Have you ever stopped to consider the amount of stress and pressure that weighs on you daily? From paying our bills, to meeting that upcoming work deadline (that your boss dropped on your lap this morning!), to attempting to keep your home clean, and trying to remember to call your mom this week (note to self…), or even eating “healthy” foods; we are all inundated by external and internal forms of pressure to be on top of everything in life. Our society values productivity, and a “do it all” mentality - yet we wonder why people are struggling with the emotional weight of these pressures and ignoring the absence of self-care in our lives.
As a clinician, I am constantly emphasizing the importance of self-care in one’s life. However, my encouragements are typically met with the understandable eye roll, the “here we go again” response, or the phrase “but I already am taking care of myself…”
Believe me when I say, “I get it!” Self-care seems like this new-aged, lofty goal. Many of us have convinced ourselves that we do not have the time for self-care, or that self-care is for people with low-stress jobs. Others perceive self-care as a luxury only wealthy people can afford… (i.e., that person who gets to lay in a bubble bath, reading a book by candlelight and drinking a nice bottle of wine). And some face an additional struggle such as battling a mental health condition (e.g., depression, trauma-history) that can impede one’s ability to participate in self-care activities.
The overarching challenge becomes: what actually is self-care, and what can it do for me?
Here’s the truth:
Self-care is taking time to care for your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Self-care is developing a respectful and caring relationship with yourself, just like you would with a good friend or colleague.
Self-care encompasses the little actions we take on a daily basis and the extravagant ways we #TreatYoSelf.
Self-care is a way to refuel yourself, and stop burning up all your stored reserves.
Self-care is not selfish - it is a way in which you can tell yourself (and those around you) that your needs are just as important...
As simplistic as it may sound, self-care is vitally important to finding balance in our constant work-life grind. It can impact our ability to handle periods of change or crises, allowing us to cope with life stressors more easily. Further, participating in self-care is proven to benefit our mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
So how can we start implementing self-care in our day-to-day routine?
For starters, congratulations! You are probably already participating in some form of self-care whether you realize it or not! For instance, your daily morning routine, and the weekly fitness class you attend; these are examples of self-care in action. The difference here is how we mentally approach and think about these activities. Often it’s not the activity that needs changing, but rather the mindset that drives the activity that must adapt.
Try this mental exercise with me:
Think about the next time you’re planning to go to the gym. You may be dreading it or wishing you could just skip it. Instead, think about how you feel when you’re done at the gym. Reflect upon the impact those endorphins, coursing through your veins, have on your mood, and how your body was able to just accomplish that physical activity. Now try thinking about your trip to the gym as something you get to do for yourself, as something you’re excited to do for you.
When we start to actively think and label activities we engage in as things for ourselves or something we get to do, our relationship with them changes. They become a form of refueling our energy reserves.
What if I don’t have enough time to devote to daily self-care?
When we look at all the things on our to-do lists, calendars, smartphones, etc., it is easy to become discouraged that we do not have enough time in our day to participate in some form of self-care. A recommendation that I make to clients is set aside 10 minutes every day for self-care. Do you know all the things you can accomplish in ten minutes? In ten minutes you can…
- Watch your favorite music video (twice);
- Read a chapter in that book you’ve been dying to finish;
- Enjoy a cup of coffee;
- Pet your cat/dog/guinea pig/rabbit and then watch them walk away pleased;
- Have a conversation with your friend or family member about things going in your life;
- Clean out that bed-side dresser (finally);
- Listen to that song by that band that “just gets you;”
- Wash your face, brush your teeth, put on deodorant, clip your toe-nails…
The list goes on and on! If you can spend 2-3 hours a night in front of the television binging on that new season of your favorite show, you can absolutely spend ten minutes for you!
How can I self-care?
Rather than tell you how to self-care, I encourage you to think of different areas in your life where you feel like you need the most attention: Mental, Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Social, Pleasure. Perhaps you need some attention physically, like exercising or maintaining a healthy sleep routine. Or you feel like you have not been mentally engaged lately; when we engage in difficult tasks, or complete challenging activities, we walk away feeling the benefits of self-care.
No matter how you engage in self-care, remember there are many free, inexpensive, or luxurious ways that we can participate in forms of caring for ourselves. It could be the cost of a cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop. Or that one video you already own and have watched one too many times.
If you’re still struggling to come up with ways to self-care, consider reviewing these examples of self-care:
I encourage you to consider make the commitment: CARE FOR YOU TODAY! You are worth the attention, the effort, and the thought.
If you are struggling to develop or engage in forms of self-care, consider reaching out to us at Wellman Psychology & Associates to see what a therapist can do to help you uncover what’s preventing your routine!
Special thanks to Ryan Coventry, LPC, author of this post.