I'm sure you've heard the terms wellness and self-care buzzing around a lot lately. But here's the kicker, it's an inside job: a choice- daily. And it's not actually about being happy all the time nor can it be achieved by having things.
A friend once told me of his travels to a third-world country. "They were poor. Their homes were made of mud and straw. But they were so happy. They were incredibly generous and the best hosts." We spoke of how the happiest people will keep giving of themselves and their belongings to make others happy because it's not what they have, but who they have around them and their perspective.
What is self-care?
"Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.
"As Agnes Wainman explained, self-care is 'something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.'"
I like to say that self-care is not all bubble bathes and face masks. Although they both certainly can be a part of the routine, and are a part of mine.
It is also going to be different for everyone. My wife (pictured to the right) needs a lot more physical activity while I need significantly more alone time at home. Regardless, our objectives are the same: be in a mental state to handle the hard stuff, enjoy the good stuff, and always have gratitude.
Why do we need self-care?
"A self-care plan can help you enhance your health and well-being, manage your stress, and maintain professionalism as a worker... Learn to identify activities and practices that support your well-being as a professional and help you to sustain positive self-care in the long-term."
"Self-care is important for your physical health as well as your mind, soul and, let's face it, your overall health. Without self-care, your relationships with others can suffer tremendously."
My personal experience, research, and observations have shown that a lack of self-care affects not only yourself, but the people around you.
"You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” -Eleanor Brown
I find this quote to be the most simple explanation of the importance of self-care. How can you give to others if you have nothing to give?
Health- this is the biggest one for me personally. When my wellness as a whole is low, so is my physical state. It is all a domino effect.
How can you do self-care?
Raphailia Michael, MA shares her Golden Rules of self-care:
- "Stick to the basics. Over time you will find your own rhythm and routine. You will be able to implement more and identify more particular forms of self-care that work for you.
- Self-care needs to be something you actively plan, rather than something that just happens. It is an active choice and you must treat it as such. Add certain activities to your calendar, announce your plans to others in order to increase your commitment, and actively look for opportunities to practice self-care.
- What I often emphasize to my clients is that keeping a conscious mind is what counts. In other words if you don’t see something as self-care or don’t do something in order to take care of yourself, it won’t work as such. Be aware of what you do, why you do it, how it feels, and what the outcomes are.
Although self-care means different things to different people, there’s a basic checklist that can be followed by all of us:
- Create a “no” list, with things you know you don’t like or you no longer want to do. Examples might include: Not checking emails at night, not attending gatherings you don’t like, not answering your phone during lunch/dinner.
- Promote a nutritious, healthy diet.
- Get enough sleep. Adults usually need 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Exercise. In contrast to what many people think, exercise is as good for our emotional health as it is for our physical health. It increases serotonin levels, leading to improved mood and energy. In line with the self-care conditions, what’s important is that you choose a form of exercise that you like!
- Follow-up with medical care. It is not unusual to put off checkups or visits to the doctor.
- Use relaxation exercises and/or practice meditation. You can do these exercises at any time of the day.
- Spend enough time with your loved ones.
- Do at least one relaxing activity every day, whether it’s taking a walk or spending 30 minutes unwinding.
- Do at least one pleasurable activity every day; from going to the cinema, to cooking or meeting with friends.
- Look for opportunities to laugh!"
Self-care is internal. It cannot be achieved externally. And while a shopping spree, new house, or new car may feel good at the moment, it is not actually going to fix the inside. It's not going to change how you feel about yourself. Only you can do that.
My personal self-care.
For me, self-care is very involved. On a daily, it means stepping back to breathe and process when a stressful situation arises. Not to be reactive as I have been in the past. Waking up early enough to not be rushed and taking the early shift at work to have time for myself in the afternoon.
It means scheduling alone time at home on a weekly, preferably daily basis, which often includes a bath. While also trying to not OVER schedule myself- this is my biggest downfall.
It is knowing that when I ask too many questions about a situation, I should stay home.
My monthly self-care routine also includes two acupuncture visits with Hilary at Aion Health, a float at Float Station, and exercise 3-5 days a week (this in particular needs to be better at the moment).
Yoga and hiking have had an incredible impact on my well being- but too, I need to get back to both more.
But when my self-care is really at it's best, so is my eating. When I use food to heal and fuel my body more often then for pleasure. I wrote all about my food journey here.
What is the goal of self-care?
Ultimately, the goal is wellness. The feeling of inner peace despite chaos.
But the most tricky part of self-care and wellness is that no one is perfect at it 100% of the time. There is no end to it. Self-care and wellness are constant work.
It means being happy within yourself despite the shit storm.
It means giving yourself grace to make mistakes and being OK.
It means having patience with yourself and others.
It is understanding that you only have control over yourself.
It is knowing how to communicate your needs and feelings because no one is a mind reader.
I would love to know:
What is your self-care routine and what areas do you need improving?