Self-care is a necessary and vital part of maintaining emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. It's more than an occasional manicure or special treat. Self-care is a way of living each day incorporating behaviors that help you feel refreshed, replenish your motivation and help you grow as a person. Building reliable self-care habits now can affect your quality of life now and in the future.
A good way to start is to take an honest look at what you’re doing to manage every day stress. Are your close relationships and daily activities adding to your sense of overall stress? If so, take small, realistic steps toward change to help make a significant difference in your quality of life.
Three Components of Self-Care
- Be accepting, kind and compassionate of yourself. How would you treat a good friend who needed some TLC?
- Being kind to yourself doesn't mean the end of motivation or working hard. The point is to stretch, not break yourself.
- Fill your life with people you can laugh with, share dinner with, talk to seriously when needed, and who respect you and don't expect you to do all the work of maintaining the relationship.
- Do a variety of things for fun and stimulation, both with others and alone. Remember things you liked when you were a child, but have long ago given up. Get the creative juices flowing by painting or drawing, or get out the hammer and nails and construct something.
- Move your body, whether in a structured sport or exercise, or dancing, stretching or walking in the park.
- Give your body something good to eat that doesn't come in a bag or box from a fast food restaurant.
- Make a sleep routine where you go to bed and wake up at the same most days.
- Take quiet time for yourself and make it a priority to do something just for you.
- Get a massage or take a hot shower/bath.
- Pay attention to your body’s signals of pain or sickness and go to the doctor as needed.
- Develop practices that exercise your mind and soul.
- Find/create spaces that nurture your spirit, whether attending services with like-minded friends or having a personal routine of prayer or meditation.
- Engage in self-exploration that helps you identify your values and priorities.
- Read literature and have discussions with others that deepen your knowledge of yourself and the universe.
- Find ways to contribute to the well-being of others.
Myths About Self-Care
Some may consider self-care to mean self-involved. In fact, nurturing oneself is a key factor in being able to keep up the strength, resolve, motivation and inner resources so you may continue to give to others.
"I don't have time to take care of myself." If you do a self-care audit, you’ll likely find some of the activities you spend your time on now could be better spent recharging your own battery. Time management/life goal experts stress the importance of putting self-care into a schedule just like a class or job.
"TV and pizza are my self-care." That may be just the ticket for some nights, but do you have enough nurturing choices for the other nights of the week? While not discounting the value of building up your knowledge of 1950s television trivia, the consequences of making it a nightly habit might include indigestion, sleep loss, weight gain, oversleeping in the morning, a feeling of grogginess and little energy lingering the next day. Perhaps instead you could use the comfort of a cozy chat with a special person, or some quiet time with your mind engaged, not just checked out.
"Do I have to do it alone?" Having an accountability partner can be a great motivator. However, the best balance is achieved with a combination of time shared with others, as well as some time alone. Remember that your attitude of looking for opportunities to practice self-care can go with you anywhere.
Still skeptical? Set up a 30-day self-care routine and see how you feel before and after.