If you have ever been on an airplane, you might remember the safety briefing given by the flight attendants before takeoff. One of the things they say is that if oxygen masks become necessary due to a pressure change, you must always secure your own mask before helping someone else put theirs on. This oxygen-mask rule is something we all should remember – not just on airplanes, but in our everyday lives. Too many of us are running ourselves ragged, putting all our energy into relationships, school, work, and taking care of others… while neglecting ourselves. So today, I want to talk about self-care: what is it, why is it important, and how do you do it?
Self-care can be thought of as all those little things we do to take care of ourselves beyond our basic survival needs of food, water, shelter, and sleep. In other words, it is the set of habits we develop in order to improve our health and happiness. Some examples of self-care:
-getting a haircut
-taking a bath
-listening to music
-having a picnic
-getting a massage
-going to the movies
-talking to a friend
-reading a book or magazine
-playing an instrument
-going for a walk
-playing video games
-writing in a journal
-going to church
-cooking your favourite meal
-taking a class for fun
-writing down things you like about yourself or things you are grateful for
-lighting scented candles or incense
-visiting friends and family
-volunteering at an animal shelter
-getting regular medical and dental checkups
-getting a pedicure
-watching YouTube videos
The possibilities are endless! Self-care is a bit different for everyone, since we all have different interests, skills, resources (i.e. time and money), and personalities. It also changes over time as we ourselves grow and change, or our circumstances change. What is important is that we make self-care a priority, every single day.
Why is self-care so important? It’s because without it, we are more susceptible to burnout and the negative effects of stress, leading to health problems, fatigue, and poor quality of life. We are more likely to be anxious and less likely to get pleasure or fulfillment out of life. Self-care makes us healthier and happier; it also helps us be better equipped to take care of others and to face the challenges of life.
There are three steps to establishing self-care. It is best to think of them as a circular process, since self-care is an ongoing and evolving project. The first step is to figure out what your self-care looks like at present. One good way to do this is to make a chart with different categories of well-being, such as Physical, Emotional, Social, Cultural, Financial, Environmental, Spiritual, and Academic/Career. For each category, think about how you are doing and write down the ways you are doing self-care. Now it is easier for you to see where and what you are doing well (be sure to give yourself praise for those!) and where you would like to improve.
Step two is to make a plan. One idea is to look at the three categories where you would like to improve the most, and think of one self-care action you can do for that category. You could also pick out self-care activities that appeal to you (see my list above or Google self-care ideas) and incorporate these into your plan on a regular basis. It can take a bit of work to figure out what works for you personally. It can also be a bit of a balancing act, in that you do want to indulge yourself, but it has to be realistic. For example, eating chocolate is a great self-care idea, but not if you are eating a pound of it at a time. It’s also not a good idea to purchase something you really can’t afford in the name of self-care, or to spend excessive time on a single self-care activity. Self-care also shouldn’t involve neglecting important responsibilities, since these are a crucial part of our overall well-being.
The final step is to put your plan into action! It takes practice and commitment, but don’t be afraid to try new things or make changes to your self-care. Or rather, it is perfectly fine and natural to be afraid, but don’t let that fear hold you back! And don’t get down on yourself if things don’t go according to plan; feel good that you are making efforts to take care of yourself.
Last month, I talked about ways to improve your sleep hygiene. Sleep is a survival need, but it is also a crucial part of your self-care habits. Click HERE to read about ways to improve your sleep!
Counselling can also be a beneficial self-care activity. If you want support, or to discuss ways of improving your self-care or well-being, click HERE to book an appointment. Thanks for reading and take good (self) care!