Self care is not a bad thing. Let’s put that out there right now. So many times people equate self-care with self indulgence or being selfish. We’ve been conditioned for so long to believe that focusing on the self makes you a bad person. But in all actuality, self care is the single most important thing a person can focus on, no matter what walk of life you come from.
Self care is necessary. While it is so easy to get lost in a sea of other people’s problems, one has to understand that it is nearly impossible to help anyone else without first protecting yourself.
Think of self care as battle armor. It is the shield and sword of anyone who cares for others. By protecting yourself first, you can go out and fight to protect yourself and all of the people you care about.
If you find yourself struggling to cope with daily stressors or to keep up with the pace of your busy life, there is nothing wrong with you. It is exceptionally difficult these days for people to deal with the near-constant loneliness on top of the hefty expectations put on them by bosses, family and friends. Accomplishing even the most basic tasks can seem like the hardest thing in the world when you are already feeling low.
So what’s the solution? Self care may sound simple, but it is anything but. Self care is work, and it takes dedicated effort to treat yourself as well as you would the friends and family members you have been taking care of for years.
How do you define self care?
A few years ago, I came up with my own definition of self care, and it has taken the world by storm. I have been quoted in articles, on university websites and my words have even been attributed to people far more famous than I (Brene Brown is the favorite to credit when people can’t find the original).
All this is to say that my personal definition of self care seems to resonate with others.
What do you think? Is this a definition you can relate to? Perhaps we need to dig deeper.
What is self care, and why is it important?
To put it very simply, self care is everything you do deliberately for your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
Have you ever told someone not to talk to you after you’ve had some coffee? That’s self care. Have you ever had a glass of wine at the end of a hard day? Self care. Have you ever cancelled on someone at the last minute because you couldn’t face dealing with people? Yah, that’s self care, too.
Every decision that we make to protect ourselves from the things that add to our stress is a part of caring for ourselves.
What ISN’T self care?
Self care is not about insisting that you come first in everything. It isn’t using stress as an excuse to behave badly or as a means to get more than others.
More importantly, self care shouldn’t be something that stresses you out. It is not something we should force ourselves to do or something we dread. It is not something that takes away from us. It should never leave us worse off than we started.
What are examples of self care?
Self care is all about balance. It is creating an environment that you feel comfortable and relaxed in, and it is allowing yourself to feel secure and happy. And not just for a moment or two, either.
Part of self care is making sure that every area of your life benefits from your efforts.
Here are some examples of self care.
Know Your Limits
Everyone has limits. Figure out where yours begin and put boundaries in place to ensure that you never hit them. Recognize when you are doing more than you can handle and figure out if there is a way you can slow down.
Feed Yourself Well
Nutrition is a big part of self care. Give your body the things it needs to have energy and enthusiasm. Try to maintain a healthy diet, but don’t be afraid to treat yourself once in a while.
Sleep, Rest and Relax
Sleep is imperative for a productive life. A lack of sleep can impact your body and your mind. But sleep isn’t the only way to reenergize yourself. Even resting with your eyes closed for a few minutes can be enough to keep you going.
Decompress Throughout The Day
Too often we insist that we push through our stress until the end of the day or week, looking toward some far-off point when we can finally breathe. But self care means taking opportunities throughout the day to give yourself grace and decompressing. Taking breaks to walk, hydrate or socialize will make you a far more productive employee or family member.
Identify What You Love
Sometimes we are so busy living for other people that we forget to live for ourselves. Figure out what you enjoy doing. Maybe it’s a hobby you had years ago, or maybe it’s brand new. Find what you like, and make a concerted effort to incorporate it into your life.
Learn to Say No
Many of us are terrified of letting people down, so we say yes to everything that is asked of us. But it’s important to remember that saying no is perfectly acceptable. If you don’t have the bandwidth to take something on, politely decline, and stick to your guns. Don’t let others make you feel guilty for not taking on more than your fair share.
What are the 8 areas of self care?
There are 8 main areas of self-care: physical, psychological, emotional, social, professional, environmental, spiritual, and financial. Here is how you can practice self care for each of them.
- Make sure you are eating a healthy diet.
- Make sure you are exercising and keeping fit.
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep each night.
- Read a book
- Listen to a podcast
- Learn a new skill
- Practice saying ‘no’
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Be aware of your limits and enforce them
- Ask for help when you need it
- Join a local group like a sports team or a theater company
- Don’t spend time with people who make you feel bad
- Keep a to-do list and stick to it
- Take your full lunch break (and any other breaks you deserve)
- Ask for regular performance reviews
- Declutter your home
- Find a space that is yours
- Clean up when a mess is made so you don’t get overwhelmed
- Talk to God
- Go for a nature walk
- Keep a budget and stick to it
- Add to your savings each month
- Know your income and expenses and make sure they are taken care of
What are the benefits of practicing self care?
There is no end to the benefits of self care. When you feel better in mind and body, you feel motivated to live better and are better prepared for the day-to-day stresses that appear.
Self care is personal to each one of us, and there is no right way to do it. But placing yourself central in your own life is going to make sure that you can be on the periphery of those you love and care about.
Can self care prevent disease or illness?
Practicing regular self care can absolutely help prevent illness and disease. Many illnesses are based on environmental factors and are preventable. By keeping yourself well fed, fit and mentally stable, you can make good decisions that will keep you from succumbing to otherwise avoidable illnesses.