Updated: Aug 31, 2021
Everyone talks about it but what really is self-care? Clinician Maria Barrata PH.D of Psychology Today Magazine explains it as, “The mindful taking of time to pay attention to you, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you.”
A lot of us can’t fathom the idea of taking a two-hour bubble bath at 11 pm on a Monday while Pandora’s Buddha Bar plays in the background. Sure, it sounds nice but often the truth is we’ve got kids, jobs, social commitments, Zoom birthday parties, dirty bathrooms to clean, parents and grandparents to worry about, dinners to make, the list goes on.
Self-care isn’t just long lunches and luxurious candles but rather consistent moments built into your life that encourages you to turn inward and ask yourself “How am I really doing?” Today we will learn how to weave in that “me time” into our busy lives in a practical and impactful way, by taking a few approaches to self-care on a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level.
1. Physical Self-Care
When life gets busy the first thing we tend to neglect is our physical bodies. After a long day at work, you might wind up at a drive-thru at 10 pm absolutely starving because you’ve forgotten to eat that day. Of course, this can happen from time to time but the key is to not let it become the norm.
Try this instead: dedicate time each weekend to meal prepping, a simple yet effective way to practice self-care for “future you.” Meal prepping doesn’t have to be a huge culinary production either, it’s as simple as making enough food with enough variety to keep you satisfied throughout the week. If you’re a total newbie check out Meal Prepping 101 for additional suggestions on how to maximize your weekly menu.
It’s no secret that daily exercise can support a happy, healthy lifestyle. However, many have fallen under the impression that if we don’t do a full 45-minute spin class followed by 30 minutes of strength training and a proper cool down then we might as well not do anything at all. The all-or-nothing approach to exercise is ultimately what is going to harm us in the end.
Try this instead: Consider expanding your horizons to find a type of exercise or movement that resonates with you. Maybe it’s getting up from your desk and doing 20 jumping jacks, 10 squats and a few yoga stretches every few hours. Or maybe it’s a quick walk with your quaran-team during your lunch break!
If you are craving that longer workout, schedule it and plan ahead! Intentionally penciling in workouts (much like we pencil in social or business meetings) can be hugely beneficial when it comes to staying committed. Our bodies crave routine so the more consistent we are with regularly scheduled meals and exercise, the better.
2. Mental Self-Care
Lack of mental clarity can affect productivity at work as well as our personal lives. It might be time to check in with your mental self-care routine if you experience brain fog, spaciness, forgetfulness, or just a general lack of alertness. Studies have shown a connection between technology and the decline of overall mental health and suggest we combat this by limiting screen time.
Some people find peace by disconnecting from technology while others find meditation to be a crucial aspect of their self-care routine. Our stereotypical idea of meditation is a possession-less monk in a loincloth on the top of the Himalayan mountains hovering two inches above the ground completely enveloped in peace and bliss. This does not have to be the case!
Try this instead: Start small with mediation. You can begin simply by dedicating just three minutes a day to being still and focusing on the breath. There are tons of guided meditations out there but the most complete beginnings guide can be found on Headspace, The Meditation App. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, improve patience and tolerance, increase creativity, improve sleep, support healthy digestion, help with depression, and many more!
Another small act of self-care can be as simple as putting the phone away 30 minutes before bed while you prepare for sleep. Another suggestion to help you limit screen time is to use the function App Limits which exists on most smartphones. App Limits allow you to set your own time constraints with social media and other time-consuming apps by sending you gentle reminders when your screen time is almost up for the day.
3. Emotional Self-Care
Emotions are simply energy in motion, meaning most of the time they are temporary and pass through us if we allow them to. One thing to look out for is emotional blockages that could be affecting your overall well-being. You know you have an emotional blockage if you have recurring negative feelings and have felt this way for a while.
Consider approaching your emotions with Dialectical Behavior Therapy!
Emotional blockages can be linked to any number of things including but not limited to childhood, trauma, bad relationships, and so on. Sometimes, we choose to suppress our emotions until it manifests in unhealthy ways such as panic attacks, anxiety, and even chronic pain.
Try this instead: To uncover some of those deeper feelings, consider formal counseling. Seeing a therapist is a huge act of self-care by reinforcing that you are worth your own time and that feeling good is a priority to you.
Another way to tell yourself you care is by daily journaling of your thoughts and feelings. Putting pen to paper and seeing what comes out can be hugely cathartic and deeply satisfying to the deeper parts of your soul.
Often these emotions just want to be released so another way to “let it all go” could be by screaming into a pillow, having a good cry if the mood strikes, dancing like a fool, you name it! At the end of the day emotional self-care is all about connecting to yourself and expressing as you see fit.
4. Spiritual Self-Care
Religious or not spiritual self-care might be a key ingredient in the recipe for a fulfilling life. A lot of folks get turned off by the “woo-woo” stuff and write it off as “vegan yogi speak” when in reality spirituality is all around us.
Take nature, for example, it’s unexplained and mysterious yet perfectly balanced and free. It’s all around us yet, we are a part of it too. Participating in the great mystery of life can evoke a sense of peace, freedom, and oneness. Often the source of our stress is believing we are all alone and that nothing and no one has our backs.
Try this: Taking time to regularly connect with nature in an intentional way can bring comfort and help us get back to what is important in life. As far as self-care goes, consider committing to swapping one of your weekend workouts for a nature hike or a beach run. Another fun quick way to gain some spiritual insight is by using tools like oracle and tarot decks, many of which can be found right around the virtual corner at The True Healers Shop.
When using these cards there is no need to know all the ins and outs of witchery, just simply focus your energy on a question you may have about your life and pull a card. More often than not the card you pick has some nugget of wisdom and you’ll find yourself saying, “that is exactly what I needed to hear.”
Find the Right Type of Self Care Practice for Your Needs
The most important part of self-care is being present for it and acknowledge that this time is for you! If it helps, you can practice mantras such as, “I am worthy of my own time” “I am allowed to rest” or simply, “I love myself.” Creating a positive narrative around caring for yourself helps break down the story that we are selfish and shouldn’t be indulging like this.
In the end, when we take care of ourselves, we are also taking care of everyone around us. You know when you get on an airplane and in the safety spiel they say, “always put your oxygen mask on first?” That is because we are of no help to others if we are metaphorically struggling to breathe. Do yourself a favor and nix the story that you don’t deserve this or that you don’t have time and show yourself a little TLC as often as you can.