Self Love that is. Avoiding self love and self-care can creep up on you. It certainly does for me. Sometimes I will think I’m doing just fine because I’m in full on “getting things done” mode, then suddenly I’m crashing hard. I know now what my personal signs are that I am overdue for some self-care. Sometimes it’s still difficult to allow myself to do the things that I KNOW will help me to feel better.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is a term that's associated with any activity that you can do to intentionally help your health. Sometimes it's hard to determine what that means. Sometimes we end up turning to what one of my favorite authors, Jen Loudon, refers to as shadow comforts. Shadow comforts are things that we turn to that we think will make us feel better, but ultimately end up draining our energy. Things like endlessly scrolling through Facebook, other social media, endless reading news stories, putting down a whole bag of potato chips, or bingeing Netflix can all seem like they will make us feel better. But after we've lost a significant amount of time doing some of these things, we realize that we feel worse and not better. What we thought was going to be really helpful for refueling and recharging has ended up leaving us with numb eyeballs, bloated tummy, tense body, and stressed out mind.
So how then can we find our true self care?
We can start by remembering that self-care is not a selfish act. Rather it is very important if you want to be able to take care of others. If you can't meet your own needs adequately, you won't be able to take care of those around you. The biggest benefit of self-care is feeling more capable in your day-to-day life feeling strong, empowered, and able to feel more YOU. Engaging in activities that help you enjoy your life well better enable you to take care of the responsibilities that are required. Not enjoying your daily life can lead to both mental and physical health issues. Researchers have discovered many benefits of implementing a regular self-care routine. When people slow down and take adequate breaks, their brain function is improved. This can lead to higher productivity. Self-care can also activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows your body to rest and relax. It can help with proper digestion and improve your overall health. Regular self-care gives you a chance to check in with yourself and become more familiar with your body's limits. It can help you replenish your energy, get in touch with your own needs, and allow you to better function in every area of your life.
Having experienced burnout on many different occasions over the years, I'm very familiar with the ramifications of not having adequate time to rest and recharge. Sometimes in the course of our very busy lives we get caught up in what we need to do next - what we think we MUST have done in one day. Sometimes we forget that some of our to-do lists are not really as necessary as we think they are. In fact, I've started to really work on what I feel like I have to get done each day and determine how much of it is really crucial to get done in that particular day. I've moved to more of a weekly To Do List that's a little bit more fluid. This really works for me to help me feel like I'm accomplishing what I want to accomplish, while giving me less pressure to get certain things done in one day. Of course, there are some things that have to be done in any given day and so those are the things we put first. I used to try to remind myself of a quote that I read once that said, “There is time for everything”. In the short term, it helped relax me a little bit when I felt like there was too much to get done and I was feeling overwhelmed. But lately I've come to realize that there really isn't time for everything. There is, however, time for what we put first. So what I'm planning my day and thinking about what I want to get done, I concentrate on the most important things. What are my priorities? What do I really want to get done first? And I've learned to put self-care at the top of my list. If that doesn't get done, other things won't get done as well, because I'll burnout so fast that I'm really not as efficient or productive as I think I would be. There are so many types of self-care, and it's important that you make time for some of them. Check out some of these simple ways that you can care for yourself in every way, every day.
3 Types of Self-Care
Physical self-care is one of the more straightforward types of self-care. It focuses on your body - keeping it well-nourished and giving it the right resources to function. Important aspects of physical care include rest and sleep, exercise, and good nutrition. Once these are met you can use some of the other self-care activities to help take care of your body. Some things you might also enjoy including massages, long baths, breathing exercises, and other activities. Taking a walk around the neighborhood (I love to walk my dog a couple of times a day), take a yoga class (also one of my favorites obviously), running, hiking, swimming, biking, or dancing. The important thing is that it is something that you enjoy. Getting plenty of water and nourishing your body with foods that will provide you with the nutrients you need to feel good also makes a huge difference.
Emotional self-care can be a little bit trickier because it's more abstract than physical self-care. With emotional self-care it's important to let ourselves feel our emotions without judging them. We can acknowledge negative emotions as they come up but see them more as a current running through your body rather than a state of being. It also means looking for activities that help you experience more positive emotions. Examples might be things that make you laugh, spending time with loved ones, enjoying your favorite TV show. If it's something you're doing intentionally, with purpose and awareness, then it is self-care rather than a shadow comfort. When we devolve into mindlessly bingeing hours and hours of a show without really taking a moment to think about how we're feeling and how that's affecting us, that's when it can turn into more of a shadow comfort then self-care. More examples include appreciating the little things and noticing them and really feeling them as they come up - something as simple as enjoying the sunshine, the sunrise, sunset, flowers, and nature. Allowing yourself to both give and received love freely, as well as setting healthy boundaries with the people in your life is also important self-care. These are all things that can take a lot of practice. We don't often think of them as self-care, but they are very important to our overall health and well-being. This might also include being able to say no to stressful or unnecessary responsibilities. Saying no to things that we know we will not enjoy, and that we have the ability to say no to, makes room for the things that we can say yes to that we will enjoy. Working with a therapist can help us with many of these things and help us to get better in touch with our emotions and awareness.
The rituals of spiritual self-care can look different for different people. This might include things like practicing mindfulness, staying grateful, taking time for daily prayer or meditation. It can include volunteering your time to a cause that's important to you. Spending time in service to others can often rejuvenate our spirits and recharge our batteries. It gets us out of our own head, and out into the world where we can make a difference. And then we often are able to also get a little bit more in tune with our own body, mind and soul. Also included in this area can be reading spiritual texts, poetry, or things that you find inspirational. Hearing about the stories of others can inspire us to find those things that have meaning and purpose and will help direct us in our own lives.