Updated: Dec 22, 2020
“When you say ‘yes’ to others make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.”
- Paulo Coelho
What is self care? It is a conscious and personal act of taking care of yourself. This includes taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Self care will allow you to feel better, to tackle the day to day with improved ability to cope, to support others, and to be your best self. After all, “Everybody can be great; you only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..
For the past nine months, we have all been living in chaos and isolation. The pandemic has forced us all to take a pause from the norm. It has also been a source of anxiety, uncertainty, and unrest. For many, the last nine months, have been focused on being in survival mode. Which means, you are making sure to have a job or income so you can pay the bills and provide for you and your family, adhere to the guidelines of social distancing, supporting others who are in need, and just trying to ride out the pandemic.
On the other hand, we are also in the middle of the holiday season. Holidays are a time to reconnect with family and loved ones, to take a break from the regular day to day grind, to recharge, and to rest. As you take time off to celebrate the holidays, take a moment to do some self care.
The five ways to practice self care (sc):
1. Physical SC, this includes exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Ever notice that when you do something active you tend to feel better. When you are active, your body releases endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline, and endocannabinoid, which all help you to feel happy and confident, while also helping you to combat stress and anxiety, and decrease physical pain. If you are going to keep your mind strong, you have to keep your body strong as well. It’s referred to as the mind body connection. So remember to get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods that help you to fuel your body, make sure to do the things to keep you healthy as well (like taking vitamins and supplements), and exercising.
2. Social SC, spend time with others to connect and bond. Make time to connect with those you care about. Think about all the people who are important to you. Now think about how often you need to connect with them, and in what context. For example, maybe you schedule a zoom meeting with some friends so you can all watch the same movie together, or schedule a face to face meeting outside on a family members porch or at a local park with family.
3. Mental SC, taking breaks from others to recharge, be it reading, playing video games, or just going on walks by yourself. It’s your time to just clear your head. Each day, we fill our head with thoughts, ideas, and opinions that influence you both positively and negatively.
At the end of the day, take inventory of all the positive and negative thoughts that are in your head. Write them all down. Then, identify which negative thoughts are challenges you can work on and improve starting tomorrow, and recognize those negative thoughts that are just a waste of time. Like throwing out the trash, throw away those negative, waste of time, thoughts by crossing them off, or literally tear them off the sheet of paper and throwing them out. End by focusing on the positives and appreciate all the things that are going well.
Secondly, take time to do things to stimulate your curiosity, creativity, and inspire you. Be it watching movies, reading or listening to podcasts, drawing, doing crossword puzzles, or even singing your favorite songs! Just do something to stimulate your mind, keep it sharp, to learn something new, to peak your interest, and to make you smile.
Lastly, take time to practice self-compassion. You can start your day by expressing gratitude for things you are grateful for. Even if it’s just one thing, start your day by focusing on that one good thought. If you choose to center your thoughts on being positive and on the things you are grateful for, like a camera lens, your focal point will be on what you want vs what you don’t.
4. Spiritual SC, this can be a religious connection, doing things that are bigger than you (like finding ways to help others), and/or just being present and taking time out from your thoughts and expectations. It’s a connection to things like your values, things that give you meaning in your life, and just grounding yourself in the present moment. This can include going to a religious service, volunteering, taking 5 min to just sit in silence, meditating, doing yoga, or going for a hike so you can be one with nature. Connecting with nature can be a spiritual connection of just being one with the world and connecting with self.
5. Emotional SC, understanding your daily emotions. This means defining your emotions like anger, sadness, happiness, and confusion. Once you identify your daily emotions, it’s important to talk about it with others. It can be with a therapist, close friend, or family member, it just needs to be someone you can trust with your thoughts. Saying it outloud allows you to use all of your senses and make it concrete because you are able to express it and get it out of your head. Talking to others allows you to get perspective and gain insights. Sometimes, we can get so clouded by our emotions that we temporarily lose our objectivity and ability to see it from another perspective.
Understanding your emotions involves acknowledging them, expressing them out loud, and process them. That way, you can let them go. You can’t keep your emotions bottled up. If you do, it will just build up till you blow up.
Now that you are aware of the different types of self care, here's your homework. Identify the different areas you would like to focus on over the holidays. Then, create a post holiday plan to integrate self care time on a daily basis. Remember, self care isn’t a luxury for those who have the time, it’s a priority that you need to integrate each day. There is always room, you just need to make the time.
Start by answering the following questions:
1. How am I doing?
2. What helps me to decompress at the end of the day?
3. Am I feeling anxious? If so, what helps me to feel less anxious?
Now, take a moment to recognize how you are currently taking care of yourself?
Secondly, identify ways you can better care for yourself or things you have always wanted to do?
Hints for Self Care:
a. Ask for help. One of the best ways to clear your head and gain insight is to ask others for help. Be it a therapist, close friend, family member, peers, and/or colleagues. It can be tempting when talking to others, to put their needs ahead of your own. Remember, make yourself the priority.
b. Evaluate your current coping strategies. If they aren't the best, take time to identify and incorporate new strategies. It can be as little as going for a walk, rather than reaching for the ice cream.
c. Reach out to a friend and just ask them how they are doing. This time, just take time to listen to them, look for positives, and to recognize others for what they are doing well!
When you can listen and identify things that others are doing well, it will help shift your mindset as well. Focusing on their positives with allow you to focus on personal positives as well.
d, Evaluate your daily routine. In chaos, structure and routine are a great way of managing the chaos.
Start by balancing work, exercise, eating right, getting a good night sleep, spending time with others, spending time with hobbies, and meditating or having some quiet time.
In the end, if you don’t take time for self care, you will end up take it out on others, start showing resentment, hold grudges, and say unkind words, especially with those you care about most.