Episode 005

The Ritual of Self-Care

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Leva Lee: Welcome to BCcampus Mixtape. This podcast is a remix of previous live recordings from BCcampus offerings such as the Lunchable Learning Radio Show, Open Knowledge Spectrums and more. My name is Leva Lee.

Helena Prins: and my name is Helena Prins. We’re both on the Learning + Teaching team at BCcampus. If you love to learn, you’ve come to the right place. I am joining you from the beautiful homeland of the Lək̓ʷəŋən speaking people, which include the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.

Leva: And I’m joining you from where I live on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples. Today’s episode features an insightful conversation with Sarah Lefebure, a counselor in the post-secondary system about health and wellness.

Helena: Let’s listen in.

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Helena: So Leva, did you have a nice time off?

Leva: I did! I have to admit though, I was not motivated to do much but I was resting, reading, eating a lot. I did finish a few books though which is huge for me as I’m not intentional about it. It doesn’t happen. Too busy, too tired, but I think I’m getting my reading mojo back. So good news for me!

Helena: Yes. Any particular book that stand out?

Leva: Well, I read a few things. Non-fiction mostly. A meditative book called, “The Things You See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim, but I would say Atomic Habits by James Clear stands out for me.

Helena: Why is that so?

Leva: It’s very practical and helpful to frame things you want to do in doable chunks thinking about systems that you can put in place to support you, to create a new habit or two. Maybe break a bad one or an old habit that you want to stop and they do that by suggesting four things that you can do to support you by making, doing that habit or creating a new habit: obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying.

Helena: Oh, interesting. I don’t want to put you on the spot here live on air but have you applied any of that learning yet?

Leva: Well, Helena I have to say that I have. And it’s quite gratifying. So, when I was looking at those four things. I was thinking oh that’s kind of like when chefs talk about mise en place. And that concept of having everything in its place. And ready to go before you know start an activity or you know begin your work. So, I know that I want to get. And I guess I’m sharing this work with a lot of people. So, I better stick to it, is I want to get more fit. So, a practical example is that to make it obvious. So, visually I have, you know, my yoga mats kind of in a place where I can see it. I have an exercise ball that I roll to warm up my muscles. So, that’s kind of hanging on a bag on the doorknob. So, it’s not like I have to waste any time looking for it. Thinking where is it but it’s always there. To make it attractive by doubling up. Listening some tunes maybe finding tunes for our radio show. So, let’s listen to a little bit at Spotify. It’s always kind of enjoyable to listen to some music for fun and then making it easy.

I get up in the morning I put on something that I can exercise in, so when I do set the time for my exercise. I’m already kind of half, already dressed. Like if I put on my tights or something like that and then making it easy and then making it satisfying would be giving myself a little bit of a reward so I intentionally think about what would that be and I have a little bit of aromatherapy thing that you can spritz on kind of it’s like a cool down after a workout that a friend gave me and so I would say, “OK, I can spritz myself with that nice lavender mist after I do my workout,” so those things, I mean those are things probably many of us do but I just feel it having an assist just feels like you’re very supported in what you endeavour to do and I find that these tips from Atomic Habits were very helpful for me.


Helena: Here with me, I have someone that I consider quite brave too. The lovely Sarah Lefebure. And she’s a counsellor at Okanagan College. Welcome Sarah.

Sarah Lefebure: Thank you, Helena.

Helena: We’re so happy to have you here. We want to start by just hearing your story how did you get into counseling and why and how did you end up at Okanagan college?

Sarah: That’s a great question and it could be a very long story. But I’ll try and keep it brief. It took me quite a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. But I always loved stories and I always loved helping people. And actually, when I was doing my English undergrad at UBC. I often daydreamed of being an English professor. But what I really liked the idea of was having office hours. So, fast forward a number of years when I figured out that I wanted to be a counselor. And it all made sense because now I get to have office hours all the time. And I don’t have to mark papers. So, when I figured out that I wanted to be a counselor I was really excited about supporting youth. Especially in their process of figuring out what they wanted to do with their lives. And who they wanted to be. The whole process of developing their identity was really important to me. And I was lucky enough to land a practicum at a college in Quebec city. Where I was doing my Master’s degree. And I was just hooked on working in colleges from that point on. So then I sort of leap frogged across the country. I had a job at a College in Montreal and then at Camosun college, I was very lucky to have some temporary work there for a number of years and then when a permanent position opened at Okanagan College in Penticton. My family and I embraced the opportunity to come and live on the beautiful traditional territory of the silk Okanagan and we’ve been here for five years now and it’s just it’s my dream job. I love love love working with students.

