Unified Caring Association

It is Time to Water the Growing Edge

How we focus our energy on what we want to grow

As our world continues to change quickly and sometimes dramatically, it may be easy to pine over what we have lost, and what we may not get back. It is natural to miss what was once normal. However, it is time that we look to the growing edge. We can focus our energy on what we want to grow: it is time to water the growing edge.

As people continue to seek new ways to live fulfilling lives, they are coming up against challenges.

Challenges like meeting basic needs. These are challenges that UCA has the capacity to help with. Like providing food and needed supplies for children and families. In a pilot project to meet critical needs for children in foster care, UCA provided warm winter clothes, under garments, feminine care supplies, shoes, toiletries and warm accessories.  UCA also provided bicycles to middle school and high school students who would otherwise miss school due to lacking transportation options.

At UCA, we continue to seek the growing edge

We are delighted when we see organizations like One Tree Planted doing their part to restore salmon habitat. This is to grow an increase in the local salmon population to feed a suffering pod of Orca whales! UCA had to step in and do our part to support these endeavors. You can read more about that here.

We also have to water our own growing edge

That is why at UCA, we prioritize self-care for our members and provide articles like this or these. Some members want step-by-step how-to’s of self-care, while others thrive with our updates on inspiration for small acts of self-care that give a big impact. You can’t water from an empty cup, so make sure yours gets refilled regularly!

We hope to help you do your best to water your own growing edge, by staying healthy and active

We also want to know if you have any growing edges that need watering in your community. Reach out to us through access on your Membership Dashboard. We want to hear your ideas as well, and if your Share Your Caring Story about how you watered a growing edge in someone’s life or in your community, we will share it with our members on our website!

Deep Breathing
Health, Self-Care

Deep Breathing for Self-Care

The greatest personal health tools we have access to today are completely free, and as obvious as the breath. Though the breath is a function that literally keeps us alive, we so often move through the day tuned-out from its behavior. Choosing to become more aware of how we are breathing from one moment to the next is a simple, and effective form of self-care. 

The human body is designed to breathe with fullness. We are equipped with a dome-shaped diaphragm that stretches down to the naval, and is intended to be filled with life giving air – filling this space is what it means to breathe with fullness. 

There are many factors that contribute to breathing against our inherent design – stress, lifestyle, and chronic worrying being at the forefront. Even the thoughts that occur inside the privacy of the mind generate stress responses in the body. It’s during these moments of stress, our breath has a tendency to go shallow. Meaning that instead of breathing into our diaphragm, we unconsciously breathe into the throat and upper chest. This is very stressful to the nervous system, and thus compromising to all other body systems. 

By taking in full breaths, we create an opportunity to invite more oxygen into the body. This in itself is incredibly supportive to our energy levels, our cognition, and longevity. Extensive research also credits deep breathing for boosting immunity, helping to manage pain, and improve circulation. 

Beyond physicality, deep breathing helps regulate our moods and responsiveness. This is because taking full diaphragmatic breaths sends out instructions to the brain to release endorphins, our naturally occurring “feel-good” chemicals. From here, the nervous system is able to operate more fluidly by creating a chemical response in the entire body that ultimately feels like more spaciousness, and less reactivity. 

The next time you find yourself feeling anxious or stressed, take a moment to evaluate how you are breathing. Stress is most often accompanied by shallow breathing, so by catching ourselves in its grasp we can utilize the most readily available tool we have – the breath – to course correct, and self-soothe. 

Here is a simple breath exercise that you can take with you anywhere: 

  • Place one hand over your navel, and take a deep breath in that expands your belly outward. 
  • As you exhale slowly, pull your navel towards your spine.
  • Try to make the exhale slightly longer than the inhale. 
  • Repeat this for 5-10 rounds, and note how this feels in your body.

You can practice this exercise while driving, while you wait in line at the store, or even while watching television. The convenient thing about the breath is that it follows us everywhere, making it a feasible, and wildly accessible tool to practice with.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way! If you would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter!

Article by Melissa Aparicio, contributing author

Self-Care, Sharing Caring, Unified Caring Association

Getting Better at What We Care About

getting better care about

Getting-Better-at-What-We-Care-About

There are many things as aspects of our lives that we care about: caring for our family, our performance at work, or even our physical fitness and health. But we can often find ourselves with little desire or in a struggle to improve. There are many ways we can strive to be better at what we care about. One of the best ways to begin a self-care or self-improvement journey is with mind, then follow with action.

Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is an idea where a person can adopt a practice where their most basic abilities can be continually developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talents are just a starting point, continually learning and growing is the ‘maintenance’ so to speak. This perspective often fosters resilience and a love of learning which can lead to success. This means that the brain is always growing, building new neural pathways, more resilient, as well as getting stronger.

A Tale of Two Zones… 

In his TedTalk Eduardo Briceño breaks down how to get better at what we care about. He begins talking about two zones that we must go through to get better at one or more skills. The first phase, the learning zone is the desire for improvement and is where the growth mindset lies. To do this “… we do activities designed for improvement, concentrating on what we haven’t mastered yet, which means we have to expect to make mistakes, knowing that we will learn from them.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about)This is in contrast to the second zone called the performance zone. The performance zone is where we execute our task, exercise our skills, “…do something as best as we can…[and] concentrate on what we have already mastered and we try to minimize mistakes.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) Briceño mentions that often those who are perceived as highly effect and successful deliberately set the intention to alternate between these two zones. The goal for getting better at what we care about is to be clear about what we want in each of these two zones: learning and growth followed by the maximum benefit and success during implementation. Rinse and repeat.

Seems simple, right? The struggle is that many of us don’t improve even if we work really hard. According to Briceño this is because most societies have the mindset that we must stay in the ‘performance zone.” We can see this in many companies where results are the way to be successful, or in classrooms where getting the ‘A’ or ‘100%’ is all that seems to matter. We seem to be missing the learning and experience of failure that makes it possible to get better at what we care about; “…this hinders our growth, and ironically, over the long term, also our performance.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) The learning zone consists of what “…Dr. Anders Ericsson calls deliberate practice. This involves breaking down abilities into component skills, being clear about what subskill we’re working to improve, …giving full concentration to a high level of challenge outside our comfort zone, just beyond what we can currently do, using frequent feedback with repetition and adjustments, and ideally engaging the guidance of a skilled coach, because activities designed for improvement are domain-specific, and great teachers and coaches know what those activities are and can also give us expert feedback. It is this type of practice in the learning zone which leads to substantial improvement, not just time on task performing.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about)

Often we see a trend of our abilities plateauing during our first five years of an activity. This happens when we think and feel we have become ‘good enough’ and stop spending time in the first zone — the learning zone. We move on to the second zone — the performance zone — where we often remain. While in this second zone we are just doing to get things done as best as we can. If we are practicing mindfulness and taking notes (literally or mentally) we can then go back to the first zone and work on learning and strengthening in the areas that did not work out as well as we had hoped during the performance zone.

To set ourselves up for success we need to do four things according to Briceño: 1) adopt a growth mindset, 2) want to improve a specific skill, 3) have an idea or plan on how to improve said skill, and 4) “…we must be in a low-stakes situation, because if mistakes are to be expected, then the consequence of making them must not be catastrophic, or even very significant. “ (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) If we are able to keep the stress and stakes low for a good amount of the time, we can develop an environment that allows for nurturing a growth mindset. A good take-away from the two zones and how they interact to help us get better at what we care about is to think about it like washing your hair: wash-rinse-repeat. (Click here to watch the full TedTalk video.)

Brain Chemistry 

Ok so we have a good idea about growth mindset and how to continue getting better at what we care about. But what is actually happening with the brain? The key is in how our brain has been evolving from the purely animalistic, instinctive and reactionary wiring that focuses mostly on survival even if our nobel goal is to emphasize the positive and intentional things today. How the brain remembers negative experiences is often through the body producing cortisol during a stressful event. (That T-Rex ate Bob, it was scary, and I remember that! I also remember my friend Bob. He was a cool dude.) “The bad feeling of cortisol has its own survival purpose. It alerts you to an obstacle on the path to meeting your needs so you can navigate your way to good feelings. But once you do that, your brain finds the next obstacle. You will feel bad a lot if you follow your survival brain wherever it leads.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2016/12/21/how-to-train-your-brain-to-go-positive-instead-of-negative/#66ccd9005a58) Fast forward to 2020 and we have a brain that is tuned into looking out for obstacles, and has become very skilled in remembering negative experiences.

