“Take time to do what makes your soul happy” – Unknown
You may hear the term self care and think spending time at your local day spa, but self care is so much more. Self care is an active practice that helps improve mood, reduce anxiety, and promotes a healthy mind, body, and soul. It’s not a one and done practice but is a regular practice that refuels us and is the key to a balanced life.
Self care is not selfish! Some will think that taking time for ourselves and doing something that fills our soul, makes us feel good or helps us to relax is being selfish. However, it’s like the saying you hear all the time on an airplane, “place the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping another”. When we don’t fill up our cups first, we cannot give to others. I’ve been there running on empty and it’s impossible to give more when you have nothing left.
So what’s the best way to get into a habit of practicing self care? First, like any new habit, it takes practice and patience. Allow yourself time to learn this new habit and the grace to do it messily. Learning a new habit of practicing self care doesn’t always come easy at first. Falling back into our old habits is easy. Our brains like the familiar and comfortable. Keep trying.
As you focus on practicing a new habit of self care, realize there is no one way to do this. Self care is different for everyone. It’s about being aware of what you do, how you do it and most importantly how it makes you feel. It’s not always easy in this busy world of ours. There is always something going on, somewhere to be, things to do that keep us from practicing self care. However, the practice of self care is how we learn to love ourselves. You may say that you already love yourself, but don’t have time for self care.
If you struggle to find ways to practice self care, let me share a few of my favorites with you for inspiration:
1. Declutter: when we have spaces, whether in our home or office, that are a cluttered mess, the energy of it all can bring you down. Spend a little time clearing out the clutter and re-setting the energy to be positive and uplifting.
2. Remove negative people/negative talk: Negative situations and people are sometimes commonplace in our lives but really don’t have to be. You can find many ways to avoid the negativity in your life. Turn off the news, unfriend negative people from your social media, distance yourself from those that breed negativity into your life, and change your thinking about negativity.
3. Exercise: The benefits of exercise go well beyond weight loss and body physique. Taking time to increase your heart rate and work up a sweat increases levels of endorphins and brain derived neurotrophic factors which help increase mental clarity. This doesn’t have to be an hour and a half boot camp at the gym. (but hey, if that’s your thing, go for it!) Exercise is about moving your body so whether you take the dog for a walk, dance, go for a run, or practice yoga you are moving your body and doing something good for your body.
4. Eat clean and narrow food choices: This is not to say you can never have a donut again, but practicing eating clean and putting good food choices into your body is one of the ultimate things you can do to love yourself. It also doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Pick out a few meals (2-5) for the week and repeat them throughout the week. Eating well doesn’t mean you have to have something so new and varied at every single meal.
5. Get enough sleep: There’s a reason I had my kids on a normal bedtime routine. If they didn’t get enough sleep, they were cranky and much more difficult to deal with the next day. Why as adults do we think this doesn’t apply to us? Our brains need regular sleep so we too can have mental focus, clarity and be able to handle the next day without wanting to snap at everyone or grab loads of caffeine and/ or sugar to sustain us through the day.
6. Regular check-ups: As a nurse, I definitely cannot bypass this one! It’s easy to get busy with our lives and forget to schedule that mammogram, prostate exam, pap-smear, colonoscopy or regular blood work. But if you are due, go schedule it today!! It could literally save your life!
7. Meditation practice: I was never a biggie on this one until recently. I honestly thought it was a waste of time. But let me tell you. Taking even 5-10 min to focus on your breath, and clear your mind does wonders for anxiety and stress.
8. Journal: Writing down your thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and dreams can be very cathartic and bring a lot of clarity. I use it to also help me sleep because getting things down on paper helps remove them from swirling in my head!
9. Say no: Saying no often is saying yes to yourself! What are those things you don’t want to do anymore? What do you do all the time that doesn’t bring you joy? Can you say no to a few of them? For example, saying no to answering emails on the weekend, or staying late at work and missing your scheduled workout time. If you are a recovering “yes girl” like me, it can definitely take practice. Start small and learn to say no more often by saying yes to yourself!
10. Treat yo’ self: Do something that is indulgent and you just love. Schedule that massage, go for a mani/ pedi, pick yourself up a new outfit or purse, and GO.
Bonus: Ask for help: there is no shame in asking for help when you need it, and we often need it more than we think. Asking for help is not weakness but takes courage and strength to admit we don’t have it all together.
Once you have your self care ideas in mind, set up a 30 days self care practice. Schedule it on the calendar or in your phone, practice it daily and see how you feel after 30 days! Loving and caring for yourself is the best thing you can do for your life and the others in it.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
– Jack Kornfield