I don’t really know why, but the term “self-care” keeps popping up in my life. I see it on Twitter, in online articles and even in an audio book I’m listening to. So what is self-care? And why the sudden movement around it? A few definitions I found online all suggest that it is when you take care of yourself from a mental and physical perspective. The definitions also suggests that it is care that you provide yourself. Many of the articles I’ve found online are geared towards women, which I think is a bit sexist. In today’s world, its hardly common for anyone to play any specific role in a relationship or household. My intent here is not to stereotype who needs what kind of self-care, but rather to understand what it is and why it’s so important.
What is self-care?
Most of us probably think we do enough to look after ourselves, but I would wager a bet that we don’t. I know that I could do more to make myself feel better, but at the end of a busy day, the only self-care I want is sleep. The idea behind caring for oneself is to ensure that you are mentally, physically and emotionally prepared to handle life. Does the thought of having to “train” for life, in the same way you would a marathon, make you cringe? At first, I was skeptical of the idea of self care. I thought you go through life and you just dealt with what was thrown your way. In a reactive sort of sense. But the more reading I do around what is self care, and some examples of it, the more I realize that its a proactive approach to dealing with life. We spend most of our time reacting to situations and events and not enough time planning. I might be the worst when it comes to planning certain things. Take meals for example – I rarely put in enough time, thought or effort to pull off an actual balanced meal for myself. And what does that mean? It means I either don’t eat enough during the day, or I eat more of one type of food than another. As far as self care goes, in order for me to be physically stronger I need to eat balanced meals. This will help me in other ways, such as providing me the energy needed to deal with a situation when it arises.
What are examples of self-care?
So what can you do to start looking after yourself? You should identify a problem area in your life, like I did, above. Or maybe it’s that you never say “no” when friends and family ask you for help. Identifying the problem is the first step anytime you are trying to come up with a solution. Self-care isn’t something you can do once and you will miraculously start to feel better. It’s something that you need to do over time, and build into your lifestyle. Make it a habit!
Here is a list of some things you can do to help yourself:
- Take a quick nap. If you don’t feel like you are able to tackle an activity to the best of your ability, try a 10 or 20 minute nap.
- Start making small changes to your diet. Healthy eating habits are important if you want to be at your best.
- Schedule time to do something that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be a daily activity. If you are busy, try scheduling something once a week and stick to it. That could mean meeting a friend for coffee or lunch, going to see a movie (this is more of a “weekly” activity), or maybe you enjoy reading. Whatever you chose, schedule some time to do it.
- Follow up on medical appointments. No one likes to go see their doctor, but making sure you’re in tip-top shape is important. And if you aren’t, this is the perfect opportunity to get back on track. This also includes dental visits and seeing your eye doctor. Again, not how anyone wants to spend their time, but it is a very important aspect of self-care.
- Practice a relaxation technique. I’ve said it a hundred times, but meditation is wonderful. Take 10 minutes out of your schedule and breathe. If you’re not sure how to do this exactly, find an app or audio book that takes you through some self-guided meditation. Focus on your breathing during that time and try not to let the world creep into your thoughts. If breathing isn’t your thing, try taking a bath. Yoga is another good example of a relaxation technique.
- Other things you can do for yourself – listen to music, read a book, start a journal, take a class offered through your local community centre, phone a friend or listen to a podcast.
Many people, including myself, go through life reacting to situations and events. This can raise our stress levels and diminish our capacity to be able to be able to handle the pressures of life. While I originally thought that self-care was simple common sense practices, I think that most people don’t see it that way. In fact, I think we take ourselves for granted and don’t exercise enough self-care. I am included in that statement. Health and wellness should become a priority in your life if it isn’t. Starting out by making small changes to your life and your habits will go a long way. Don’t put these things off because you’re too busy now. You’ll always be busy. But it is important to make time for yourself, otherwise you won’t be able to help anyone else.