It probably takes about three times repeating most positive experiences to make as deep of an impression in the mind as one negative experience. This is based on practices for building self-esteem and self-confidence such as through pep talks like repeating positive sayings to yourself multiple times while looking in the mirror. Doing this will ingrain a pathway and memory in the mind based on positivity, effectively training your brain to look for the positives and not the negatives. A suggestion is to “…spend one minute looking for positives, three times a day for forty five days…Any positives, no matter how small, will build the pathway that seeks and expects positives.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2016/12/21/how-to-train-your-brain-to-go-positive-instead-of-negative/#66ccd9005a58) This will create a healthy habit, and promote the development of a healthy brain.

…And Heart Happenings

Having healthy and learning minds helps us cultivate strong emotional bonds with others and ourselves. It feels good to be successful in endeavors we care about. Previous blogs we have written talk a lot about how positive feelings are good for our us, such as Caring Through the Gift of Time and Volunteering for Health. We see this when we achieve a goal — we and those who support us often are smiling.  We feel the positivity. When a positive outlook is adopted a higher frequency of success is achieved. This in turn creates a positive circuit the feeds itself, and generates more connections during our learning time. An example of this is the saying ‘you’re on fire!’ when someone is just having successful achievement after successful achievement. The excitement is palpable and the momentum is fast.

From what we have been reading and blogging about, this is the ongoing goal of a growth mindset. Most of the time we are happy when we are learning and growing. And one thing is for certain: change is inevitable. This means that it is important to continue to get better at what we care about.

Enjoy what you have been reading? Unified Caring Association has more blogs with caring UCA topics, Caring Action, and Caring the UCA Way! Would you like to keep up with UCA activities? Check us out on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter for updates throughout the week!

Self-Care, Sharing Caring, Unified Caring Association

Energy Follows Intention – Be Focused!

Think abundantly. Energy follows intention.

Our thinking habits can be very predictive of our outcomes.
Training our minds to see the positive, focusing on abundance and investing our energy into the manifestation of good outcomes can help to make our goals more achievable. In order to see the positive – we must be the positive! It has been said that we become what we think, and there is certainly some truth to that! Positive thoughts definitely help to create positive results. Remember: energy follows intention, so if we desire something positive in life, we cannot be distracted by the negative!

Break the habit of negativity!

How do I break the habit of negativity? It’s true that old habits are heard to break! But, a simple shift and re-framing of our language can be a big help. How we talk about our life experiences makes a difference. Rather than referring to a disappointing situation as a failure, we can shift our thinking and language to describe it as an opportunity for improvement. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, we find ourselves looking forward to the changes we can make to improve our future experiences. In this way, small shifts in perspective can make great incremental changes in our perception. Change your perspective – change your reality!

Start the day off right!

It’s so exciting to realize that we can create a more positive world today just by sprucing up our own thinking! We can go forward into each day with a positive mindset and actually create a better world! Starting off the day with a positive affirmation or two can help us to climb out of a negative mindset and harness our positive energy. In addition, they are a powerful self-esteem booster! When we point our “inner voice” in a more positive direction more positive results become possible. By reducing negative comments about ourselves and the world around us, our opportunities open up. We stop talking ourselves down into believing that we are not good enough, and instead start driving positive change into our lives.

What if I get stuck?

Look, everyone gets stuck from time to time. As we grow, we change, and the same things that used to fit into our lives nicely may feel out of place to you now. If you find yourself feeling negative about a situation despite your best efforts, that’s a clue to re-evaluate. It may be that the situation as you are experiencing it, no longer serves you. Meaning, you have grown past it’s purpose in your life and are ready for something new!

Self care is the way to go!

Taking time to re-calibrate and focus the direction your life is going in is essential to happiness. Checking in with yourself to see how you are really feeling about a situation, rather than just pushing through it, can make all the difference in the world! True self-care requires that we create a regular routine of de-stressing, accessing and assessing. People who have great self-care practices often use relaxation techniques and have someone to talk to when they are feeling stressed. Employing these two self-care practices alone can make a huge difference in our quality of life. Self-care is not selfish … it is necessary!