It seems like everyone nowadays is talking about the importance of self-care. From healthcare practitioners to product commercials, self-care is being touted as the all-important thing that everyone should be doing. But what really is self-care? With images of bubble baths and long massages, the idea of self-care can easily be misconstrued as expensive pampering.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is defined in the Dictionary of Nursing as, “…the practice of activities that are necessary to sustain life and health, normally initiated and carried out by the individual for him- or herself.”
Generally speaking, self-care is all about caring for yourself in ways that reduce stress and increase mental, emotional, and physical health. This can look very different for each individual person and is wholly dependent on what makes you feel great.
Self-care doesn’t need to be expensive or even cost a penny! Simply taking time out of your busy schedule for a walk or a few minutes for a meditative rest can do wonders for your health and quality of life.
What isn’t Self-Care?
Self-care isn’t forcing yourself to do things that you hate doing. Just because your best friend runs 5 miles every day doesn’t mean that you have to make yourself do that, as well. Find something else you like doing and remove the guilt of not fitting into some unrealistic social expectation.
Self-care will only work if you feel cared for, not if you feel resentful and angry. If you hate a specific diet, find one that does make you feel healthy and happy. Don’t be afraid to indulge in the occasional sweet or splurge without guilt. Self-care is an important way to show yourself love and kindness.
Why Does it Matter?
Life is stressful and is sometimes sad or disappointing. When we get caught up in the hurry, the chaos, and the social expectations, we can very quickly find ourselves frazzled, unhealthy, and loathing life.
Self-care inspires you to take a break, walk away from things that don’t serve your best self and learn to love yourself. So what are some things you can do beyond the stereotypical bubble bath? Glad you asked! Here are a few ideas to consider as you venture down the path of healing, health, and a better quality of life.
Ways You can Care for Yourself
1. Cut back on your to-do list.
One of the biggest ways that people in our modern world become unhealthy is that they try to cram too much into one day. They have also been socialized to say “yes” to everything. Ambition is a worthy endeavor, but watch how much stress you invite into your life.
Analyze the things that you participate in and figure out which ones you love. Keep those, then decide on the other activities and cut them out or reduce how much you do (for now at least). When someone asks you to do something, listen to your gut feeling and say “no” as often as you can. You’ll find yourself less stressed and creating space for more self-care.
2. Take time out for mindfulness every day.
As life flies by, we all start to realize that we want to enjoy more of the time we’ve got. Mindfulness helps the mind slow down, focus on the present moment, and become calmer. Incorporate moments into your life that are focused on having a calm mind. If you struggle to do this on your own, download an app like Headspace or sign up for a meditation class to learn strategies for emptying your mind for better mental health.
3. Cut back on social media, when you need it.
While social media can be a rich source of connection, it can also be a serious source of stress and anxiety. Feel free to take breaks from social media when you need it. Some people designate one day per week where they don’t access social media at all. Others place limits like turning it off after a certain hour of the day or restricting the number of times they hop on a platform. Find your happy place and then don’t feel guilty for engaging a little less for your own sanity.
4. Find something that helps you relax every day.
This could be a yoga class, a quiet meditative corner, or a new hobby that makes you sit and relax. You could integrate a massage or a solitary walk. You know what things trigger relaxation in your body and mind, and that fits into your busy life. Do more of that.
5. Find an exercise routine you enjoy and will do consistently.
Everyone knows that exercise is important to physical and mental health. But often we torture ourselves with overpriced gym memberships and routines that we dread doing. Exercise doesn’t have to be like that. Find something active that you enjoy doing (whether it’s a walk or an energetic dance DVD) and make it part of your daily routine. You’ll stop the on and off, yo-yoing cycle and stay healthy for life.
6. Plan out a nutritionally healthy, holistic diet.
Being healthy starts with what you put into your body. But instead of tossing everything out of your cupboards and trying a radical new diet, focus instead on things that make you feel wonderful. Replace the worst offenders with things that you know you’ll enjoy. Then make slow changes over time to increase your nutrition. Don’t forget to include a little dark chocolate and other treats to keep you satisfied and to keep away those feelings of deprivation.
7. Sleep enough and consistently every night.
This is an important self-care strategy. No one feels great when they are sleep deprived, no matter how healthy the rest of your lifestyle is. If you’ve got medical issues that are causing your sleep issues, take the time to address and fix them. Prioritize sleep and create a nighttime routine to set up your circadian rhythm for sustainable change.
Other Self-Care Ideas
There are so many ways to increase the amount of care you give yourself. Here are a few other ideas.
- Cut out technology at least an hour before bed.
- Take care of nagging health conditions with healthcare and wellness professionals.
- Hang out with family and friends that you love and enjoy regularly.
- Laugh often.
- Work on your mental health with a professional, when needed.
Implement various self-care routines one step at a time. Make sure that each change sticks before adding in something new. Before you know it, you’ll start to feel the stress melt away and your overall health increase. You’ll also inspire others to take better care of themselves.
You can do it!