets in because we feel we haven’t spent enough time with our kids? When we are experiencing grief, trauma, anxiety, or overwhelm?  Or – perhaps most commonly – when we are just “too busy?” 

More often than not, it seems that when life happens, self-care doesn’t. 

To define the term, self-care is taking care of ourselves, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And there is good reason to engage in self-care:  Research suggests that self-care can help us manage stress, increase our resilience, and even live longer.

Self care is also important in our relationships. Psychology Today notes that, “It’s essential that parents care for themselves…When parents “fill their own cups,” they have more patience, energy, and passion to spread to their families.” Likewise with other relationships in our lives. Practicing self-care can “minimize the effects of burnout, including depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and stress perception.”

But how do you do self-care? See below for some practical ways to nurture yourself, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and be sure to check out the links at the bottom too for additional ideas.

Physical Health: The mind-body connection is an important one to consider. When the body feels good, the mind does too. Self care strategies to increase physical health include exercise, getting an adequate amount of sleep, and eating nutritious meals that feed both your body and your brain.

Mental Health: MBHA’s Holly Dunn says she takes care of her mental health by, “Bringing myself back into the present when my thoughts get too future focused/worried or past focused/regretful or ruminative, doing my best to refocus back to what is within my control when I am over-focusing on others/things that annoy me, and letting go of the illusion I have control over anyone/anything but myself.”

Spiritual Health: Care for yourself spiritually by journaling, practicing meditation, or praying. And don’t forget to practice kindness and compassion, especially with yourself. 

The flight attendants tell us in simple terms: your oxygen mask has to go on first. So take a deep breath and commit to your own self-care practice. Remember, the paradox of self care is that ultimately you are doing it for others.

*You can find more ideas for self-care on these websites:




The Beginning of Knowledge

The Beginning of Knowledge

by Michele Minehart, Community Educator

Jon Kabat Zinn uses the concept of the Beginner’s Mind in his 9 Attitudes of Mindfulness. This way of thinking asks a person to come into a situation without assumptions or expectations, and it’s the posture for true learning. The Beginner’s Mind allows for “I don’t know yet” and frees you to listen deeply before making any decisions or judgments. 

Practicing the Beginner’s Mind is essential because it’s not natural to our brain’s protective wiring. If you have ever researched buying a new car, you may have experienced that suddenly every car you see on the road is the car you’re considering. The world did not suddenly produce more Honda Odysseys once you decided you wanted one, but rather your brain picks up on that information, positive or negative, and associates it with the information it’s currently processing. We do this – pick up information and associate it with our daily experiences, beliefs, and behaviors – because the mind tends to be dualistic, categorizing things into good/bad, safe/unsafe, and other groups. 

The Beginner’s Mind asks us to momentarily set aside what we already know for the opportunity to learn something new about our present situation. 

Over the past several months, the Beginner’s Mind has been one of our best friends. Taking such an approach, we can offer ourselves grace. The Beginner’s Mind reminds us we’ve never been here before. This is new. And there is always something to learn from newness. 

Parenting Amid A Pandemic

Parenting Amid A Pandemic

by Michele Minehart, Community Educator
As if parenting wasn’t enough of a challenge, we now get to navigate tweens, teens, toddlers and everyone in-between, all while social distancing and explaining the very real need for us to take action against a disease.
This is a good time to remember one of Holly Schweitzer Dunn’s top three mantras: Parent emotion drives child emotion.
When parents are mindful of their emotional state they are more prone to recognize the impact they have on their children.  The brain hears tone before it hears anything else.  When a parent’s tone is off, children become aware of this more than they are aware of the actual words being said.  How many times have you sworn to your child you are “not angry” only to hear back from him that he knows you are angry because he can “hear it in your voice?”  Our kids know so much more than we give them credit for.
What parents can do:
1.  Model self care and self awareness.
2.  Model honesty with emotions and accountability to managing those emotions in respectful, healthy ways.
3.  Create home environments where honest discussion of the pandemic (in developmentally appropriate ways) takes place.
4.  Model how to acknowledge the fear and uncertainty of the quarantine while also acknowledging awareness of good, normal, neutral.
This might look like:
  •  A parent becoming tearful at the dinner table while voicing both sadness and appreciation for the bad germs making people sick and the brave workers who are taking care of everyone.
  • A parent pausing to take a deep breath while walking outside, mentioning gratitude for healthy lungs and the smell of spring while also acknowledging how strange and eerie it feels to see empty neighborhood streets.
  • A parent recognizing that their frustration at not-quite-right items in their grocery delivery was driven by a need to feel in control of something- anything!- during this time when so much is unknown and uncertain.

Read more about parenting from the professional wisdom of an article by The Atlantic

The power of choice in social distancing

The power of choice in social distancing

by Michele Minehart, Community Educator


Last week our Governor announced that Ohio would be staying home from all school, play, and non-essential work until at least May 4. Many of our clients came to us with a similar question: How will I survive this for another month?

Therapist Holly Schweitzer Dunn, LISW, suggests we reframe this to view quarantine from an empowerment place rather than experiencing it only as a victim provides freedom and even a sense of autonomy where we once felt powerless. Try on one of these:

  • Instead of “I have to quarantine” try “I’m staying home to bring safety to myself, to spread safety and to love to the world.” 
  • Instead of “I have no other option” say to yourself, “I choose to follow these guidelines for the good of all.”
  • Rather than “I am helpless in this” remind yourself that “I have control over how I handle this.”

