If you have heard the term “self-care” in your online adventuring or seen it on magazine covers and such, you may be wondering what all the buzz is about and asking yourself, “why is self-care important?” Heck-you may not really even know what it means, other than the obvious. While the concept does involve taking care of yourself (big surprise), it actually goes much deeper. Read on to learn what self-care is, why it matters and how to get started doing it.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care involves nurturing your body, mind and spirit with the intent of building yourself up such that your internal resources don’t become depleted. It means being as good to yourself as you would be to someone you care about. For some reason, for many of us, this can be a hard ask 😛
Practicing self-care means showing yourself some compassion and asking for help you when you need it. Self-care differs from destructive coping mechanisms such as using drugs, drinking, gambling or retail therapy. These things only make you feel good in the short-term, but can be detrimental to your long-term happiness. On the other hand, self-care is important because it is the basis for living your best life.
The Benefits of Self-Care
There are many benefits to practicing self-care:
- it rejuvenates and energizes you so you can go after your goals and dreams
- it increases self-worth and self-esteem
- it improves self-awareness
- it helps reduce stress as well as helping you handle daily stressors
- it increases your capacity to give to others and the world
There’s a saying that I have read in numerous places…I liked it so much I put it on one of my mugs 🙂
You can’t pour from an empty cup…
It’s a perfect visual for the importance of self-care and how it’s not selfish, how it allows you to be more and do more for those around you 🙂
Examples of Self-Care
There are countless ways to add self-care into your routine. It’s a highly individual matter. In the video at the end of this post, I saw one woman’s comments that she needed to tidy up a bit each day as part of her routine–that would NOT be my choice 🙂 But for her, it was a perfect choice as it staved off depression and anxiety.
The key is to choose activities that you enjoy and and that you feel better after engaging in. Going for a walk in nature is great for those who enjoy the outdoors. Other forms of exercise like yoga, Tai Chi, running or going to the gym work well too.
Spending time with friends can be rejuvenating, but so can saying no. It all depends! Allowing yourself to decline invitations or favors when you’re feeling run-down is a big part of caring for yourself. The point of emphasis here is about honoring yourself and how you feel overall. Doing something once when you don’t feel like it because you promised is not a big deal. But if you do this too much, it’ll wear you down for sure!
Treating yourself to a favorite, affordable indulgence like a movie, manicure or ice cream cone are all good examples of self-care. Or how about a nice long soak in the tub with some relaxing music? A morning (or evening) meditation?
Although the idea is generally about making time for yourself to do certain things, you can also just “sneak” in moments of self-care here and there. These type of actions readily fit into a day and they, of course, overlap with mind/body/spirit goals:
- park in a far away parking spot and enjoy the extra bit of walking to your errands
- load your own groceries
- do a breathing exercise before leaving the bathroom a few times per day
- use meal time as a reminder to practice gratitude–even if you don’t formally say a blessing
- spend a few minutes a day on a puzzle of some sort–there are so many books and apps available
- play some of your favorite music while you do chores
- do one activity per day with mindfulness
You get the idea 🙂 Now you know what self-care is and why it’s important. It’s time to implement.
Start & End Your Day With A Little Self Care
Like any new habit, adding self-care into your life can seem like an impossible idea. How on earth can you manage to find time to do anything extra for yourself? How will you actually remember to do these things? One of the best ways to get started is to build your activities into predictable parts of your day. In order to make something a habit, it has to happen regularly. Keep reading, and I’ll show you some tricks to making self-care a routine part of your life.
Make It Personal
The first thing that will help you in creating your self-care rituals is to choose activities that are meaningful to you and that you enjoy. This is your practice, so you want to be sure it’s customized in order to get the most out of it.
What sorts of things help you to feel relaxed, peaceful, excited or happy? These activities should be able to be done in a short amount of time and easily fit into your life without special equipment or tools. In the beginning, as you establish the habit, your choices should be as simple as possible.
Fit It In
You should add your self-care rituals to the most convenient parts of your day. Choose times that are already somewhat flexible so that incorporating something new into that space will be less stressful. Many people go with morning or evening routines, right when they wake up and before going to sleep each night. Getting up fifteen minutes earlier than usual and setting aside a window during the usual night-time schedule are usually things most folks can do.
If not, there are other options. Maybe designating your daily lunch break as your self-care time might work better for you, depending on your situation. Add in something to this time you have to make it more restorative–take a walk, unwind with music, write in your journal, use a meditation app.
Some trial and error may be required to figure things out. Just keep in mind the goal–to find a moment or moments to call your own every day. And to do so consistently.
Ideally, you will decide upon a routine that works for you and stick to it. Committing to a particular schedule will help in establishing a habit that ensures that you get the self-care you need. But–as we all know– Life happens. Some days are more hectic than others. You may not be able to fit in your anticipated self-care activities, and that’s okay.
Even on the busiest of days, you can likely find brief, replenishing moments….but, if not, you can try again tomorrow. Once you’ve experienced a bit of self-care activities, you will likely be motivated to seek them out and getting back on track will be easy.
