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These expert-approved self-care hacks are like spring cleaning for the soul

Avis K. Brown, LCSW-BACS

Avis K. Brown, a Baton Rouge-based licensed clinical social worker and board approved clinical supervisor, came to the rescue of many LSU students in 2020 when she led a workshop on the importance of self-care and social connection in the midst of tough times. But Brown was an advocate in that realm long before a pandemic told us it was cool. Through her “Sanity Saving Self-Care” podcast, free “self-care cheat sheet,” and other resources provided through her Coach Curator brand—as well as her own personal experience with long-term grief—Brown is on a mission to guide clients through the day-by-day steps toward a well-balanced lifestyle.

“I’m so passionate about this because I used to work in an inpatient psychiatric hospital, where so many of these social workers were working full-time jobs plus part-time jobs, and raising a family, and wearing so many different hats,” says Brown. “I was trying to make sure I was showing up for everybody else, but wasn’t doing the best job at showing up for myself.”

Having found some tried-and-true methods for regulating her own sense of self, she shares a few tips for implementing more me-time as a new season approaches:

1. Pay attention to physical indicators.

Stressors, says Brown, will often come with physical indicators (like high blood pressure or lethargy), especially since the stressed person is rarely able to see the true extent of her suffering from within her own mind. This is why social ties from family and friends can be crucial, offering outside perspectives when your brain feels cloudy or distracted.

“If pressure drops in an airplane, they tell you to mask yourself before you mask others,” says Brown, noting the time her son was the one to express concern over her rising stress levels as a working mother. “I had to learn how to replenish myself in the healthy and right ways so I could be there for the people in my life.”

2. Put yourself on your schedule.

“Set a reminder on your phone or watch to go take a walk outside,” says Brown. “Take stock of the things you are passionate about and make an ‘appointment’ to intentionally prioritize the things that bring you personal fulfillment for the sake of enhancing your mind.”

Whatever it is, she says, make sure it’s an activity that you’re truly doing for yourself, and not necessarily for a spouse or a child.

“Sometimes putting yourself on your schedule can mean buying yourself a bag of crawfish, heading to the park, and just enjoying an hour to yourself,” she says with a chuckle. “It’s about learning to turn off responsibilities for a bit in a healthy way.”

3. Don’t feel like you need to spend money.

Brown is as big a fan of a pedicure and a massage as anyone else, but sometimes, the easiest ways to hype yourself up are also some of the least expensive.

“It can be as simple as looking in the mirror and telling yourself, ‘You’ve got this. You’re doing great,'” she says. “Journaling is also a practice of self-care, because it gives you time to organize your thoughts and express your emotions. Expressed feelings are changed feelings. Whether on pen and paper or on an electronic device, writing things out can help lessen that intensity.”

Even maintaining a simple “gratitude log,” like Brown did with her children, can train your brain to pay attention to positive events or experiences in your day-to-day life.

4. Start creating something new in a fresh space—and finish it.

“Sometimes our external environment represents what we’re going through internally,” she says. “Cleaning up your space to get rid of clutter can help free up some mental space and create a more beautiful environment, but so can going outside to plant a garden, for example.”

The end result can be just as important as the actions themselves, she adds. “Doing things like writing a poem, making a painting—anything you can finish to give yourself a sense of accomplishment—can be really important,” says Brown. “In life, there are going to be hiccups. We can never truly know what’s next, so the more order we can place in our lives, the better we’re equipped to handle things when they don’t go according to plan.”

For more information on Brown and her services, follow her on Instagram @coachcurator.