By viewing your actions as an empowered individual and keeping in view the larger goal – public health and personal safety – we can feel differently about our living conditions with all their restraints. You still might long for a leisurely trip to the mall or wish you could gather with friends for dinner, but shifting from “I can’t” to “I choose not to at this time” keeps you mentally in the driver’s seat.  

Mindful Educators

Mindful Educators

Mindful Parenting Course

Mindful Educators:


Monday, June 15, 2020, 9 AM – 4:30 PM

At Toledo’s Wildwood Metropark Ward Pavillion 

Mindful Educators is a day-long retreat experience designed to help teachers return to the spark of joy that drew them into their profession so they can return to the classroom ready in heart and spirit. We will apply the concepts of mindfulness to your role as educator, providing tools for the mind and body that will help nurture your passion through the stressful challenges of teaching to the souls of our children.

Those who will most benefit from Mindful Educators are those who: 

  • See how the effects of trauma are changing our schools and neighborhoods,impacting the classroom experience for all students
  • Hear in the media and scholarly research about the effects of body-centered and mindfulness-based classroom interventions and want to experiment with them
  • Taste the bitterness of burnout and “helper’s fatigue” and wish to reconnect with a deeper sense of gratitude for their work
  • Feel as if they’ve tried varying methods of connecting with students yet feel some are still “unreachable.”

Mindful Educators is led by Holly Schweitzer Dunn, LISW – and facilitator of Mindful Parenting – along with Landon Dunn, LISW, LICDC, of Mind Body Health Associates. Holly, Landon, and the MBHA team have been working with educators for a collective 25+ years to help them learn to manage the stress that comes from the unique role of teacher. They will offer specific interventions and practices for educators to integrate into their lives, both personally and professionally, to help teachers reconnect with the sense of fulfillment of their work. 

Allow us to take care of you in the peaceful setting at Toledo’s Wildwood Metropark in the Ward Pavillion. You’ll receive a full day of therapeutic tools and interventions used by our therapists who regularly work with educators. Our approach integrates the body-centered practices with mindfulness to help aid relief from the physical manifestations of embodied stress. You’ll be guided in mindfulness exercises, including nature walks and time for solitude and reflection, along with an opportunity to explore yoga movement and breathwork. There will even be a chance to discuss how these personal practices can be translated into the classroom.

Don’t forget to bring your Yoga Mat or Pillow!

Cost and Registration Information:

Cost: Before April 1: $75 individual, $400 group of 6
Before May 15: $90 individual, $500 team of 6
Registation Options

Please complete the following registration form after completing your payment. Thank you! 

Self-Care for Teachers

Self-Care for Teachers

Self Care for Teachers

The concept of self-care is catching our collective attention. We’re being admonished to “put the oxygen mask on yourself first” and now we have research to support the claim that self-care helps people manage job-related stress. 

So what exactly does self-care look like? Is it simply taking more bubble baths and scheduling a spa day? It could be, but self-care reaches beyond pampering, specifically for teachers. When we work with educators in our offices, we hear about the need for something to help in the heat of the moment, keeping the pace of the day with younger and older children alike. Often times, the stress our teachers carry has more to do with the burdens carried by the children they teach than it does the job description they’re trying to fulfill. Especially after many years of experience, our teachers know about delivering content and differentiating instruction. What teachers ask for more often is knowing how to continue to show compassion to children and families when the heartbreak feels unrelenting. 

While burnout is an issue for the education industry, the bigger threat is heartbreak. Teachers are seeing more and more students show up in the morning hungry because they’ve not had breakfast, or – even more challenging – children starving for connection. Our educators could go broke with the granola bars and markers they stock. They know how to keep their classrooms supplied with academic tools.  A tougher obstacle is helping teachers learn to sleep at night when their hearts are filled with worry about the student whose life outside of school is unsafe.

As Chick Moorman (author of The Spirit Whisperer and Parent Talk) said once to Holly, when you teach to a child’s spirit, you’ve got them, no matter what the subject matter.  The best teachers are working from the heart-level. However, opening yourself to the heights of joy that come with heartfulness also renders you vulnerable to the depths of grief that come with the territory. 

From our perspective, the core of self-care for the educator lies in keeping the heart both soft and strong. To be good at what we do in helping professions, we need to continue to cultivate compassion, empathy and acceptance. Our practices center around quieting the talk of “not enough” and incorporating moments of gratitude and joy, even in the midst of challenges. 

Mindfulness expert John Kabat-Zin teaches about the “acceptance of what is”. When a student comes from a home without running water, it’s hard for a teacher to accept that he cannot change the situation. But the teacher can offer a learning space that helps hold for the student the various stressors and hurts they bring into the classroom. In the same way, a teacher might come to school tired after his own sleepless night. Self acceptance, i.e. “today’s lecture may not be as energetic as last week’s and that’s okay,” may free the teacher to offer what he does have to give rather than focusing on deficits.

When we learn to recognize our limits, specifically as they relate to our roles as educators and helpers, we can acknowledge and celebrate the victories we do experience. When working in a capacity that will never “finish” – the students we teach will never be done learning and developing – it’s easy to overlook opportunities to feel like we’ve done enough. A daily celebration and gratitude practice for the small successes keeps the heart open and strong, ready to return the next day.

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