Before we begin on strategies for Self-Care, it is important to define Self-Care.
Self-Care – the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. (Oxford English Dictionary).
Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. Many of us do not take the proper steps and time to take care of ourselves. We are often too busy with every day life, work, children, taking care of others, we don’t leave enough time to take care of the most important person in our lives – which is our own health and well-being.
There are many things we can do to take care of ourselves and self-care can mean different things to different people; however, there are some basic rules that can be applied to everyone. Self-care does not need to be complicated or too time consuming; however it needs to be actively planned rather than something that just happens every now and then.
Here are some basics to stick to when planning for self-care:
1. Get enough sleep
2. Develop healthy and nutritious eating habits
3. Exercise regularly (not obsessively)
4. Learn how to say NO
5. Do something that makes YOU happy
6. Pamper yourself without feeling guilty
7. Surround yourself with people that uplift you
It is important to note that you don’t have to do all of these activities all the time or at once, however picking a few that are important to you is a good way to make it a part of your daily routine.
For myself, the top three from the above-list are: sleep, exercise and doing something every day that makes ME happy. Although I think that some of these can be combined, but for the sake of simplicity, I will keep them separate.
I have battled with sleeping issues for a long time due to stress and injury and I must say not getting proper sleep is a slippery slope to many unhealthy choices that follow. If you don’t get enough sleep, it can truly mess up your immune system, make you irritable and the rest of your day is easily ruined. Some people need 8 hours of sleep, some people need 5, but it is important to get restful sleep. Meditation before bed or reading can help tremendously when having trouble sleeping.
Exercise for me is key to getting my day started on a positive note – it does not have to involve hours at the gym. It can be as simple as taking a 20 min walk followed by some yoga with light weights at home or just using your own body weight to get your blood flowing. Personally, I love to run and do Pilates – both combined is one of the biggest stress relievers for me. I love working out first thing in the morning as it sets the tone for the rest of my day. I have noticed if for whatever reason I am unable to exercise in the morning, my mood is not quite as good and I am more irritable and on edge. Not only does it make my body feel great and strong, but most importantly helps to keep my mind sharp. Furthermore, it increases serotonin levels and leads to good energy and good mood.
Last but not least, doing something every day that makes ME happy is very important. At times this may sound selfish to others, but to make others happy and be a good friend/partner/employee etc. you must take care of yourself first and be content before you can do that for others. This strategy sounds vague, but it can create a lot of positives for one’s well-being. It can be something so simple as walking to your favorite coffee shop to get coffee in the morning; to getting a massage or hanging out with a particular friend that day. The most important aspect of this is you are doing something that makes YOU happy. For me, each day it varies, but sometimes I just want to stay home and listen to music while other times I want to be surrounded by friends at a nice dinner and cocktail or going to a comedy show or spending time with my nephews – it all depends on what small or big thing I want to do that day. It is also important not to feel guilty when doing so. We often do things we don’t necessarily want to do or if we take time for ourselves, we feel guilty about it – that has to stop!
These are some simple steps we can take towards taking better care of ourselves.
Life is not perfect, and we are all busy, but we must take time for ourselves; it does not have to be complicated, time consuming or costly, even 20 minutes a day can have a great impact. When we don’t take time for self-care, our energy and motivation can decrease, making it even more challenging to stick with healthy lifestyle choices.
Michael R. 2018 – What self-care is and What it isn’t?