Self care seems to be a major buzz word this year. When you consider self care, what are you thinking of? Bubble baths? Time off? A facial? Any of these choices can be a great start, but true self care goes much deeper than this. Why is self care so important, anyway? Because it can help us manage our stress more effectively. This year, in particular, stress and stress management is a more important topic than ever. In 2020, with COVID quarantines, fear of illness, job loss, and pandemic stress skyrocketing, self care techniques can help keep you and your mind in balance. This year has seen unprecedented stress as well as a large spike in the cases of anxiety, insomnia, fatigue and other stress related symptoms that our clinic has seen as well.
So, how does self care work? Self care includes activities that reduce your stress, improve your sleep, alleviate emotional distress, and help your brain and body to recharge. Activities that are self care related actually help build resilience, which helps us to forge ahead through stressful events more easily, and even supports our immune system. Self care activities can also help to alleviate anxiety and depression and support better sleep and mood.
Self care includes lots of different types of activities; the key is finding what works for you and for your unique lifestyle. Self care focus also takes scheduling and discipline. A few steps to get started on a routine:
Make a list of activities that you find relaxing and therapeutic. This way, when you can't think of something in the moment to do to relax, you can always come back to your list for ideas.
Schedule your self care activities. Find an ideal amount of time and frequency that you can stay consistent with. Ideally, an hour daily is great, but this may not always be feasible. The key is to ensure the chosen amount of time and frequency is manageable and that you can work it into your schedule.
Balance out the choices so that some are active options and others are relaxing options.
Tell your family or loved ones that you are planning for your self care to help ensure that you won't be interrupted, and for better accountability. Some self care activities can absolutely involve your family or partner as well! (Taking a walk or a hike is a great example!) But, make sure that you also have self care activities that are solo.
Do you need some ideas of self care activities for your go to list? See below:
* Get a massage!
* Take a walk or go for a hike
* Spend time in nature (hiking) or even take a weekend away to spend time in the mountains or go camping
* Take a long bubble bath
* Get a haircut or other grooming that relaxes you
* Read a great book
* Schedule some social time with a good friend (or Zoom social hour)
Self care also includes a healthy balance in your lifestyle too. Although scheduling your self care as above can be beneficial, daily choices about how you live and spend your time are equally important. If you are a parent or a caregiver, it is even more critical to your well being to live a balanced lifestyle. What does this look like?
Prioritize your sleep: Sleep is one of the most important things to prioritize. Many of us skimp on sleep in order to complete other tasks, as it can feel like there is not enough time in the day to get everything done! Or, we may have a difficult time shutting down our brains enough to rest. Set a regular bedtime and time to wake. Use strict sleep hygiene to ensure good sleep as well: shut off all electronics 1-2 hours before bed, keep electronics out of the bedroom, keep TV out of the bedroom, ensure a cool, dark environment, and keep pets out of your bed for best sleep.
Nourish your body well: even with great self care practices, if you are not eating well you won't reap the full benefits. Maximize your protein, eat a diet full of whole unprocessed foods, minimize or eliminate sugar and eat 6-9 servings of vegetables daily.
Move your body: Make time for exercise that you enjoy. Try to perform 30-60 minutes of activity most days of the week.
Make time for mindfulness or meditation: Start with 5 minutes daily, and over time, work up to 20-30 minutes daily of mindfulness practices. If you need help getting started, apps such as Headspace or Calm are great ways to get started meditating.
Minimize alcohol or drugs: alcohol affects the quality of your sleep and can increase depression and anxiety, as well as cause weight gain and affect your health.
Make time for yourself in order to truly feel your best, and to be of the best service to others. We can't take great care of others if we don't show up for ourselves consistently.
What are you going to do today to get started?