A Psychologist's Self-Care Tips (Including her surprising tip for dealing with insomnia.)

[Editor's note: The thought of starting to take better care of yourself can be daunting but it doesn't have to be. These interviews feature individuals who have successfully incorporated self-care into their daily routines. Read them, be inspired by them, and take on the challenge of self-care!]

Rose Chin, PhD is a clinical psychologist and Catholic in the Austin, TX area.  When she isn’t treating patients, you can find her shopping for baby clothes, spending time with her husband, and trying to figure out how to cook.  You can follow Rose on her website, gracefilledmindblog.com and on Instagram at grace_filled_mind.

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1. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
I am a health psychologist by training, meaning I got a phd in psychology and specialize in helping people with medical conditions.  I love my work and am passionate about helping women who suffer with health problems. I am also a newlywed, new to Austin, and new to motherhood.  Joseph was born in January and he’s already the love of my life.

2. What is a typical day like for you? 
My typical day has changed a lot since become a mom! I wake up with my nugget around 7 and when he sleeps I also attempt to find that nap during the day to ward off sleep deprivation (which is a major contributor to postpartum mental health issues). I make a healthy lunch to energize my body and always find time to get a nightly bath + glass of wine in. Yes - every night even with a new baby! Thanks to my husband. I love having that moment alone with my thoughts and with the Lord.

3. What has your relationship to self-care been like throughout your life? Did you always make it a priority?
I have almost always been able to prioritize self-care in my adult life, even in graduate school.  Perhaps it is because I had a very hectic childhood. I grew up with a younger sister who had a lot of medical problems, so I often had to finish my own school projects and cope with the stress of family being gone for long hospital trips. You don’t have to convince me that as women living in our modern world, we need and deserve self-care.

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I believe women in particular are more attuned to our environments and relationships and emotionally empathic and connected to others.  These characteristics are gifts but also require care, kindness, and connection with the Lord to keep in balance. We often over-extend ourselves mentally and physically.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I am not as “rugged” and “hardy” as your typical male – mentally or physically.  As women, the research shows we are more prone to anxiety and depression and physical health problems than men. We birth, we labor, we have periods and hormones.  I don’t see my personality, emotional intelligence, or physical propensities as a “weakness” of my femininity, but as something to celebrate and nurture.

Nurturing these aspects of myself often require slowing down and resting (like when I have my “aunt flo” cramps, or when I am emotionally exhausted from psychotherapy).  And that’s a beautiful thing that I have learned to embrace. I love my softness as a woman and how I am so different than a man. It’s okay if see yourself in the “princess and the pea.”  I know I do!

4. What is your favorite self-care practice?
My favorite self-care practice when I was working as a psychologist was taking a short walk around the clinic outdoors.  I will just walk away from my desk and head out the door (SPF in hand!) Taking a lap around the building allows me to relax my body and refresh my mind. Sometimes I will just focus on my legs moving, or sometimes I’ll talk the God, or maybe I’ll say a few Hail Mary’s.  I plan to continue this rhythm when I return to work part-time at some point this year.

My go-to self-care practice at home is the good ole tub soak.  During pregnant, my tub usage probably doubled as did our water bill! The sound of the water and the soaking in the warmth really relaxes my physically and also helps with the anxious thoughts I have encountered with pregnancy.  It’s my sacred place to talk to God, read a book, or just do some deep breathing. It also reduces blood pressure and heart rate and prepares the body for sleep by altering circulation..

5. Is there any area that you struggle to take care of yourself? How do you want to grow in that area?
I do struggle to care for myself with regard to nutrition and food. I am the worst at remembering to take vitamins, medications, and getting a healthy and balanced meal into my days.  I often will get so engrossed with my baby that I sometimes don’t even realize I am hungry. I’ll put my food needs towards the bottom of the list. After having the baby, this tendency took a major toll on me: I lost the baby weight too quickly and was so fatigued. For my baby’s sake and for my milk supply, I know I have to fuel my body and have learned to make it more a priority.

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I have recently tried to remedy this by being more planful: making a meal plan on Sunday and jotting down what I need from the grocery instead of shopping for groceries without a list.  I also use reminders to take my vitamins so that I can’t forget. Those little fridge post-it’s are silly but literally are so helpful. Learning to prioritize nutrition is a journey for me as I walk through motherhood.

6. What do you wish you could tell your younger self when it comes to self-care?
When I was younger I always felt like I had to prove myself as tough.  Being seen as the “tiny little ballerina” (in a past life my passion was to be a professional ballerina), I wanted to show my friends and family that I could hack the tough world of pursuing my academic career.  However, I lacked a view of femininity and identity in Christ early on. A more balanced perspective about femininity and my identity opens the door to embracing self-care in such a deep way.  I wish I could have experienced that earlier in my teen years and early adulthood.

7. Lightening Round!
a. Coffee or tea? Coffee (what else makes me a good mom in the morning?) However, I’ve been loving my British Typhoo black tea with milk and sugar lately.

b. Current favorite TV show? Right now my favorite TV show is Call the Midwife - go figure!

c. Early bird or night owl? In terms of my circadian rhythm, I feel like I’m neither. Or partly both -- I do love an early morning breeze outside while sipping on some tea. I also have had to embrace 2am and 5am feedings so I’m embracing both ends of the spectrum at this point.

d. Favorite quote? To be completely real, I don’t remember quotes – my brain doesn’t work that way.  My favorite scripture is Psalm 139.

e. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? Forever a smooth girl (especially in my smoothies and oatmeal!)

Thanks, Rose! You can read more about Rose on her website, gracefilledmindblog.com and on Instagram at grace_filled_mind .