Helena: The year didn’t quite start as we were hoping for it to start right? We’re not on the other side of COVID yet. What we see is our peers, our family, our systems seem to be really tired. So, Sarah what do we do? Give us some advice.

Sarah: Oh, absolutely Helena. It’s so natural, for us to be feeling tired and frustrated and disappointed right now because there was such a rapid change right towards the end of 2021 with the ways that we’ve had to adapt again with this new variant. My first piece of advice is to be honest with ourselves about what we’re feeling. I notice that the Canadian Mental Health Association’s theme for 2022 is “Name It Don’t Numb It” and I think that that is really really important advice right now. We’ve been going through this experience for such a long time, you know, in March 2020. I think a lot of us approached the initial COVID restrictions as a sprint and it turned out to be, you know, more than an ultra-marathon and that has been draining for a lot of us and say the urge to numb whether that’s through, you know, typical things like substance use, Netflix, overworking, scrolling social media, the list goes on. That urge is really strong and it can be very counterproductive for our mental health so when CMHA talks about naming it, you know, giving yourself an opportunity to check in with yourself. So this could be in your own thoughts, could be in a journal, or could be with someone that you trust, whether that’s a colleague or a loved one, just to say, “hey, you know what? I’m feeling really deflated by where we’re at right now and this is all feeling really tiring having to continue to adapt and follow these restrictions.” It doesn’t take it all away but sometimes in my experience. It can make the feelings a little bit better.

Leva: Hi, Sarah. Yeah, that’s really good advice and the naming it instead of numbing I think that’s a good way to kind of remember that and remind ourselves that, yeah, lot of us kind of do sort of want to push it a little bit under the surface and it’s hard and yeah we’re always so busy too, like as educators taking care of others and thinking about our students and then we have our own families to look after so thinking about self-care then maybe you might also have a few suggestions and what is it that you do yourself for self-care and maybe that might be helpful for listeners?

Sarah: Absolutely, great question. Self-care is probably the thing that I feel most passionately about Leva because you know especially as educators and like you said with family responsibilities and other commitments in our lives things can feel so overwhelming and busy and I think what I found really worked for me, when things kind of clicked to really build in a steady self-care routine. Well, there were two things one is to build those elements of self-care in first. You cannot fit them in afterwards into a really busy schedule they need to be prioritized so like kind of the building blocks of your week and the second part really is attached to that for me having routine helps me to maintain my self-care. So for instance I need to get into bed before 10:00 o’clock did I do that last night on a school night? No, but I can keep aiming for it. And because then I give myself 8 hours in bed to hopefully sleep for most of that time and then my alarm goes off at 6 so that I have about half an hour or 45 minutes before the rest of my family gets up and we start our day and that’s my time. I’ll do a little bit of meditation little bit of journaling and a little bit of mindful movement whether it’s yoga stretches or sometimes even just putting on my favorite song and dancing to it. Another example of routine is that I always go for a walk on my lunch break and that is a non-negotiable for me even if it’s snowy even if it’s raining I just put my hood on and sometimes it’s a very short walk but I get outside and get a little bit of fresh air and a little bit of movement.

Helena: You sound very disciplined, Sarah.

Sarah: Thank you, Helena.

Helena: I thought Netflix was my self-care strategy, but now I’m thinking I’m using that for numbing so I will have to revisit my strategies. Leva, do you have an effective one?

Sarah: I’m sorry Helena, everything in moderation.

Helena: Yes, that’s…

Leva: Well the movement part is good for me that I do admire if you can be disciplined and I think maybe one of the things I can do to support myself is to have good rain gear ’cause right now I don’t really have a proper..

Sarah: OK

Leva: Yeah, especially in footwear.

