Life is busy. There are always tasks to do at home, work is busy and can be stressful, your children need your time and energy, and your calendar is jammed. In an effort to keep your schedule under control, sometimes you skip meals, miss your class at the gym, or cancel plans with friends. When life gets busy, self-care is the first thing we sacrifice. People often think that taking time for themselves in the middle of busy times seems indulgent, but looking after your well-being will help you be productive and care for others. Self-care is not selfish.
The term self-care refers to activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short- and longer-term health and well-being. Self-care is also necessary for you to be effective and successful in honoring your professional and personal commitments.
Self-care helps to prevent burnout.
Excessive or prolonged stress can lead to a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion, often referred to as burnout. Burnout reduces productivity, zaps your energy, and can lead to physical or mental concerns. By incorporating self-care activities into your regular routine, like going for a walk or socializing with friends, you give your body and mind time to rest, reset, and rejuvenate, so you can avoid or reduce the symptoms of burnout.
Self-care helps relationships.
Self-care helps you to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and others. Doing things that make you feel physically and mentally good boosts your confidence and self-esteem. When you feel good, you are happier and better able to maintain positive relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. By practicing self-care, you also demonstrate to the people around you that you know how to set healthy, functional boundaries, which sets a great example and also helps to align their expectations of you.
Self-care makes you more effective.
When you take time for yourself, and give your body the food, rest, and activity it needs, you will actually have more energy to meet the demands of daily life. Much like refueling the engine of your car, self-care activities refuel your body and mind. Bringing more balance to your daily routine will help you be more productive and more resilient to stressors.
When it comes to self-care plans, there is no one-size-fits-all option. We all have different needs, strengths, and limitations. The following steps are what I use when creating a self-care plan. Try it and I'm sure you'll develop a plan that works just right for you too.
Step 1: Evaluate Your Coping Skills Positive: Examining your own habits is an important first step in developing a self-care plan. How do you typically deal with life’s demands? Can you identify when you need to take a break? When faced with challenges, we can use either positive coping strategies or negative coping strategies. Below are a few examples of strategies that I use:
• Deep breathing • Stretching • Meditation • Listening to music • Exercising • Reading • Going for a walk • Taking a bath • Socializing with friends • Sitting outside and relaxing • Engaging in a hobby
Step 2: Identify Your Self-Care Needs: We are all faced with unique challenges and no two people have the same self-care needs. Take a moment to consider what you value and need in your everyday life versus what you value and need in the event of a crisis. Remember that self-care extends far beyond your basic physical needs: consider your psychological, emotional, spiritual, social, financial, and workplace well-being.
- Daily Self-Care What are you doing to support your overall well-being on a day-to-day basis? Do you engage in self-care practices now? Are you more active in some areas of self-care than others?
- Emergency Self-Care: When you are faced with a crisis, you likely won’t have time to create a coping strategy. Take time to develop a plan in advance so it’s there when you need it.
Step 3: Barriers and Areas for Improvement: Be sure to assess any barriers or areas of your plan that may need improvement.
- Reflect on the existing coping strategies and self-care tools you have outlined in the previous activities. What’s working? What isn’t working? Keep the helpful tools, and ditch the stuff that doesn’t help you.
- Examine how you can address these barriers. Start taking steps toward incorporating new strategies and tools that will benefit your health and well-being.
- Reduce and eliminate negative coping strategies. If you find yourself using negative strategies, then begin by choosing one action you feel is most harmful and identify a positive strategy to replace it. Positive coping skills are an important part of your self-care toolkit.
Step 4: Create Your Self-Care Plan: Once you’ve determined your personal needs and strategy, write it down. Your self-care plan can be as simple or complex as you need it to be. You may choose to keep a detailed plan at home and carry a simplified version in your wallet, in your purse, or on your phone.
"Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort." – Deborah Day
Remember, self care is not always meant to be an indulgence, it’s a necessary part of life, and it consists of more than the occasional massage or bubble bath. It’s about getting in touch with yourself, your wants, needs and finding balance in your body, mind and spirit. It’s about being comfortable with setting boundaries to protect yourself and deserving enough to say no when you need to so you don’t become burned out. Self care is making time everyday to relax, renew and energize yourself!