As I mentioned in the kick-off post for the Self-Care Challenge, we’re entering a month of exploring some practices that help us to sustain in the hard work of keeping our hearts engaged. If you haven’t already, you can download the Keeping Your Heart – Self Care Challenge 2019 pdf for the month and calendar the process in any way that you wish!

Today we start with Week #1 and here are the practices that we will focus on for the next seven days:


1.   Self-Care Assessment General
2.   Gratitude Spiritual
3.   Affirmation notes/letters Relational
4.   Candle, incense, or aromatherapy Physical
5.   Reading for pleasure Mental
6.   Breath Practice Physical
7.   Do the thing that you have been putting off Mental

To flesh out some details, I’ll unpack each one a little bit below:

  1. Self-Care AssessmentIt’s hard to know where to go when you don’t know where you are, right? We need a frame of reference to know which direction we need to head, so it’s a great practice to start with an honest assessment. There are several sources for self-care assessments, but my favorite comes from the University of Buffalo’s School of Social work. The Self-Care Assessment is part of the Butler, L. D., & McClain-Meeder, K. (2015). Self-Care Starter Kit. Located at

    There is no pass/fail or grade on this assessment – it is just taking stock of what things you are already doing and becoming aware of some parts of your life that may need more attention. Most people are surprised in one way or another – let me know in the comments below what you discovered!

  2. Practicing gratitudeSometimes we feel so bogged down by the circumstances in which we find ourselves or we feel like the difficulty we are facing will never end and it begins to pull our view away from hope and optimism. And that can be dangerous, because we need that belief that there will be an end or that there is something better coming at some point, or we can get stuck in a negative thought pattern, resulting in missed opportunities and even health issues.

    How do we combat the Oubliette of Despair? By practicing gratitude. Try to find three things at the end of your day for which you are grateful. Now, I’ve heard some say that they have had some days in serving those who are vulnerable in which they couldn’t identify anything for which they could be grateful, but I would suggest maybe these three things: (a) You didn’t die, (b) You didn’t purposefully kill anyone else, and (c) tomorrow is a new day. What are your three things for today?

  3. Writing affirmation notes/lettersThis is one of my regular self-care techniques. I find that if I can focus some of my attention on my relationships – particularly those with whom I have not had sufficient time to connect in recent history – that I am reminded of good memories, of the reality that others may be suffering as well, and that people have randomly supported me so I know how uplifting it can be to receive a note or a letter with language that reflects the positive ways that someone sees me. Taking those moments to select the card, write the note, maybe add a sticker or pretty stamp and think about the person receiving it – that gives me an opportunity to remember the world outside of my present circumstance and my ability to positively impact it, even if in a small way.

    If you would like me to send you a note of affirmation, please comment below and I’ll get in touch with you!

  4. Enjoying a candle, incense, or aromatherapyWe are so impacted by scent. Think about the last time you caught a whiff of something and it pulled you right into a childhood memory or a sense of a loved one. Scent is powerful and can significantly impact our moods. So take a moment to find a favorite scent in a candle, stick of incense, or essential oil and change the atmosphere of a room in your home. Allow yourself to find peace and comfort in returning to the room from outside or another location and finding the familiar or inviting scent.

    And if you can’t find a candle – baking up some cookie dough from the store might do the trick!

  5. Reading for pleasureNot even kidding – the first 3 years that my children lived with us, I did ZERO reading for pleasure. I never had the peace to enter another world because my hypervigilance was just on high alert at all times. I remember the first time I actually read a book when I had a small break when the kids were at camp and I was amazed at how peaceful I felt and how much my brain loved imagining again.

    For the first few years of my kids being home, all of my creativity was in trying to find helpful ways to address their trauma and provide a healing home. Finding that space to envision and create a new world as I was reading was life-giving to me and reminded me, again, that there was a whole world outside of my day-by-day, moment-by-moment existence.

  6. Breath PracticeOkay, yeah, I am a yoga teacher, so I place a really high value on breath, but that isn’t the only reason. There is a ton of research and evidence that when we pay attention to our breath and its qualities that we can adjust certain systems in our body (like heart rate). One of the things that I like to have my students do is to place one or both hands on their abdomen and then feel their belly fill and collapse as they breathe in and out. Taking a few moments to become aware of the sound of the breath moving in and through your body brings an awareness of where things might be tight, tender, or maybe feel blocked.

    Another practice may be to increase your awareness of the quality of your breath and bring an evenness to the length, depth, and smoothness of your inhale and exhale, so that the breath feels the same way coming in and going out.

    There are lots of YouTube videos and phone apps that have some guided breathing programs as well. What’s your favorite? Let me know below!

  7. Do the thing that you have been putting offUgh! I thought self-care was bubble baths and massages and cupcakes with unicorns! Well…maybe some of that, but part of taking care of yourself is also addressing issues that might be causing you stress. You know what stresses a lot of folks out? Tasks that they know they have to do, but don’t want to. Yup.

    For me, taxes. They sit there in a pile and they nag at me when I’m playing a game on my phone and I convince myself that I’ll get to it soon or that I don’t have enough time to start it (and on and on). But then I put my big-kid pants on, sit down (after I light that lovely smelling candle that gives me comfort), do a breath practice, and before I know it, the paperwork is DONE. And I feel freedom!

    What is the thing that you have been putting off that you’ll tackle this week?

Which one of these is going to be the easiest for you? Which one are you a little leery about? Let me know below and don’t forget to post a picture or share a written experience on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or in the comments section of using the hashtags #keepingyourheart #renaemdupuis #selfcarechallenge2019 and tagging @keepingyourheart you’ll get an entry into a drawing that will occur on or before April 2, 2019.

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