Each of us approach the concept of self-care with different perspectives and opinions.
Some of us subscribe to the belief that no matter what, we always need to put the wellbeing of others before ourselves, therefore perceiving self-care as predominantly selfish. While others of us are advocates for self-care understanding it to be a necessary component of a whole and healthy life.
To decipher through these opinions, let’s first talk about what self-care even is in the first place.
At On Your Mind Counselling, we describe self-care as “the deliberate and intentional act of prioritizing your own wellbeing.” It is an umbrella term so to speak, as it encompasses physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
The important thing to note is that self-care is meant to be practiced on a regular basis to sustain wellbeing.
Often we see self-care referred to as a one-time activity or things we do to promote our well-being in a spontaneous way. While such activities are important, they do not fall into the true definition of self-care because they are not part of your routine.
Many of us live very busy lives, juggling many responsibilities and obligations. Often, the last thing we have time to think about is making sure our basic needs for care are looked after. This is especially true of people who have dependents such as children and other individuals they are caring for.
We often hear clients say, “Taking time for myself seems selfish with everything I have going on. Taking the time for myself means I am taking away time from doing something else!”
While we can completely empathize with how difficult this must be, frankly, not practicing self-care means living a life that is not sustainable.
Individuals who don’t prioritize self-care end up feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, stressed, and burnout. This becomes part of a cycle when because you reach the end of your rope, you ironically tend to believe you have less time for yourself and you move further down the priority list.
If you don’t care for yourself in a sustainable way – there is no way you are going to be able to care for others in a sustainable way.
Think of the oxygen mask procedure in an aircraft. The flight attendant tells you to put the mask on yourself before assisting others. This is because if you don’t put the mask on yourself, you won't be able to help others.
This same analogy applies to self-care. If you focus all your efforts on helping others and give any attention to yourself, it is only a matter of time before you become depleted and can’t help anyone else.
You might be thinking: “How am I supposed to just stop what is causing me to be stressed and overwhelmed and focus on me? I need to work, I need to take care of my family, I have responsibilities.”
It may sound counterintuitive to add something else to your plate while it is spilling over, but doing activities you genuinely enjoy and make you feel good gives you the energy to do the things you don’t necessarily want to do.
Let’s be clear: This takes effort. prioritized right alongside the other important aspects of your life, you will begin to experience more freedom and energy than ever before.
#1 Start Small
Is there anything you are already doing that makes you feel good that you could do on a more regular basis? Something you could do with more intention? We don’t want to be overwhelmed with too many activities, so the best option is to start small and add to the routine over time. Also, what time is best to intentionally implement my daily self-care? This is going to be different for everyone.
#2 Plan It Out
Maybe you like planners or agendas or even running over in your head what you are going to do for the day. Make sure you intentionally incorporate self-care into your routine. Include it in your daily schedule the same you would a doctor’s appointment.
#3 Fuel yourself
Are you getting enough nutrition to sustain your lifestyle? Getting enough energy from our food can really set us up for success in reaching our goals.
#4 Sleep & Relaxation
How do you like to unwind, relax, and rest? What does it look like for you? What is one small thing you could do to help yourself in this department on a daily basis?
#5 Get Creative
Do you have any hobbies? Reading, writing, and creating are great ways to get started doing the things you love on a regular basis.
#6 Exercise & Physical Activity
Natural endorphins are released when we move around. What kinds of activities do you most enjoy that involve movement?
#7 Hygiene & Lifestyle
How do you take care of regular maintenance? Do you make time for basic care? What about your social life? Does spending time with friends and family make you feel good? How can you incorporate them on a regular basis?
There are so many ways to incorporate self-care into your life! This list is just your way to get started or restarted. What is most important is you find something you enjoy enough to sustainably maintain your lifestyle.
Remember, life changes, and you may need to adapt your self-care routine to a changing environment or new responsibilities. Give yourself the grace and flexibility to make adjustments to your self-care routine over time as things come up.
If you have any questions or need some guidance to start incorporating self-care into your life, visit us at www.onyourmindcounselling.com and on Instagram and Facebook for regular inspiration.
Take good care!
Written by Tori Mudie, BA, MA, RP, CCC