Self-Care: It’s More Important Than You Think
A look at the importance of self-care and how you can incorporate it into your everyday life.
The world’s a mess, we know. However, the big problems of the world do not diminish the significance of our day to day struggles. After all, how can we take care of the world if we can’t take care of ourselves? What good can we do if we burn ourselves out? Taking care of our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being has got to be a priority.
It won’t be easy, but it’s definitely doable. Let’s start with taking a closer look at what self-care is, what it isn’t, and some practical tips on how you can begin to incorporate it into your everyday life.
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What Is Self-Care
In its most basic form, self care is exactly what it says– caring for yourself. That means every day you eat, stay hydrated, stay healthy, and rest mentally and physically. Every. Single. Day. Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced, consumerist society, that’s seldom the case. After all, how can we be our most productive selves if we’re always stopping for meals and going to bed at a reasonable hour? The horror!
However, the unpopular truth is that unless we make it a priority to care for ourselves, we’ll never be able to give anything our 100%, very best effort. Not our work. Not our families. And certainly not the global community.
“When we care for ourselves as our very own beloved—with naps, healthy food, clean sheets, a lovely cup of tea—we can begin to give in wildly generous ways to the world, from abundance.Anne Lamott, author
In addition to being completely non-negotiable, effective self-care is intentional and introspective. It requires thought and deliberate action. It’s choosing to get up 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the family so that you can enjoy a cup of coffee in peace in order to set a positive tone for the rest of your day.
It’s being able to take an honest look at your life and deciding what’s working and what isn’t. Maybe you’ve over-committed. Or perhaps you’re scrambling to check things off the to-do list that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Don’t feel bad, we’ve all done it. We just have to be able to stop, reevaluate, and adjust accordingly. The importance of volunteering for every class party and bake sale is debatable. The importance of maintaining your sanity and not stretching yourself too thin is not.
What It Isn’t
While the practical application of self-care will look different for everyone. There are a few undeniable truths about what self-care is NOT.
Self-care is not a one and done, quick fix. As with anything that really matters in life, you have to give it time and effort. A yoga class here and an extra-long shower there will not solve all your problems. However, maintaining a consistent habit of practicing yoga and prioritizing that extra time for showers will, over time, considerably improve your quality of life, leaving you feeling better prepared to handle any problems that may or may not come your way.
Another BIG thing that self-care isn’t is superficial or insta-worthy. The idea that all you have to do to change your life is buy some scented candles and fuzzy slippers is just straight nonsense. Now, if you like scented candles, and the fuzzy slippers put a pep in your step then yes, by all means, get those slippers! Just don’t let the internet tell you that you need a pinterest-perfect bathroom, a she-shed, or a book-nook to use them. Your life, just the way it is, is worthy of care and attention.
A Few Tips
So how do we get started? Well, let’s begin with remembering that self-care can happen anywhere and at any time, and it’s something that should be incorporated into your every day life. Sure big, weekend getaways are nice, but they can’t realistically happen every time you feel overwhelmed. So here are a few practical ways that you can show yourself a little extra love and support without leaving the country or racking up a massive credit card bill.
Get outside – According to several recent studies, just 15-20 minutes of time outside is enough to improve your mental health. You don’t even have to be exercising. The fresh air and sunshine alone are enough to boost your mood.
Make time for friends and loved ones– Never underestimate the power of a good chat. And if you can combine that with a little outside time, like with say a walk or outside coffee date, even better. Two birds, one stone, and probably twice the mood-boosting effects.
Take a water bottle everywhere you go – Water bottles do the practical job of keeping you hydrated (an absolute must when it comes to your health) and they have the added bonus of lessening the amount of cups you’ll have to wash at the end of the day. There are even quite a few brands like this one that make keeping track of your water intake super easy.
Move a little – We know, we know. You’ve heard this a million times, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Getting a little extra movement in every day will make a world of difference to your physical and mental well-being. No, you don’t have to sign up for cross fit (although you totally can if you want to) but maybe check out what your local community has to offer. We’re sure you’ll find something to suit your style, and if not there’s always suggestions number one and two above.
Remember to lower your shoulders (and breathe) – Quick question–what are your shoulders doing right now? Are they bunched up by your ears? That’s called shoulder hiking and it’s a common response to stress. See if you can take a moment every now and then to adjust, breathe, and maybe stretch. A post-it-note on computer screen or phone may help you to remember, and we bet you’ll feel so much better when you do.
Be your own best friend – Would you guilt-trip your best friend? Would you constantly berate them about how inadequate they are? The answer is undoubtedly no. So why would you do that to yourself? Instead, see if you can reign in all that negative self-talk and replace it with words of affirmation like “I can be the most helpful, when I take time to help myself,” or “good enough, is good enough,” (because it is). And don’t let that guilt creep in. It’s sneaky and it knows to strike when we are at our most vulnerable.
Write it down – Whether you want to call it a gratitude journal, a diary, or just a necessary brain dump, just do it. Imagine your thoughts and mental to-do list as a news ticker that just keeps going round and round in your head. It’s important information, sure, but it can get exhausting. If you take the time to write it down, you lessen the amount of mental effort involved in keeping it all sorted and more often than not it’ll change your perspective. What may have seemed like an insurmountable obstacle in your head, might now seem completely doable and not so scary. A two-page spread with what you’re thankful for on your left, and what you’re thinking, worrying, or praying about on your right, is both practical and centering.
So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or over-worked, stop and do a little self-inventory. Have you been taking care of yourself? If not, take whatever steps you need to re-prioritize so that you are. After all, “self-care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation. (Audre Lorde)”
Lead photo courtesy of Moyo Studio via iStock