I recently explained why self-care is so important. In a nutshell, you have to take care of yourself if you want to be able to take care of others who are important to you (children, parents, spouse, friends, etc). If you give and give and give and never recharge, eventually you hit bottom and there’s no more to give from. Self-care is about recharging yourself.
It might help to think of self-care as falling into several categories, just like health does. Physical self-care are activities which involve taking care of your body. Working out might be an example of this. Getting a massage is another example. Then there is emotional self-care. This might be going to see a comedy and laughing. Maybe it’s reading a novel that you’ve been trying to find time to read. Or maybe it’s sitting down and knitting or doing a crossword puzzle. Or it might be just sitting in the garden sipping a cup of coffee, listening to the breeze and the birds. For me, sitting in the garden falls into the spiritual self-care category. And time spent weeding is often time spent in prayer for me, which is definitely spiritual self-care. Social self care is making time to meet up with support people in your life, such as good friends, or engaging in activities where you meet new people who become friends.
I suggest making as long a list as you can of things activities you enjoy and then try dividing them into these categories. Ideally, you will be hitting each of the kinds of self-care a couple times per week. The goal is avoid only caring for one aspect of yourself and not the other aspects. You might note, too, that some items on your list are “bigger” than others in that they have a cost in terms of time or money. Try to fill each week with some of each.
I said activities you enjoy, but sometimes I call acts that I don’t want to do self-care. For example, some people find exercise addictive. I wish I was one of those people! If I skip a day of exercise after being very, very regular about it, I sure don’t miss it. I just enjoy not exercising! But exercise is definitely self-care and contributes to both physical and mental well being. You can give yourself credit for 2 categories with that one! And sometimes, if there is some task that I have been procrastinating about, I will just decide to get it over with. And I call that self-care, too, because I’ve gotten rid of something which is hanging over my head, causing stress. So my point is that it doesn’t always have to be enjoyable to be self-care. If the end result is that you feel better, are more relaxed or less stressed, etc. then I say it’s self-care.
Make it a goal to find a way to do a couple acts of self-care for yourself each day. This doesn’t have to involve a lot of time or expense. For instance, going back to my blog post on deep breathing, you can do this in just a minute or two. If you try my suggestion of doing deep breathing at red lights when driving, you don’t even take extra time! By this definition, self-care might look like taking the stairs instead of the elevator because it’s physical activity that is good for you.
If you have a typical schedule which is full of nonstop demands, schedule your self-care. If you put it on your calendar, you are much more likely to remember and to do it. Maybe once this week, instead of working while you eat lunch, you set aside 15 minutes and read some of that novel. Or if you’ve always wanted to write a novel, take those 15 minutes and write. Over time, those 15 minutes add up! Maybe you’d prefer to watch something funny on YouTube. (I like to watch funny dog and cat videos). Time that might otherwise be wasted (waiting in line, waiting for a meeting to start, etc) can be used for those small acts of self-care. And those small acts can add up to a real impact for you and for your ability to care for the important people in your life.