We could all definitely use a little bit of self-care these days. Now more than ever, self-care and managing stress levels are important to help keep our sanity. With so many worrisome things happening in the world, it is so crucial to make sure you take good care of not just your body, but your mind and soul as well. This is not just a one time task when you are sick, it is an everyday endeavor to take care of oneself. Unfortunately, many people’s usual ways of coping strategies are just simply unavailable at the moment, whether it's socializing with friends and family, playing sports, shopping, or working out. On the bright side, there are still plenty of other alternative ways that you can practice self-care during these stressful times, even if you are under stay at home orders.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is defined as the practice of being an active role in protecting one’s own well being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress. Any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, physical, emotional health, or even wearing the best workout clothes can be a form of self-care. Although it may seem like a very simple concept, it is something many people overlook more often than not. Having good self-care practices is a major key in improving overall mood and reducing stress-related anxiety. It can also help with your relationship with yourself and with others as well.
What isn’t Self-Care?
Now that we know what self-care is, let's talk about what isn’t self-care. Knowing what is not self-care maybe even more important than knowing what self-care is. Whatever you do to take care of yourself should not feel like it is draining you. In other words, self-care should not feel like something you are forcing yourself to do. It should be something that you enjoy doing, something that refuels your energy and revitalizes your being, rather than takes those things away from you.
It is also important to note that prioritizing self-care is NOT a selfish act. Taking care of oneself is a necessity these days. It is not just considering our needs, it is about knowing what needs to be done in order to take care of ourselves, and subsequently able to take care of the ones close to us as well. If you are not able to take good enough care of yourself, you will not be in the proper place to give care to your loved ones either.
Why Do We Often Fail at Self-Care?
In theory, practicing self-care is easy. By definition, it is essentially taking time off from what is stressing you and taking some time to do what you enjoy doing. It seems like something everyone would jump at the chance to do. But then, why is it so hard for us to actually put into practice?
Practicing self-care is not always easy. These days, the average individual leads a very busy life. Whether it's our daily chores, stressful jobs, or distracting technology, our schedules are packed. Me-time is usually last on the agenda. Even worse, often we can even feel guilty about taking the time needed to take care of ourselves, considering it a “waste of time” when there are so many other things that need to get done. This mindset and feeling are becoming more and more common than you think, so getting started with self-care can be quite a daunting task. But fret not, we’re here to give you some basic tips to get you started and hopefully get you on the path to creating your own self-care regimen.
Where to Start
Fortunately, there are many ways you can engage in self-care. Although it can mean different things to different people, there is a basic guideline that can be followed by all of us. The three big “golden” rules of self-care are:
Put Effort, Be Active: Self-care needs to be something that you actively plan, rather than something that just happens. It is an active choice to partake in self-care and you must treat it as such. Schedule it as an activity in your calendar, tell others about your plans in order to increase your commitment to it, and be proactive in searching for opportunities where you can practice it.
Stick to the Basics: Overtime while actively practicing self-care you will start to develop your own rhythm and routine. You will be able to discover and implement more and more forms of self-care that work specifically for you and fine-tune what is the most effective for you. As with everything else, your process will get better with time and experience.
Be Conscious: Another important thing to emphasize is to keep a conscious mind. If you do not think of a particular activity as self-care, it won't work as such. In other words, if you do something without the intention to take care of yourself, it won’t be as helpful. It is crucial to be aware of what you are doing, why you are doing it, how it makes you feel, and what the outcomes are.
No matter which approaches you to take, ultimately the goal is to figure out which self-care strategies work best for you and your situation, be able to learn how to best use these strategies, and implement them into your regular routine so you can improve your well-being not only for now but for the foreseeable future. As stated previously it can be a daunting task if you don’t know where to start, but the important thing is to start. If you are a little lost or intimidated, here are some helpful suggestions to help you out on your self-care journey.
Make Sleep a Priority
Sleep has a major effect on many aspects of our lives. A healthy sleep schedule can do wonders for how you feel both emotionally and physically. It’s no secret that not getting enough sleep can cause health issues, yet one in every three American adults report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of 7-8 hours of sleep. Healthy sleep patterns should be a part of every self-care regimen and are particularly important during these troubling times where everyone is under a heightened level of stress.
Start by thinking about your nightly routine. What do you do before bed? Are you eating or drinking? Very active right before bedtime? If so, it is important to consider these as caffeine, sugar, or significant physical activity can tend to keep you up longer and in turn less time to rest. Make your bedroom a relaxing environment, free from distractions (such as a television, laptop, cellphones, video games, etc.) Try and create a soothing bedtime routine with things that help you relax and make sure to limit the room’s exposure to bright light.
Create a “No” List
Create a list of things that you know you don’t like or things that you no longer want to do. No longer doing these tasks should help with your mental health and aid in promoting better self-care practices. Some examples of this can include: No longer checking emails at night, Not going to events you do not want to go to, Not answering your phone during “Me time”, etc.
Everyone knows that exercise is good for us, and it's for a good reason. We really can’t stress enough how much exercise can help you not only physically but mentally as well. Other than the obvious physical health benefits, like keeping off that extra weight, regular exercise can really boost your mood, reducing the effects of stress such as depression and anxiety.
Of course, it can be hard to fit the gym in your schedule every day, especially these days, but you can try to incorporate other types of physical activity into your daily life. Try walking, tennis, or yoga in short spurts throughout the day on your little breaks. Check here for some more tips and ideas for how to keep active at home. Again the most important thing is to create a habit that fits in nicely with your routine.
Take a Trip
Taking a trip in the name of self-care may be one of the most attractive options on this list, and rightly so. The right trip can make a huge difference in your life. Even if you're not particularly feeling stressed or down, getting away for a weekend trip every now and then can really help you disconnect from your stressors, help you relax, and rejuvenate yourself.
The great thing about this is that it doesn’t have to break the bank! Even small trips can have the same effect as a big vacation. Simply drive to the next town over and see the sights, go camping, or go visit those local spots that you’ve always told yourself that you’d get to eventually. The idea is to deviate from your normal routine and get a change of scenery to refresh yourself. Plus who doesn’t like the idea of a weekend getaway where you get to do something for yourself.
Getting organized can often be an easy first step to take to become a healthier version of yourself. This allows you to more easily figure out what exactly you need to do in order to take better care of yourself. Even a small change, such as keeping a planner or updating a calendar, can aid you in keeping track of all your responsibilities while keeping everything more organized. You can also designate areas to keep important objects such as keys, important documents, shoes, and clothes which you can have ready for the next day.
Having everything organized and tidy can give you welcome peace of mind as you no longer need to stress as much if you can’t find an object. It takes a load off, if only a small one, to always know where things are. Mornings are much easier when you’re confident as to where you kept your keys.
Schedule Your Self-Care Time.
We’ve touched on this one a couple of times already but this tip will really help you stick to your regimen! It can be hard for many of us to find extra time, but it is very important to plan your “me time”. The moments we have to ourselves are often the best time to reflect and keep us grounded.
Look for small ways you can incorporate into your daily life. Maybe wake up a little bit earlier and have a cup of your favorite beverage, or take a walk around the block during lunch. The more time you have to work on your self-care routine, the more you’ll be able to grow, enjoy life, and thrive.
Now that you have some tips to get started, try, and set up a 15-day self-care schedule and see how you feel before and after. It could be something that can be very transformative. And as with everything, practice makes perfect!