When you hear the term self-care, what pops into your head? So often, the images that one sees with self-care are bubble baths. In fact, a quick image search for the term showed women relaxing in a tub full of bubbles. Now I’m not against bubble baths at all. But I think it’s so much more, and I know self-care is important to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself.
And self-care is so much more than bubble baths and mani/pedis. It’s about taking care of ourselves in mind, body, and spirit.
We live in a crazy world. Every single day we’re bombarded with stress from so many directions. We have physical stress, which includes illness, not taking proper care of ourselves, and environmental impacts such as toxins and pollutants. There’s so much emotional stress around us, from work, to family, to the news and world events. If we don’t practice self-care, we’re hurting ourselves even further.
At this point, so many women say to me, “Sandy, this all sounds great, but when am I supposed to do this? I work full time, and I have kids. I have no time to do things for myself.”.
The truth is you’ll never find the time. Because in addition to work and kids, many of you are going to school, caring for an aging parent or spouse, volunteering, and have many other obligations.
So no, you’ll never FIND the time. You have to make the time!
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells the story of a woodcutter who is completely focused on cutting down trees. A fellow woodcutter is also cutting down trees but stops every hour. Thinking he has an advantage, the first man cuts trees even faster and in the end, is astonished to learn that the second man cut 12 more trees than he did.
He took time to sharpen his saw. Because the more you take care of yourself--the more you sharpen your saw--the more you can accomplish.
There are several areas in which you can practice self-care. I’ve listed them, along with suggestions, below.
Physical self-care is about taking care of your body. When we are stressed, it’s typically one of the first things we give up. We skip the workout or grab fast food because we’re just SO busy. And then we start not feeling well and have to slow down.
Physical self-care doesn’t have to be eating only chicken and vegetables and working out for two hours a day. It can be so much simpler.
Sleep/rest - We all know how important sleep is, yet we give it up when things get busy. If you’re not sleeping well on a regular basis, check with your doctor. I’ve become a HUGE fan of the mid-day nap.
Stretching - A simple stretch during the day can do wonders for your physical well-being.
Exercise/movement/walking - For some of you, exercise in the form of running, strength training, and other more “structured” exercises will be key. For others, just getting up and moving more than you did yesterday is key.
Healthy food and drink - I could write an entire book here. Go eat your veggies and drink your water.
Emotional self-care is taking care of your mental health. If you’ve followed me for a minute, you know that mental health is incredibly important and something I’m passionate about people focusing on. This is another area where I could write a book, but I’ll start with this.
Stress management is whatever that looks like for you. Some might say all forms of self-care are stress management. You need to do what’s best for you.
Journaling is something that I’m a huge fan of, especially when my stress level is high. I find I don’t need to write for hours, I just need to write what happened, why it’s stressing me out, and what I might do about it. The simple act of writing it out is immensely cathartic for me.
Positive social media - Social media is an amazing invention…until it’s not. If you find your mental health declining, take a look at who you’re following and unfollow whoever is bringing you down.
Therapy - Repeat after me; there is no shame is asking for help! I know because it saved my life. If you are really struggling, seek the help of a professional. To find one, talk to friends, look into your company’s Employee Assistance Program (if you have one), or check with your insurance provider.
Social self-care is about the people you spend time with. Human beings are social creatures. We are biologically wired to connect with one another. It’s why our ancestors lived in tribes and we crave community today. Social self-care is about:
Connection is about spending time with friends and loved ones, whether that be long vacations together, book clubs, or even a community chat group. It’s also about building a sense of community.
Setting boundaries may seem like the opposite of what I just said, but setting boundaries with others is another form of self-care. By setting boundaries, you can protect the time you need to do some other self-care forms. For more info on setting boundaries, check out my blog Why is being selfish a bad thing?
The final form of self-care for me is spiritual. Often when people hear this word, they think of religion. And if that is you, that’s fabulous. But there are other forms of spirituality that you may not be thinking of.
Time alone - I’m an introvert. I know it doesn’t look like it on the surface, but when I’ve been overstimulated by too many people or too much interaction, I need some time alone. Whether it’s hiding somewhere to read a book or going on a solo Target run, my alone time is sacred!
Meditation - This is another form of self-care that helps you not only spiritually, by emotionally as well. It’s a practice I’m still working on mastering, but I find it incredibly helpful when I do it.
Yoga - While you might think this belongs under physical self-care as exercise, it can also be very spiritual when done as a regular practice.
Nature - This is my spirituality super weapon. I am happiest when I’m outside and can see birds and animals, especially near water! Sitting outside in the sun will turn my mood around pretty quickly when I'm stressed.
Journaling - I mentioned journaling under mental health, but I find it to be a spiritual form of self-care as well.
I hope that through this post, you’ve thought about self-care a little differently and found at least one thing you can do to take care of yourself. I’m not suggesting you do ALL of these at one time, but rather find the ones that resonate with YOU.
Drop me a note and let me know what you try. As always, I’m rooting for you.