Written by SJPL Librarian, Michele Rowic
November is a month of transitions. We return our clocks to standard time, leaves change and fall, our days are colder and darker and fall begins in earnest with cooler temperatures and rain. November is also a time of gratitude. It is known as National Gratitude Month, which suits the season of visiting family and loved ones. And then comes Thanksgiving, with its theme of giving thanks.
With all this transitioning, returning, visiting and thanking we may lose track of caring for ourselves. Our sleep patterns are disrupted and fewer daylight hours leave many of us feeling blue and experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
At San Jose Public Library we are integrating a TIROC (Trauma Informed Resilience Oriented Care) approach into our work and daily lives. One aspect of TIROC is building our emotional resilience. Caring for ourselves and practicing self-gratitude strengthen our emotional resilience.
Caring for Ourselves
Caring for ourselves means becoming familiar with what it is like when we apply kindness and tenderness to ourselves. It may take place anytime, anywhere and in various forms. It may be sitting quietly for several minutes or feeling our breath or massaging our feet. Or, it may not look like any of these things. A pleasure of mine, after a hectic day is to lay completely flat on the ground. I let my muscles relax, my body flatten, empty my mind and I lay there without getting up to do anything. It feels amazing! Caring for ourselves is a simple moment. It does not have to take a lot of time, effort or money.
Practicing self-gratitude is a form of caring for ourselves. Self-gratitude is a thankfulness practice, valuing our strengths and positive qualities. We may appreciate our personality, our style, our physical abilities, our knowledge or anything at all that we like about ourselves.
Practicing self-gratitude, can happen a multitude of ways and does not have to take long. Gratitude journaling was my introduction to a self-gratitude practice. I had a small lined notebook with bicycles on the cover and before I left work each day, I wrote three things I was grateful for. Oftentimes I wrote about pedaling my bicycle to work in varying weather conditions. I wrote about fun storytime experiences, successfully navigating difficult customer interactions, completing various stages of projects and enjoyable coworker conversations. I still have my gratitude journal and enjoy revisiting my entries.
When I told a friend about my journal, she shared that she uses a happiness jar or gratitude jar with her family. Throughout each week members of her family write down something good that has happened and they fill up the jar with their happiness and loving kindness for each other.
Other self-gratitude practices include pausing and thinking of positive aspects of our day, saying thank you to ourselves before going bed or recounting three things we appreciate about ourselves. We want to be able to recognize and celebrate daily accomplishments of all sizes and compliment ourselves.
Caring for ourselves and practicing self-gratitude on a daily basis have the power to change us from the inside out. They strengthen our emotional resilience. We begin to understand, appreciate and clearly see who we are. We become connected to ourselves. We may even see ourselves in a new light. As our self-awareness increases, we recognize our own inner beauty, skills and talents. We see ourselves as valuable and needed.
If we make caring for ourselves a regular practice it helps reduce stress, increase happiness, adapt to changes, build strong relationships and recover from setbacks. It increases the anti-stress hormone oxytocin, which lowers cortisol, blood pressure, and other stress responses. In a national survey, Americans cited benefits of self-care as: enhanced self-confidence (64%), increased productivity (67%), happiness (71%).
I bet most of us practice some form of caring for ourselves or self-gratitude. And if not, it is National Gratitude Month, it is a great time to start! If you are not already practicing self-gratitude or caring for yourself, start now. It’s the time of the season. Try it out. There are many techniques. Which ones work for you?
TIROC Blog Series
This blog is part of a series that will focus on being trauma-informed and resilience-oriented as part of the library's efforts to embrace the TIROC principles in our interactions with you and with ourselves.