Self Care is not what you do after everything else is done. It’s how you do everything.
What is self care?
Self care is so much more than putting on a face mask, pouring yourself a glass of wine or running yourself a hot bath. Self care is a term that describes everything you deliberately do for your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. It may sound very simple, but many of us pay too little attention to practicing self care. It can range from not checking your work email at night to booking yourself a pedicure, meditating or going on a well-deserved vacation.
Why is self care so important?
We often ask a lot of ourselves: working fulltime and, although we shouldn’t, being available for work-related questions outside office hours as well, managing our personal life at home and trying to squeeze in quality time with friends and family. That’s a lot to juggle! Having a lot going on in your life can be very emotionally draining. You might feel like you just have to push through, but you can’t pour from an empty cup! That’s why taking care of your own well-being is important. Establishing a loving relationship with yourself will make you a happier, more relaxed person who’s able to give more in the areas we all find so important; our career, our friends and family and our home life.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information did research on the importance of self-care, questioning 871 medical students in the U.S. between December 2015 and March 2016. The survey assessed perceived stress, self care and quality of life. The researchers found that the medical students who deliberately practice self care reported experiencing less stress and a higher quality of life compared to their fellow students that don’t.
Wait! I don’t have time for that!
We are champs at getting things done that need to be done. At the end of the day, we often have little time to dedicate to do things that only serve us and no one else. Self care sounds like it may take a lot of time out of your day, but it really doesn’t have to.
There are plenty of self care routines you can squeeze into your day without taking away any time of the things that you have to do. Here are some ways to take care of yourself without taking too much time.
Learn how to say No
Setting healthy boundaries is the ultimate form of self care. Saying no to things that you don’t want to do will not only buy you more time to spend on the things that matter, but also more peace of mind.
We know how hard it can be to set clear boundaries, but it’s the most important step to take care of yourself.
Get Enough Sleep
We all know sleep is important, yet most of us don’t get enough quality sleep each night. Getting enough sleep is basic self-care. It won’t cost you a dime and it’s something we can all do. Skip that one episode on Netflix that you promised yourself would be the last for the night and head off to bed.
Take a hot, relaxing shower, lather your skin in lavender-scented lotion (or another calming scent if you don’t like lavender) and head off to bed. No more reading emails, no more opening social media. No screens at all is best, actually! Screen time will delay the release of melatonin, which is what you need to fall asleep at night. Sleep is extremely important. People who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to heart disease, they will make less healthy diet choices and as we surely all have experienced, a lack of sleep will make you snappy and grumpy.
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Make Healthy Food Choices
Your diet is a major part of self care. You might think that eating a pint of ice cream or a pizza from the freezer will make you feel better, but it won’t. Eating healthy, nutritious food is one of the easiest ways to make you feel good. Junk food will probably make you doze off after lunch or dinner, but fresh vegetables and fruits will give you enough energy to tackle the rest of your day with ease.
In a good relationship with yourself, you nourish your body with healthy foods. That doesn’t mean that you have to avoid anything deep-fried forever. Choosing to indulge on foods that aren’t particularly healthy for you every once in a while, can also be a form of self care. Make sure to find the right balance.
Clear Your Schedule for things you Enjoy Doing
Answered all work emails? Put the children to bed? Cleaned the house from top to bottom? Do you now have plenty of time to spend on things you enjoy doing? No? Neither do we! There are always plenty of chores to do and for many of us, our job never stops. That’s why you have to clear out your schedule every day to do things you enjoy, whether it’s blasting music and dancing in your living room or quietly reading a book. Although it would be lovely, it doesn’t have to take hours out of your day.
Start with setting a timer for 10 minutes of doing something you love without thinking about all your responsibilities. Block this time in your schedule, put SELF CARE or ME-TIME in capital letters in your agenda for however long you want to. PRO TIP: inform your family/colleagues about this blocked off ME TIME.
Imagine Yourself being Your Best Friend
If your best friend came to you to tell you how she messed up an assignment at work, you obviously wouldn’t be mean to her and call her a failure. So why do we treat ourselves with less compassion than we treat the people around us?
Being your own best friend is also a form of self care. Next time you feel guilty about being a couch potato for a day after a particularly hard week at work, ask yourself what you would tell a friend in a similar situation. Of course, you’ll tell her that she deserves to take some me-time and she has nothing to feel guilty about. From now on, you are your own best friend. Talk to yourself like you would talk to your loved ones.
Reading through the basics of deliberately taking care of yourself, you might want to start implementing more of it into different areas of your life. Walking away from arguments, hiring someone to take care of the things you don’t enjoy doing (if you can) and taking time to reflect are ways of practicing self care, too. Don’t be hard on yourself if you have a hard time creating change in the beginning. Being gentle with yourself is what self care is all about.