How I Work: Amanda Costello – A Workflow for Self Care

Lead Content Strategist, CEHD AIT


Amanda Costello

What do you do?

I’m the lead content strategist for the College of Education and Human Development. My short elevator speech for content strategy is that I think about who needs to use our website and make sure they can. There’s a lot more that goes into it than that (usability, accessibility, information architecture, and FEELINGS), but to paraphrase Karen McGrane: “On a good day, I make the web better. On a bad day, I just make it suck less.” Thankfully, our team has more good than bad days, and I love the work I do.

What tools do you use to do your work?

Apple Watch Breathe FunctionOf all the new, innovative — and sometimes controversial — choices Apple introduced at their fall event on September 7, the one that stuck out to me was the “Breathe” function on the Apple Watch. A bit of tech giving you a reminder to slow down, find your breath, and reconnect with yourself and your body for a moment.

This hardly struck me as revolutionary, though, as I’ve made a habit of incorporating technology into my self-care routine for a while. Self-care is threaded throughout how I do a lot of things, from working as a web content strategist, to being a good partner and new parent in my family, to choosing how to spend my free time with people and hobbies that bring me peace and satisfaction (like knitting, and web conferences!).

Though the new line of Apple Watches and iPhones have an appeal to me due to their improved water resistance (see above note about being a new mom, and knowing how kids and phones tend to interact), my self-care resources won’t require you to plunk down too many of your hard earned dollars; some are even free!

I have the following gif saved to my Dropbox account, as well as on the desktop of both computers at home and work, and on my phone. Inhale until the polygon fully expands, exhale until it fully contracts. Repeat as necessary.

expanding polygon

You Feel Like Sh*t: An Interactive Self-Care Guide” is a flow chart from mental health advocate Jace Harr. Jace recommends it for anyone who struggles with self care, executive dysfunction, and/or has trouble reading their own signals. It’s “designed to take as much of the weight off of you as possible,” and I’ve often run through it when things have even just felt a little off.

Guided meditation is helpful for me to dislodge racing thoughts. As a lifelong sufferer of anxiety disorders, the first time I was instructed to sit silently and watch my thoughts drift by like clouds, I panicked that I was doing it wrong, as I hadn’t spent a lot of time watching clouds drift. Having a voice to listen to is helpful for me. Headspace is a popular app with sequences of meditations, (the introductory series is free, with more specific packages at a subscription rate). UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center has a number of meditations both in English and Spanish. On campus, the Center for Spirituality and Healing offers both academic and community courses in mindfulness-based stress reduction.

Exercise and movement can also be key to good self-care, though if you’re not particularly active, starting out can be rough. My original motivation to get a Fitbit was not the step counting, but the ability to set silent alarms. Twice a day — 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. — my Fitbit buzzes against my wrist. I set this as a reminder to get up, stretch, and drink water. While I don’t always hit my 10,000 steps, my daily water intake has gone up drastically, and having a built-in pause to get up and away from my computer screen always helps me in the long run.

Many folks, myself included, have found tremendous help and support in working with a therapist. Making the decision to talk with someone is a huge step, but the next steps can be hard to figure out. Lyndsay Peters has designed a worksheet (Google Sheets) to help figure out how a therapist can work with your priorities, schedule, and budget.

The best advice I got before seeing a therapist was to commit to three sessions; if after three, either you or the therapist isn’t feeling the relationship, they can recommend you to someone that would be a better fit. You won’t hurt a therapist’s feelings if you’re not feeling a connection — they want you to feel better, and are happy to refer you to a colleague who can help with that!

Self care is important. As my dad says, you have to live with you for your whole life.


A note from the librarian:

Megan Kocher
Megan Kocher

Self care is so important — especially at this time of year. If you need to relieve some stress during finals, the Libraries have a variety of activities to help you out (e.g. Chair massage! Therapy animals! Cookies! Crosswords!)

Megan Kocher

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