As a Holistic Health Coach, I review a handful of topics with each new client such as daily water consumption, sleep quality, regularly consumed foods, vitamins/supplements, exercise routine and self-care. It’s always interesting to me how people can talk on and on about many of these topics but when asked about self-care, they seem to be stumped.
A simple Google search on self-care will provide plenty of ideas of how to practice it. While these suggestions are great and certainly self-fulfilling, it’s important to understand what exactly self-care is, why it’s important, and how to implement a few important practices into your life.
What is self-care?
Self-care is identifying your own needs and taking the initiative to meet them and nurture yourself. It’s about treating yourself as kindly as you would treat others. Practicing self-care starts with recognizing yourself as a worthwhile person and believing that you are valuable, competent and deserving. It isn’t always about luxuries like going for a massage or taking a relaxing bubble bath. Many times it’s going to bed early to get more rest, tending to your stressors, changing your way of thinking or allowing yourself to say “no” to something that you may not wholeheartedly want to take part in. It’s realizing that there is no such thing as being the perfect person, mom, friend, spouse, employee, etc. and accepting your flaws.
Why is self-care important?
We live in a busy, hectic world and sometimes may find ourselves depleted, stressed out and run down. For those of us who help and care for others, such as partners, children, pets, friends, and/or family members, it can be especially easy to neglect our own needs. Add to that the endless activities, errands, meetings, housework, family functions, work obligations, and so on that there isn’t much time left to care for ourselves! Interestingly, we don’t hesitate to charge our cell phones on a consistent, daily basis, but when it comes to maintaining our own good health, we often neglect to recharge ourselves. We cannot give or present our best self if we are not “refilling our cups” on a regular basis. If we neglect our own needs and forget to nurture ourselves we are more likely to become unhappy, unfulfilled and have feelings of resentment within our lives. By making self-care a priority, we can help to balance the stress and activity of daily life with activities that bring a sense of peace and well-being to our minds and bodies.
How can you implement self-care into your daily life?
The easiest way to start practicing self-care is to keep it simple. Try not to look at it as another thing to do but rather as something that is going to refuel you.
Be kind to yourself. Many of us are too hard on ourselves. The same way that you are kind and understanding to others in need, try to be the same with your own needs. Ask honestly what you require and make the simple effort to do something nice for you. This might include devoting a night to relax on the couch and perhaps binge-watching a favorite show, scheduling a lunch-date with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or buying yourself flowers to brighten up your home. More importantly, it might be accepting your flaws and remembering that you’re not perfect. After all, this is what makes you the special person you are!
Say “no” more often. Many of us say “yes” to commitments and plans when we would rather rest, do something else or simply not add to our already busy schedules. Try to (kindly) decline invitations, possible obligations or plans and see how that feels for you. You might enjoy the time that it frees up for you and find that it leaves more time for self-care! While you’re at it, create a “not to-do list” to help keep you focused on sticking to your self-care goals.
Let it be. Thoughts, words, phrases, things of the past, worries about the future, etc., can really take a toll on your mental health. We’ve all heard the term ‘let it go’ but that is sometimes a hard concept to grasp when issues are weighing on you. Consider trying to accept things as they are. Trust that life is unfolding as it should, and that includes both the ups and downs. As much as we’d love to control our lives, it’s not possible. But if we can try our best to roll with what comes at us, we can enjoy more ease on a regular basis. This is a stress management technique, as tending to your stress level is a crucial part of self-care.
Have an attitude of gratitude. At some point of each day (first thing in the morning or last thing before bed is usually best) think of 3 things that you are grateful for. These can be major things (like a supportive circle of friends) or minor (like the person who complimented you earlier in the day). Shifting your way of thinking to what is positive in your life can result in a more optimistic outlook. Hopefully it will allow you to appreciate both the big and small blessings that surround you, welcoming the feeling of ease.
#treatyoself. This can mean different things to different people and may or may not have to do with food. What is something that you don’t “allow” yourself to do, a place that you don’t normally frequent, or something that you don’t usually eat? Make it a point to treat yourself to something special whenever possible. It can be as simple as taking a walk or indulging in that cupcake that you’d usually shy away from; or, it can be as elaborate as splurging on concert tickets or booking a bed and breakfast for a weekend away. Life is all about finding a happy balance, not about depriving yourself of things that make you smile!