Sarah: Yeah and absolutely we often there can be those barriers to say well I can’t go for a walk because I might fall so looking at is there anything that’s getting in the way of something that you think would be helpful or beneficial for your wellness and trying to reduce or eliminate those barriers can be really helpful.
Leva: I’ve tried queuing up like walking buddies and things but it is also very difficult ’cause everybody schedules are different but those are really good tips that you put in especially about proactiveness, a routine ’cause I think that sometimes we flip feel like we’re floating ’cause we don’t have a routine. So wellness routine is a great idea and then your movement is a true part of that.

Sarah: And bearing in mind that we often think oh I need lots of time for self-care but a lot of the things that I’m talking about can be done in 5 minutes chunks so even when you’re busy you know your goal might be a 20 minute walk but if you can stick to a 5 minute one, if you don’t have time for 20 or it’s really rainy for instance. That can still have a really big boost.

Helena: I really like that I think we can be more creative around our self-care strategies and I’m wondering if you have any other strategies that you think we should have in our toolkit to weather the ups and downs of 2022 that’s going ahead of us.

Sarah: OK I have yes they do have a couple of other ideas. I think one thing that I want to say is don’t wait to be feeling like doing these things. A good tagline is to follow the plan, not your mood. So again if you set a schedule or routine for yourself and I guess that’s why I’m successful at walking every day is that that’s just what I do. My lunch break feels kind of incomplete if I don’t vote for a walk I don’t always feel like it when I set out but I would say I always feel better when I come back in. So follow the plan not your mood and then I also would recommend building in a mindful self-check in for yourself. and I think this too is a really good thing to fit into your routine in some way so it might be you know if you drive to work or if you’re still working from home before you sit down at your computer take a moment to just check in with yourself and you can close your eyes take three deep breaths and just ask yourself, “what’s true for me right now?”, “what am I noticing?” You might scan for sensations, emotions, any tension, no judgment, no need to buy into stories about why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. Just acknowledge, name it, like we were saying earlier and be kind to yourself and just be like oh I’m feeling some stress or this is suffering or this is frustration whatever it is you can meet it with kindness and then just take one more breath and set an intention to do something kind that might be supportive of what you’re feeling or help it to shift a little bit so maybe if your neck is stiff some stretches or if you have a headache perhaps you need a big glass of water, could be as simple as those little adjustments. I like to do this when I’m washing my hands because let’s face it we’re washing our hands a lot these days so as you’re washing for 20 seconds you can take those three deep breaths and just check in with yourself.

Leva: OK, be kind to yourself. We have to have that as a mantra for sure.

Sarah: As a post-secondary counsellor, I guess I really love the feeling of a fresh semester whether it’s September or January and the beginning of the year always feels like a great opportunity to look at what’s been working and what hasn’t been in my life rather than setting your resolution, I prefer to choose a word that captures how I want to feel in the year ahead.

Helena: It’s such a great idea and you know I sometimes take that word and make it part of my password for work. Because then every time that you type your password, you are reminded of this intention that you bring into the year and that’s kind of uplifting if you choose a positive word, right. But then I have had words like persevere which types very cumbersome with all the E’s so pick your word carefully.

Helena: So Sarah, we’re near the end now of a wonderful conversation with you but we don’t want to leave without challenging our listener. So do you have a nice challenge that we could put out there for them?

Sarah: Yeah and I read that you were hoping that this could be something for kind of for the week ahead especially. So, my challenge is that for this week, please set aside at least 10 minutes a day for self-care. Schedule it in. So think about whether it would work better for you in the morning or on your lunch break or before bed. I set at least 10 minutes. If you have half an hour, go for it and think about what will work best for you. Do you want to do the same activity every time or would you like to mix it up a bit? Work with what feels good and nourishing for you. And yeah allow yourself to brainstorm. If there are a variety of things that you might like to do. Then you could have a list and each day you can choose OK I’m going to have a 10 minute dance party my favorite playlist. Or I’m going to go for a walk with my friend or snuggle with my cat. Whatever fills you up, please do it.

Helena: Thank you for joining us today. If you like this content, let us know! You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn under @BCcampus and on Instagram @bccampus.ca.

Leva: Subscribe to our newsletter at BCcampus.ca where the latest information and details on our offerings. You can also find more information about our podcast bccampusmixtape.com and tune in next week for the next episode of BCcampus Mixtape.

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