What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘self-care’?
Perhaps you may think, “I don’t have time” or “I do enough already.” You may think that self-care is being selfish or feel guilty about taking self-care.
Self-care is defined as any purposeful action you do to take care of your mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological health. It is unique for each person. Self-care is also preventative as many symptoms arise when we are not doing enough self-care. How can you tell when your self-care is slipping?
Stress shows up in the body, so often our vulnerable spots (e.g., neck, lower back, eyes) start to speak to us. Thus, it is important to do frequent body scans to check-in with our body before stress elevates.
Physical self-care includes: nutrition, sleep/rest, exercise (any physical activity), progressive muscle relaxation, body work (massage), and medical care.
Emotional self-care involves the daily expression of our feelings. If not, one becomes frustrated, irritable, moody and resentful. We may become weepy or angry for no apparent reason. It is important to be around people and do activities you enjoy, journal, allow yourself to cry, and use positive self affirmations.
Our psychological self-care is addressed by becoming aware of our inner dialogue. What (non-nurturing) messages are you listening to about situations, others and yourself? Catch these thoughts, stop them, and reframe them using compassion. Psychological self-care also includes setting healthy boundaries with others, being assertive, minimizing stress, being open to new experiences, honouring what you want to do, and self-reflection.
Spiritual self-care involves activities which bring deeper meaning, awe, connection, joy, peace and inspiration to you. This could be mediation, being in nature, art, music, community involvement, being open to not knowing, and trusting something bigger than you.
How is your self-care? Here is a tool to help give you an indication.
Self-care needs to be purposely decided and planned. After you assess your current self-care level, look for areas that may be lacking. Identify actions that you can change or introduce RIGHT NOW. Implement these by placing them in your schedule and get items (e.g., yoga mat, phone number, community event calendar) ready.
We may very well know what we have to do for self-care, yet often do not do them or sustain them. Common barriers to self-care include: money, time, uncomfortable to ask for help or set boundaries, fear (of doing something new or other), negative reactions from others, and feeling that we don’t deserve it. Identify your barriers and plan how you will address them.
It is also important to identify unhealthy self-care coping mechanisms such as too much screen time, ‘vegging’, eating, drinking, cleaning, etc. Unfortunately, these are often the easiest to do! What could you replace some of these with instead?
As important as self-care is, we need to be aware if we are using self-care to justify actions. This may show up when we excessively ‘treat’ ourselves. It’s all about balance.
Here’s a witty video which illustrates this self-care justification.