What is Self Care?
You may have heard someone tell you to “Take time for self care.” But what does that actually mean? How can someone who is a DO-ER actually take time for themselves? How can we find the time to implement self care principles into our busy daily lives? We see uplifting posts in our Instagram and Facebook feeds of smiling people doing yoga, meditating, and generally looking way more sublime and relaxed than seems possible for the majority of us, telling us to be cool man! But how do they do it?
As someone who identifies with being a “Do-er” (IE constantly doing SOMETHING, whether it be working, writing emails, making dinner, doing laundry, yard work, taking care of kids, and the list goes on), living in modern day America, I find it difficult, if not nearly IMPOSSIBLE, to take time for myself. I have a hard time finding time to just BE.
How did we get here? In a society that praises hard work, dedication, and a “Do it all” attitude, it’s no wonder we are running ourselves ragged. With technology and our fast paced world beckoning us to learn more, do more, be more, it’s no wonder we are more obese, have the highest rate of heart disease, have an exorbitant amount of adrenal fatigue and immune system disorders, and have the worst mental health rate than ever before in history.
We now know that there is a direct correlation between stress and our immune system response. The more adrenaline and cortisol stay elevated for long periods, the more we develop adrenal fatigue, have less white blood cells to fight off disease, and our prefrontal cortex is less able to think clearly as the amygdala is in fight or flight survival mode. If we stay in this phase for too long, and we become sick, exhausted, and less able to use critical thinking skills.
But what if we could have a little extra energy at the end of a long day? What if we had a backup source of positivity to dig into when we really weren’t feeling like our best selves?
Now, more than ever, we need real strategies for self care. Now more than ever, we need to find balance between doing it all, and taking time to slow down and just BE. Some great ways to do that are:
- Getting a massage
- Getting energy work
- Getting acupuncture
- Talking to a therapist
- Taking a bath
- Going for a walk
- Making time for Meditation
- Working out
- Practicing Yoga
- Going to bed an hour earlier
- Creating something
These are just a few ways to practice self care. Of course the key is to MAKE TIME to do these things. You may say “I’m too busy for that stuff. I have deadlines at work, the kids have sports events to go to, and I have to take care of my family before I can take care of myself.” And if you feel that way, you’re not alone. The truth is the MAJORITY of us feel this way. Take a second and ask yourself if you are relaxed, energized and refreshed in this moment. If you are- good for you! You are probably already using strategies for self care. But if you aren’t, you likely need a little more recharging than you thought. Now ask yourself this honest question: How well can I take care of my family, do my work, and daily chores or tasks, when I feel stressed, ragged and exhausted? When I feel overwhelmed, how likely am I to lash out at my child or significant other, or work colleague? Do we make better decisions when we’ve had a good nights sleep, or when we stayed up all night and woke up early?
The truth is, there is not enough time, and there never WILL be enough time, to do everything that we want to do. There will always be something or someone else calling us, taking our energy, and demanding our attention. We have to MAKE TIME for ourselves, because otherwise it will be TAKEN from us. If you don’t believe me, just think back to the last time that you were sick and had to stay home. You likely ran yourself ragged until you dropped right? And then as you lay there in bed you thought of all the things you should be doing, all the work piling up, and all the ‘shoulds’. If we don’t take time for ourselves, our bodies will often force us to slow down by shutting down. They say “I’M OUT!” and we have to lay there and rest until we get better. As soon as we are better, then what do we do? FULL SPEED AHEAD! We go right back out and do it again until the next time, continuing a vicious cycle of depletion.
So what can we do? We can choose to say no to a few more things that are vying for our attention. We can put our phones down and take 10 minutes to breathe or meditate. We can schedule a yoga or workout class. We can wake up 10 minutes earlier and enjoy our coffee outside in the morning before anyone else wakes up. We can choose to creatively express ourselves through art or music. We can choose to wiggle our schedule around to better fit our needs. We can journal or write about something we are grateful for. We can take control of our lives by cutting out negative people or situations that drain our energy. We can choose to put ourselves first. When flight attendants do their safety demonstrations, they tell you to put your oxygen on first right? Then help someone else. It’s ok to put yourself first. It’s ok to say, I need time for me. It’s ok to slow down and not DO it all. We often pride ourselves on our ability to do it all and feel ashamed when we don’t achieve everything we set out to do. Beating ourselves up by forcing ourselves to overachieve doesn’t help our health, our mental state, or our overall well being. We can take pride in the fact that we love, honor and accept ourselves just as we are. We can practice humility and say “I’m going to honor where I’m at.”
I encourage you to take time for yourself today. Start by repeating the mantra “I love, honor and accept myself just as I am.” Take time to do something that brings you joy, peace and happiness. Take time to recharge and refuel your energy reserves. Take time to appreciate the small things and find something to be grateful for. Most importantly, take time to just BE.