Getting into the practice of regular self-care doesn’t have to be difficult. Making a few adjustments to your existing schedule can free up some space in your day. Choosing things that reinvigorate you and that are simple in nature will make getting started a much easier.
Self-care Ideas to Consider
Implementing a self-care routine is like giving yourself a little gift every day. A gift that keeps on giving as you then have more energy and clarity to give to others! Here are a few ideas to get you started in creating a routine that works for you.
indulge with every attention, comfort, and kindness; spoil.
“famous people just love being pampered”
Famous or not, almost everyone likes to be pampered–at least once in a while. And it’s an enjoyable element of self-care for many. Pampering doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t even have to involve other people (self-pampering, if you will :)). Here’s a short list of ways to pamper yourself:
- get a pedicure (a personal favorite)
- buy the Godiva (or whatever your “too expensive” candy is)
- enjoy a long soak in the tub (Calgon, take me away)
- allow yourself 10-15 minutes of pleasure reading per day (the dishes can wait)
These small acts of indulgence can have the same effect as an extravagant one. I’m sure you can come up with ideas that fit your likes and your budget!
Although I am not guilty of this one, many people just don’t buy themselves anything. Ever. I have a brother who is like this. I understand the idea of being frugal–and I respect it. But occasional gifts to yourself, no matter how small, can be a boost to your self-worth.
So go ahead–buy that bottle of water while you’re shopping because you’re thirsty and forgot your water bottle! Gift yourself a new truffle each week at the mall. Buy yourself a small bouquet of flowers (I’ve seen them as low as $5). Pick up a new book to read–and then share it with a friend or donate it to Goodwill. Be creative and enjoy the steady influx of niceties. To paraphrase an old L’oreal commercial, “You’re worth it!”
Make A List Of 5 Simple Self-Care Routines You Can Fall Back On When Needed
In stressful times, beneficial habits often go by the wayside–which is actually when we really need them most! It can be difficult to focus on anything but the bare minimum when life gets hard. One way to avoid this series of unfortunate events is to have a “self-care toolkit” at the ready. By toolkit, I mean three things: a list, a care package, some helpers.
Make a List
Let’s start with the list. While you may have a longer list of things that you choose from on “regular” days, this list should have at least five activities you can easily fit in your life during the most stressful of times. Having such a reminder on-hand will let you gain the benefits of caring for yourself without having to think about it too much.
This list can include simple reminders about basic self-care: get enough sleep , eat nourishing food, ask for help if you need it (and the help might be needed to achieve the first two examples :)). In trying times, such basic things are sometimes forgotten just because. During times of trouble, the very basic foundations of self-care can be the most important.
Make a Care Package
The Scout motto, “Be prepared,” is useful in many situations 🙂 And it certainly applies to self-care in times of need. Preparing a care package ahead of time can be a life-saver…or at least a big help to staying sane in stressful times.
Get a small bag or backpack (ready to grab and go if needed) This can include some of your favorite little indulgences like a good book, a favorite lotion, a blank journal and pen, herbal teas, a stress ball, a photo album, an ipod loaded with your favorite music (or have some playlists set up on your phone).
Maybe add a written list of stretches or breathing techniques that relax you as a reminder. Include anything that brings you joy. Being able to reach for this package when you’re stressed at home or away ensures that you’re never without self-care ideas or supplies. From time to time, take out the perishables, use and replace them.
Involve Your Crew
When life gets hectic or hard, you might find it difficult to maintain your self-care habit (especially if it’s still new). As in the classic song by JT (above) “call out” to trusted friends and family. But do it now to enlist their help for the future. Talk to your closest confidantes and let them know you would like them to encourage you in your self-care routine if they see you not caring for yourself as well as you should be.
Most likely they have noticed the benefits you have received from taking care of yourself…and how you are more present for them as a result. It’s strange but true–sometimes those who know us best will notice before we notice ourselves that we are neglecting this powerful habit.
This preparedness may seem like overkill. 🙂 Just remember: It’s during the hardest times that you need to nurture yourself the most.
Self-Care Doesn’t Have To Cost Anything
There is a common misconception about self-care. Namely that it’s extravagant and expensive. Sure, there are some indulgences that might cost money in varying amounts. And I recommend enjoying those if you can afford to without straining your budget.
But don’t let money, or a lack thereof, be a factor in whether or not you begin a practice. Let’s take a look at some free and low-cost ways you can care for yourself (these might overlap with other suggestions mentioned above).
Are you friends with Alexa? Try the Cupful of Happy Skill I designed in Amazon
This is listed under previous blog name, The Good News Cafe
Take a Time Out
Sometimes just a little bit of alone time is all you need to feel rejuvenated. When my kids were little sometimes I used bathroom breaks as my alone time (with varying degrees of success)–I know you moms can relate! The point is, even when you feel like you have no alone time, you can be creative to find moments…and, if you’re lucky, you can find whole hours or afternoons now and again to just sit with yourself, doing something you like, something that rejuvenates you.
