Happy International Self-Care Day!
Self-care involves actively taking steps to protect your well-being and prevent illness. Let’s break it down a little.
According to the International Self-Care Foundation (ISF), holistic self-care is made up of seven pillars:
- Knowledge and health literacy
- Mental wellbeing, self-awareness, and agency
- Physical activity
- Healthy eating
- Risk avoidance or mitigation
- Good hygiene
- Rational and responsible use of products and services
If you want to learn more about ISF and how they define self-care, click here.
Today we’re focusing on the mental wellbeing side of self-care. Social media has a funny way of painting self-care to be picture perfect with colorful smoothies, a warm bath with piles of bubbles, or an afternoon nap with a pet and a snuggly blanket. And while this picture is definitely pretty, it is only one picture.
Self-care can also be disciplined. It can be making responsible decisions and doing what’s necessary to reduce recurring or long-term stressors. For some, that’s taking the time to learn about budgeting and start a record of spending habits. It could be finally making a doctor’s appointment to address that medical issue you’ve been too anxious to get around to. Maybe it’s setting clear boundaries in a relationship that feels draining or unhealthy.
In our fast-paced workaholic society, taking the time to tend to your own needs can seem selfish.
But it’s not selfish or indulgent or a waste of time.
Giving yourself time to rest, recharge, and process the day is just as important as drinking enough water. Running on empty can only get you so far before you break down.
The first step to building a regular self-care toolkit is figuring out what self-care means to you.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Self-Care for the Body
- Cook yourself a healthy meal or try a new recipe. Don’t cook? Order from your favorite restaurant. Or try cooking! You might feel accomplished in the end.
- Exercise with intention! Go for a walk, pick a workout video from YouTube, or put on a playlist and dance. Remind yourself that it’s a privilege to move your body.
- Stretch. There’s an endless amount of beginner’s yoga videos on youtube targeting neck pain, back pain, sciatica – if it can hurt, there’s a video for it. You’d be surprised how releasing physical tension through stretching can ease mental tension too.
Bottom line: Taking care of your body feels good, and when your physical self feels good, your mental self may follow.
Self-Care for the Mind
- Constantly stressing about what you’re going to take to work for lunch tomorrow? Try meal prepping! Here’s a great how-to.
- Learn some financial planning strategies if money is a source of stress for you.
- Set some boundaries on work. Try limiting the number of projects you take on or letting colleagues know you will not be answering emails or phone calls over the weekend. The easiest place to start may be setting a regular end-time to your workday. Whatever your boundary is, stick to it! The goal here is to make sure you have time to decompress.
- Self-affirmations are a common tool for addressing difficulties with self-worth and body image, and they can tackle various issues. You can read more about self-affirmations here.
Bottom line: self-care practices in this category soothe stress, anxiety, and provide some relief from negative thinking patterns.
Self-Care for the Soul
- Get connected to the great outdoors (if you’re a local, here’s a list of parks with hikes and nature walks. Oyster Creek Park and Seabourne Creek Nature Park are some honorable mentions, too). If going for a hike isn’t your speed, go for a drive instead.
- Religious or spiritual practice
- Read something feel-good! Here’s a site that only posts good news. People impacted by acts of kindness post their stories here.
Bottom line: soul self-care helps you feel connected to something larger than yourself. If you need some perspective or a reminder that you’re not alone in the world, try something in this category.
Self-Care to Bring You Comfort
- Put on a favorite tv show
- Watch a movie you loved as a kid
- Enjoy some food that always makes you smile
- Talk to someone you love
Bottom line: if it made you feel good in the past, there’s a good chance it’ll work again…especially that stuff you loved as a kid.
Remember, self-care is a regular practice to keep yourself in tip-top shape! Don’t feel bad if you fall off the wagon, though.
If it’s mentally exhausting, it’s not self-care.
Whatever you do, do it for you. You have to make sure your cup is full before you can fill the cups of others.
And…there are no magic potions. Aim to create a meaningful menu of things that work for you.
Still feel like you need to learn more about self-care? The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) is a great resource. Here’s an introduction to Taking Care of Yourself. And if your past experiences with self-care haven’t gone too well, this article may explain Why You Struggle with Self-Care.