October 28, 2020
Life can be challenging, and engaging in self-care can help decrease stress, provide opportunities to “recharge”, and even improve one’s mood. Self-care sounds self-explanatory, as in, taking care of oneself; why, then, does it often feel challenging to implement into our daily lives? Some common questions include: “What if I don't have enough time?”, “Where would I even start?”, or “How do I fit it in with my schedule?” Here are a couple of considerations.
Self-care means taking care of oneself body, mind, and spirit. Getting enough sleep, exercise, eating healthy foods, and staying up-to-date on annual medical check-ups may be part of physical self-care. Providing oneself with adequate rest and challenging unhelpful thoughts may be part of caring for your mind, and taking time for enjoyable activities and positive relationships may boost the spirit. Self-care is a lifelong journey, and simply becoming aware of the importance and positive impact of self-care, and making space for it, can be transformative. Take time to evaluate how you would like to start using self-care techniques to reach your personal goals, and how you can begin to take small steps to move towards patterns of holistic self-care.
It may not be possible to jet off to the Appalachians for a two-month meditation retreat in the middle of your work week. However, taking the time to engage in small acts of self-care that are reasonable for your daily life can be rejuvenating and refreshing. Think about what activities you can implement in your daily life in between routines. Journaling, listening to music, going for a walk, meditating or praying, reaching out to a friend, baking some brownies, watching a funny video, or whatever else allows you the opportunity to relax and recharge can positively affect your mood. Set reasonable expectations for yourself that fit in with your daily life, such as 10-15 minutes of exercise or journaling in the morning, reading a chapter of a book before bed, or putting new music on your "driving" playlist that makes your daily commute more enjoyable, rather than listening to news radio in traffic. Making a gigantic lifestyle change "cold turkey" is often difficult to sustain. Big changes start with small steps!
Many people express that they don't have time in their schedules for self-care. However, chronic stress, lack of sleep and exercise, or continually ruminating in unhelpful thoughts can all cause trouble in body, mind, and spirit. Self-care does not have to last hours upon end, or empty your bank account; however, it should be something you prioritize rather than an "optional" activity. Just as you cannot drive a car on empty, you cannot maintain productivity without taking opportunities to rest and recharge on a regular basis. Engaging in self-care consciously and intentionally will help the patterns "stick" and will also give you an idea of what works for you, and what doesn't, helping you tailor your approaches to better fit your needs.
In order to prioritize self-care, you may have to set and maintain new boundaries for yourself, which can feel risky, as you may be challenging the status quo, shaking up patterns in relationships, or may be feeling unsure about saying "No, thanks" or feeling as though you have to explain yourself to others. However, setting boundaries for yourself to engage in even small acts of self-care can be hugely impactful. This might mean turning off your work phone at 5:00 pm rather than taking calls and messages throughout the evening. Or maybe it means asking your partner to look after the toddler for 20 minutes so that you can have some time for a bubble bath, and then reciprocating. It may mean saying "No, thanks" to a social work-related outing so that you can make the yoga class you love, rather than taking the evening impressing the new boss. Whatever this may look like for you, begin to take steps towards new patterns of self-care. Your future self will thank you!