It is hard to prioritize self-care when you have a to-do list packed with school, work, or family commitments. When you have many caregiving responsibilities, taking time off for yourself seems selfish and unnecessary.
What many people do not realize is that self-care is essential. Without it, one cannot take care of others or be productive at work. We take a closer look at this holistic approach to life, its benefits, and how to implement it.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care is taking an analytical look at your needs and working towards meeting each one of them. Contrary to popular belief, self-care is not just about luxurious spa days and pampering yourself every chance you get.
It is more about reviewing all aspects of one’s life and finding ways to relieve stress in all of them to guarantee a healthy, balanced life.
Self-care activities fall under four categories, namely:
- Physical health – encompasses activities that prevent illness, e.g., a good diet, exercise, and seeing health practitioners when required.
- Emotional health – involves being in touch with one’s emotions and seeking healthy outlets.
- Psychological health – involves activities that promote mental health and a positive attitude towards life.
- Spiritual health – involves feeling interconnected with others and life.
Why Is Self-Care Not Selfish?
Most people are operating with very few margins in their lives; stress levels are high due to work and societal pressures. Many do not realize they have neglected their needs until they get sick. Self-care is the only way to prevent burnout due to life’s stresses.
It can seem selfish to put everyone else’s needs aside and pay attention to your own. However, if you do not do so, you risk failing. For caregivers, self-care is the most selfless act because it replenishes their energy and makes them better suited to care for others.
What Are the Benefits of Self-Care?
Self-care is an important part of daily life that helps you get through challenging times, make better decisions, and stay healthy.
Fosters Healthy Relationships
Practicing self-care entails being mindful about who you let into your personal space. You naturally choose relationships that add value to your life. You are drawn to people who take care of themselves and others.
Additionally, when you treat yourself with compassion and respect, you expect the same from others. It makes those around you treat you respectfully.
May Boost Physical Health
Anxiety, poor sleep, and burnout can lead to poor health. Taking care of yourself eliminates these problems. It ensures that you are on a healthy diet, get enough exercise, and sleep well.
Therefore, you are less likely to fall sick. Furthermore, self-care means seeing a doctor when you need one. If you fall ill, you seek help immediately to alleviate your symptoms.
Provides a Break from Stress
It is easy to get caught up in the stress of daily life. Taking a step back to relax and pamper yourself gives you a much-needed break from stress. Spending time with friends, reading a book by the fireplace, soaking in a warm bath, or getting a massage are some simple activities that trigger a relaxation response.
Such activities help you escape reality and take a mental and emotional vacation. Afterward, you come back to reality feeling refreshed and relaxed.
Boosts Emotional Health
Taking time to cater to your needs can make you feel good about life. It improves your mood and helps you overcome anxiety. It conveys to others that your needs are important and that they should make a conscious effort to care for you. These actions contribute to long-term feelings of well-being.
Burnout is a major cause of poor productivity. When you are tired, stressed, or anxious, you cannot be creative or motivated. Taking time off to relax and repurpose can have a considerable impact on your productivity. It is why work breaks are so important. They allow you to come back re-energized and ready to do your best.
How to Practice Self-Care
Establishing a self-care routine does not come naturally for some people. In a world where you are under constant pressure to perform, taking a break might feel unnatural.
But, considering the benefits of taking a holistic approach to your well-being, here are some actionable tips to help you get started.
Recognize and Honor Your Needs
Self-care requires checking in with yourself, asking yourself how you are doing, and discovering what your body is asking for. You might have formed a habit of suppressing your needs because you are too preoccupied with work, school, or others’ needs.
Asking yourself some of these questions might help you recognize what you need and how to achieve it:
- Am I comfortable?
- Does this choice bring me a sense of peace and joy?
- Does this action make me feel accomplished?
- Is this the best thing possible for me? If not, what is it?
- What other choices, goals, or actions could I make to feel better about myself?
- What makes me feel a sense of purpose lately, and how can I do more of it?
- Who provides me with a sense of connection, and how can I make more time for them?
