The ABC's of #SelfCareSunday

#SelfCareSunday has been a trending tag every week for a while. But what does it mean? For some, it’s champagne brunches with friends and a spa day. For others, it’s a sheet face mask and 20 extra minutes of sleep (or 5). Some days, most days, though-- it’s more basic than that.


If you’ve been in or around therapy, you may have heard of DBT, which stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy and was created by Marsha Linehan. A big part of DBT is a series of skills that help shape behavior and reduce distress. One of those skills is known as ABC PLEASE. And it’s all about self care!


So here is what ABC Please stands for, with examples of my very own! This is the start of where having hobbies is important for self-care. Throughout this list, I’ll talk about one of my favorite hobbies: photography!


A- Accumulate positive emotions

Doing what brings you joy, peace, satisfaction, laughter--you get the idea!

I love working on flower and landscape photography. When I’m working on my photography, I do find peace and satisfaction. When I edit the photos into my vision for the images, it’s fun and satisfying!


Picture Credit: Elizabeth Bolton

B-Build mastery

We like to be good at things. But there is amazing power in becoming good at something. That is where we build confidence in ourselves and how we pick ourselves up from a set back.

I only started photography a few years ago, and I still have a lot to learn about lenses, ISO, aperture, post-processing, and so many other things. And as frustrating as it can be when a shot didn’t turn out how I hoped, it’s another opportunity to learn--and makes the successes that much better!


C-Cope ahead

This one has several interpretations. I originally learned it as using coping skills ahead of time to build up a “savings account” of emotional energy; I’ve also learned that it’s interpreted as preparing options in advance of potentially stressful situations.

WeEkEnDs!!! Decompress then have fun to get ready for the work of the rest of the week! I play D&D with my husband and a group of our friends on some Saturday nights (for those in the know, I have a lot of fun playing an Eladrin rogue).

With the second interpretation, this is knowing that I am allowed to set and abide by my own boundaries. So this past weekend when I went to Houston Museum of Natural Sciences’ (HMNS) Cockerel Butterfly Center to take pictures, Picture Credit: Elizabeth Bolton

I knew what kind of crowd size I was comfortable with and at what point I would need to head out because I value my health, as well as because that heat is INTENSE!


P- Physical

This is the umbrella part of PLEASE in ABC PLEASE. Take care of your physical health as part of maintaining your mental health. This is also about the small, in between details.

Like I just mentioned, the butterfly center is hot. They keep it like a tropical rainforest, and even this native Houstonian is overwhelmed by the climate there. So I made sure to dress appropriately, wore supportive shoes, and had a Gatorade in my backpack to keep sipping on while I got some fantastic shots.





Picture Credit: Elizabeth Bolton

L E- baLance Eating

THIS DOES NOT MEAN CLEAN, PERFECT EATING. This means eating at regular intervals. This means having a variety of the food groups, variety of meals and snacks.

Having fun, satisfying meals that last is something we need to do several times every day-- and making sure we’re fueled for whatever we’re looking forward to! So before I went to HMNS, I had a delicious meal and hydrating drink.


A- Avoid mood altering substances

Taking your prescribed medications for mental health management is not what this means, abusing them, can be. Having a drink or two here and there isn’t an issue (unless you’re sober)--binge drinking is. To be fully present, your brain chemistry needs to be in balance (which is where psychotropic medications come in as help).

There isn’t much of an example here other than what I’ve already said.


S- Sleep

Sweet, sweet sleep. Like with food, we have individual needs in the sleep department and it isn’t always the same. Whenever possible, sleep naturally (without medicinal aid). When that isn’t possible, work with your primary care provider or psychiatrist to find a targeted approach that lets you get deep sleep on a regular basis. Creating a bedtime routine that is screen free and creates predictable rhythm trains your body and brain to start slowing down and let you drift off to sleep.

If reading isn’t a big part of your job, reading a soothing book can be great. I also have a few apps that have guided sleep meditations and nature sounds that I find very relaxing. Maybe in the future I’ll review them! Also, feel free to let me know what apps you like to use for sleep and relaxation! I’m always interested in new options to try and to offer clients.


E- Exercise

Move your body. Sweating is optional, soreness can be a part of exercise but it is not a required part of exercise. Pain is not gain, it’s the opposite of the point.

I don’t know about you, but the gym is not my jam. I tried it, I didn’t like it, and I haven’t been in a while. What I have tried is yoga classes (big fan) and using video classes during quarantine, and

Picture Credit: Elizabeth Bolton dancing around in my kitchen (this early- life dancer may have hung up her pointe shoes, but my kitchen appliances is a great audience!). Another option that I have fun with is walking around somewhere taking pictures! Last year I took a spontaneous trip along 290 for wildflower pictures and ended up walking around the Messina Hof winery in Bryan, just me, my camera, and former-FLOTUS Michelle Obama reading her biography on my headphones. Plenty of movement, but not about the step count, the calories burned, or what it would do for my reflection.


Self-care doesn’t have to be fancy, a lot of it we do all the time. It can be as simple as intentionally choosing to engage in our hobbies and stepping away from things that aren’t serving us anymore.


Joyfully and peacefully yours,

Elizabeth Bolton, NCC, LPC

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