Waste Some Time
This is a hard one for me, but I have a daughter that excels in it 🙂 We often feel pressured to be productive all the time. Being busy is a sign of worth and accomplishment. However, it really doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes doing nothing is doing something important to recharging our batteries 🙂 Let yourself have some down time to do something frivolous like binge on your favorite Netflix show, take a nap or just sit and pet your cat (do this mindfully and it’ll be that much more relaxing). Do nothing. You deserve it. 😉
Do Some Writing
Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, journaling can be a very therapeutic activity. Jotting down what you’re grateful for has been proven to be beneficial to well-being. It can also be energizing to simply do a brain dump in which you write down all the things that are floating around in your head, or all your worries. Writing out worries can relieve your playing them out in your head, and jotting down dreams for the future might inspire and motivate you to take action. Give it a try.
Reach Out to Someone
Socializing is a crucial part of self-care. Even introverts benefit from interpersonal connection. Humans aren’t meant to be completely isolated. Pick up the phone and call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Sit down and Skype with your favorite internet pal. Meet at a park for a walk or a cup of coffee. Connecting with people that get you might be just the spark you need.
Find A Change of Scenery
A change of scenery can be a wonderful source of renewal, and it doesn’t have to involve airports and passports. If you’re feeling a bit stir-crazy, simply getting outside for a walk in your neighborhood (or the woods) might reset your state of mind. Backyard camping can be a fun mini-adventure –bonus here is you can go inside to go to the bathroom 😉 If you’re not the outdoorsy type, find a big mall and walk around and “window shop” (well, maybe splurge on a sweet treat?!).
Don’t Feel Guilty For Practicing Self-Care
Despite the fact that practicing self-care helps people actually give more to those around them, many people feel guilty for spending time and resources on such habits. The reasons for this are varied and individual. Just a bit of thought should be enough to make you realize that there’s no need for guilt, however. On the contrary. Remember the cup quote from above? When you first take care of yourself, you then have more energy and more enthusiasm to share with those around you.
It’s Not Selfish
As discussed already, taking care of yourself is not selfish in any way. You might find it hard to believe that the needs of others are not more important than your own. But overcoming this mindset is essential to allowing yourself to adequately meet your own needs on a regular basis. Caring relationships are not a zero-sum concept. Caring for yourself, doesn’t mean you don’t care about others–there’s enough for all 🙂
In terms of living your best life, self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. If you’ve ever flown, you are familiar with the oxygen mask safety instruction. Well, it’s a perfect representation of why self care is a necessary component to life. You have to ensure you can “breathe” before you can be of help to any one else. If you’re tired, rundown and overwhelmed all the time, you absolutely cannot give your best self to others. And, just as importantly, you rob yourself of a full and happy life!
It Sets a Good Example
If you’re a parent, you know that kids tend to do what we do, not what we say. Self-care is a great habit to model for your kids. Even if you don’t have children, your taking care of yourself is bound to be noticed by others–friends, family, colleagues. And they might just consider their own lives and whether or not they need to practice a bit more self-care. 🙂
It Demands Respect
When you honor and respect yourself with self-care, it lets others know how you expect to be treated. When you demonstrate that you value yourself and that you find worth investing time in yourself, they will respond in kind. Learning to say no sometimes and setting boundaries is good for all of relationships.
It might take a little time to overcome the idea that self-care is not a selfish, indulgent idea. People tend to think in extremes 😛 They equate self-care with narcissism, or that self-care negates love and caring and doing for others. But you know better–or you should after all this info!
Tips To Continue To Take Care Of Yourself Going Forward
Self-care is a life-long journey. As with all self-improvement goals, it requires practice and dedication if you want to make it stick. Don’t get discouraged if it takes time to make this new concept a part of your life. Over time, it’ll get easier, and become more second-nature. You’ll notice more readily when you’ve neglected things and know just how to step back into the practice. These tips will help.
Follow Your Gut
The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” probably means a lot of things to a lot of people 🙂 But in this context it means this: listen to yourself, your intuition or gut feeling. Life can be pretty hectic, but simply being busy in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s more about how the busyness is affecting you– during these times, pay attention to discern whether you’re in need of a boost.
There are some clues to indicate you might need to step up your self-care game. Signs that indicate things are out of balance with you. Things such as irritability, eating poorly, losing sleep or indulging in bad habits that you’d previously kicked.
Schedule It In
Maybe the best long-term strategy for self-care is having a basic daily/weekly/monthly routine to follow. Something that’s part of your normal activities. Write your monthly massage or pedicure in a date book or calendar. Schedule exercise and some sort of relaxation into your day. Put it on your To Do list. And don’t allow yourself to feel overwhelmed by the need to make big changes…remember the one push-up story 🙂
Create a Plan
Developing a self-care plan is essential to maintaining happiness and well-being amidst the ups and downs of life. Having a plan is the best way to develop and maintain the habit. As discussed throughout this post, there are two main parts to this: a plan for everyday life, and a plan for hectic times.
One final bit of advice. Take time to assess your self-care needs regularly. This will help to keep you on track and help you avoid long periods of neglect. Give it a bit of thought each week–maybe every Monday as you start the week or every Saturday or Sunday as you finish the week. Listen to your instincts. Make adjustments as necessary. Self-care is an ongoing and evolving process. But the pay off is amazing and once you get into it, you’ll be so glad you did!