Self-care is very much a buzz word in today’s health and wellness community, but what is self-care really and how do we take advantage of all the benefits that self-care can offer?
Self-care is just that, care for oneself. It is the act of participating in activities that we need to sustain our health and wellbeing. Self-care is a very personal thing so the activities that are positive for my overall health may be very different than the ones that benefit you and that is okay. Self-care is ultimately about taking what makes you feel healthy and full and leaving what is not serving you behind.
We hear all the time that self-care is important, but how does it actually improve our health? Engaging in self-care helps to
- Improve our mood
- Reduce our anxiety
- Reduce our stress
- Improve our relationships
- Allow us to be the best versions of ourselves
- And more
When we consider self-care there are often areas that are highlighted very well and areas that are more neglected. There are 8 different areas of self-care that we can focus on when we are looking at our overall health and we can evaluate each of these areas individually.
- Physical self-care is often one of the most focused on areas of self-care and it includes movement and exercise, nutrition and sleep. When evaluating our physical self-care, it’s important to consider the movement you are getting each day for your body, how your are fueling your body and if you are achieving the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Emotional self-care includes navigating emotions, managing stress and developing compassion for others. When evaluating emotional self-care, we want to consider how we are expressing our emotions and if we are doing this in a healthy way. We also want to observe whether we feel in control of life in general and not overwhelmed by the things going on around us.
- Social self-care involves having a supportive network of relationships around you, but how these relationships look will be different for different people. Generally, if social self-care is being prioritized for you, you will feel loved and appreciated, have people around you to talk to when you need it and include social activities on your calendar.
- Psychological self-care involves learning new things, practicing mindfulness and engaging in creative activities. When we are looking at our psychological self-care, we want to ensure that we are learning new things outside or unrelated to work and we are actively engaging in hobbies. Psychological self-care also typically entails mindfulness as well and developing a mindfulness practice can be extremely beneficial for overall health.
- Financial self-care involves being responsible with finances and having a conscious relationship with money. If we are looking after our financial self-care we are spending within our means, able to afford our monthly costs and able to put money into our savings accounts regularly.
- Professional self-care is having clear and professional boundaries in your career. Professional self-care encourages you to take breaks throughout your work day and to maintain a balance between your work life and your home life. It also requires you to set healthy boundaries that may require you to say no to new responsibilities if you don’t have the resources available to complete them.
- Spiritual self-care involves the beliefs and values that are important to you and guide your life. If we are taking care of our spiritual self-care we typically know the things that give our lives meaning and we are acting in accordance to those values and morals.
- Environmental self-care involves taking care of the environments that you spend the most amount of time in. Ultimately, this means keeping areas of your home/office tidy and organized. Monitoring technology use is also a component of environmental self-care, so noting your technology habits can be an important piece of environmental self-care as well.
This is all great, but you don’t need 8 more areas of your life to manage, you are busy enough. So, how do we implement self-care in an easily manageable way?
First, know that you do not need to focus on all 8 areas and that you do not need to do them all at once. As you read through some of those things you may have been able to choose multiple areas of self-care that you are already excelling in so in those areas, just keep doing what your doing. Find the areas that may be more of a struggle for you and choose just one or two of them to start with. Focusing on all 8 areas, all at once will likely become overwhelming and we don’t need to add more overwhelm to your life.
Second, start with small changes. When building any new habit starting small is the easiest and most helpful piece of advice you can take to heart. You need to make the habit so small and easy to start that you can’t say no to it. Most people believe that they need to develop more willpower or more motivation, but research shows that willpower fatigues like a muscle. As you use more and more willpower throughout the day you become fatigued and it becomes more difficult to use willpower to complete tasks. Motivation also ebbs and flows and can change based on the amount of sleep you’ve had, your stress level, how busy you, the weather, ect so it’s best to not have to rely on motivation when implementing new habits.
Third, break down large habits into smaller chunks. Sometimes when we want to get somewhere now it’s hard to remember that small improvements add up over long periods of times and they often add up faster than you think. Rather than trying to do something large and perfect from the beginning take your large habit and break it down into chunks. Over time you will be able to add to each small goal building towards your larger goal. When you start to experience success with your smaller habits it will be easier to expand them. The momentum you build will help you keep pushing forward.
Finally, be patient with yourself. Developing new self-care habits is a marathon, not a sprint and learning to be patient with yourself as you do is a key to making progress. New habits should feel easy and if you stay consistent then you will be able to expand these habits but patience is a key part of the process.
It’s important to remember that self-care is a very personal thing. You will find that there are things that you consider self-care that your friends or family find stressful and vice versa. Learning to implement self-care into your daily life can be a challenge at first, but it’s 100% worth it in the end. Implementing self-care into your life is beneficial for your overall health and wellness including your physical, emotional and mental health. Find self-care practices that work for you and work to implement them into your life consistently each and every day.