Maintaining social connections is a big part of self-care. Spending time with friends and family gives a sense of belonging. However, it would be best if you were intentional about when and how you spend time with others.
Schedule the social time and leave some days for alone time. Set boundaries for how you want others to be involved in your life. Communicate your limits clearly and reinforce them.
Know that quiet time is as important as socializing. Spending time by yourself, engaging in a calming activity, or examining your thoughts is advisable. It is a moment for you to get in touch with your inner self.
Most caregivers, e.g., parents, older siblings, teachers, struggle to set boundaries. They end up sacrificing too much for the people they are responsible for. The result is burnout, fatigue, and lack of enthusiasm.
Setting boundaries gives you time to unwind, re-energize, and become a better caregiver.
Getting organized helps you figure out precisely what you should do to take care of yourself. A small change like keeping a planner, setting reminders, or preparing a work schedule can make a huge difference.
Write down your responsibilities and appointments to make sure you show up on time. Organization gives a sense of purpose and helps you become more productive.
Practice Cognitive Restructuring
Cognitive restructuring involves identifying negative thoughts and reframing them to develop a positive outlook. You might be criticizing yourself so much that it affects your self-esteem. Know that everyone makes mistakes. Be compassionate to yourself and work on learning from your mistakes.
Try implementing gratitude into your daily routine. Cultivating a positive attitude can help you feel happier, more stable, and confident. A gratitude journal is an excellent tool that fosters optimism. Writing in it every day reminds you to give thanks for the things that make your life better.
Create a Bedtime Routine for Quality Sleep
Being deprived of sleep causes irritability, poor cognition, impaired reflexes, and delayed responses. Chronic sleep deprivation can result in depression and anxiety. Most times, insufficient sleep is a result of bad habits.
A good bedtime routine is calming and results in a good night’s sleep.
Here are some things you can do to create a good bedtime routine.
- Avoid eating spicy or greasy foods in the evening
- Minimize screen time an hour before bed
- Dim the lights
- Set the thermostat to your ideal temperature
- Review anxiety-inducing thoughts without allowing them to take over
- Have a high-protein snack
Take Care of Your Gut
Gut health has a significant impact on your health, well-being, and feelings of vitality. It is important to eat healthy food. It is even more important to review specific foods for tolerance because what works for someone else might not work for you.
The food you eat impacts the bacteria in your stomach, resulting in various health outcomes. Brain fog, fatigue, and listlessness can result from poor gut health.
Unplug From the News and Social Media
Taking a dedicated break from the internet can have positive outcomes. News and social interactions can trigger anxiety and restlessness. When you feel overwhelmed, unplug from electronics and do something you enjoy.
You can garden, bake, read a book, or learn a new craft to distract yourself from anxiety-inducing news.
Be Physically Active
Exercise relieves stress, boosts mood, and elevates your energy levels. You can exercise anywhere at any time. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a gym membership or fancy equipment that makes you sweat for hours.
It is a good idea to choose an activity that you enjoy. You may prefer walking, cycling, or dancing. Spend a few minutes doing this activity each day. Try not to obsess over how many calories you are burning (unless you have health-related reasons for losing weight).
All activity counts provided you are consistent.
Enjoy an Occasional Spa Day
Soaking in a bath, washing your hair, and applying a face mask are activities you can do at home that trigger a relaxation response. While you relax, take a pragmatic look at your life. Identify areas for improvement and get back to them refreshed and re-energized.
Ask for Help
Of all self-care tips, asking for help might be the most difficult to take. You might worry about burdening others with your problems. You might feel embarrassed or scared to say that you are struggling.
Asking for help is a courageous and praiseworthy act. It is okay to show your vulnerability and ask loved ones to support you. If you are unhappy with your life and need help getting things back on track, you can talk to a professional counselor online.
The Bottom Line
Self-care is not selfish. Instead, it is a holistic approach that prevents burnout, lethargy, depression, and anxiety. There are many activities one may partake in to improve their quality of life. It is important to note that self-care may mean different things to different people, which is okay.
If you are struggling with any aspect of your life, talking to a counselor might help you feel more confident and overcome life challenges.