Let’s just get straight to the point about self-care. You deserve to take care of yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman – the fact is that sometimes, no matter who you are, you forget that your needs should sometimes come first, and that self-care is essential to your well-being, your success and the success of those who depend on you. It may sound cliché, but it’s so easy to get wrapped up in your day to day. You miss one yoga class, then soon you miss four. Eventually you stop going at all.
Self-care isn’t just yoga and spin class. It’s not a mindfulness app that you install on your iPhone, and it isn’t visiting the stylist every other week. Those are certainly ideas, but self-care should take a more holistic approach than just a few activities now and then.
The Importance of Self-Care
Have you ever been on a plane? Before you take off, the captain and crew will tell you that, in the case of an emergency, you’ll need to secure your own oxygen mask first. It’s only when you’re safe that you’ll be able to assist others in need of help. There is, obviously, a reason for this. If you don’t take care of your own needs first, you’ll be of absolutely no use to anyone else on that plane.
The same is true for your day to day life. If you’re not consciously taking care of yourself, you’ll be no good to the people who rely on you. Your work performance will begin to decline. You’ll be tired at home, unable to give your spouse and kids the attention you need. You’ll begin to feel increasingly frustrated at minor irritations, and this will impact your overall well-being.
You play many roles. It’s just who you are. You’re an employee, a son or daughter, perhaps a parent. You’re a bill payer and a citizen of Canada, or whichever country you call home. Some of you are mentors, others are students. Within each of these roles, there exists a person who is depending upon you to be at your best.
Self-care is the only way you can deliver that. Because, quite honestly, no one is going to take care of you. No matter how high your tolerance for stress, you’re only human. Those stressors will build up and become seemingly insurmountable if you don’t take a step back, look at your world objectively, and begin to take steps to care for your own needs.
It’s Okay To Care For Yourself
There are about a hundred excuses you could make for neglecting your own self-care. Maybe your kid got sick, or you’ve got a particularly finicky client at work. There are home repairs to be done, the dog needs to go to the vet and the car needs an oil change.
Here’s the problem. Many of us don’t take time between these responsibilities to practice self-care. What’s worse is this: those who do are often shamed for it. As a result, the guilt you may feel at taking time out for yourself causes you to feel that much worse, and you’re not likely to take a much needed “time out” when you need one. There are consequences to this. Yes, your family will suffer and your job performance might as well. But more importantly your health could suffer, and the lack of self-care can lead to dire results. Stress has been proven to cause weight gain and heart disease. It’s been shown to cause ulcers as well. And it has been suggested that you are more likely to suffer from depression as a result of high stress levels.
So you see, refusing to offer yourself a reprieve from mental pressures can cause serious health repercussions. Are you convinced yet? No? Okay, then let’s look at some of the health benefits of self-care.
Self-Care Offers Health Benefits
There are quite a few scientifically proven benefits of self-care. In just a bit, we’ll look at what, exactly, self-care is. But it’s important to first look at the specific reasons why you should consider implementing well-being strategies into your weekly, if not daily, routine.
First of all, you now know that there’s an increased risk of heart disease and ulcers if you’re under high stress. So obviously taking care of your stress levels will lead to a reduction in risk of those ailments.
But there are many facets to the improved health you’ll experience if you put yourself first every now and then. Some are physiological and others are mental. All are beneficial to your overall health, and will make you a better friend, employee, spouse and parent.
You’ll Be More Confident
In fact, that’s the first benefit of caring for yourself. As a result of self-care, you’re going to have an increased sense of confidence. Think about the difference you feel after you’ve gone to the gym. You feel energized, strong and healthy. As a result, you’re more active during the day, your confidence shows, and the people around you may even comment on how energized you look.
Your Friendships Will Be Stronger
Caring for yourself also has social benefits. Think about it this way. Are you more likely to be able to help a friend who needs you if you’re feeling good, or if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your own life? If you’re feeling good, of course! When you care for yourself, you’ll notice your relationships improving – not just your friendships but your intimate relationships as well.
Your Brainpower Will Increase
Finally, your brain will thank you. Your mind will be less cloudy, and you’ll be able to focus better. That doesn’t just mean you’ll perform better at work, although that’s one clear benefit. It means your problem solving skills will improve, as will your short- and long-term memory. You’ll still be able to handle several projects at once, but now you’ll complete them to the best of your ability instead of just muddling through.
These are only a few of the benefits of taking time for yourself. There are dozens, and most of those benefits have been proven in global studies. By now, you’re probably interested in taking advantage of what a bit of self-care can do for you. But what is self-care? How do you find time to do it, when there are so many other pressures you face?
Let’s look at what, exactly, self-care is. Then we’ll take a peek at ways that you can practice caring for yourself; some require very little effort.
What Is Self-Care, Anyway?
Fort Garry Women’s Resource Centre in Winnipeg defines self-care as “care provided for you, by you.” The definition goes on to say that you’ll need to identify your own needs and then address them, but the most important part of this definition reads as follows:
Self-care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.
Yes! You spend your waking hours (and sometimes the sleeping ones) taking care of others. You ensure that the laundry is done and the cats are fed. You remembered to get the oil changed, but now you’ve got to schedule dentist appointments for the kids. Your boss just asked you to work overtime, and your coworker needs help with a financial report. And that’s just today.
Stop. Breathe. Now, think about how you can turn this around.
Saying yes to everything on the list is not self-care; in fact, it could be considered self neglect. So what do you need to do? You need to take care of yourself just as well as you’ve been taking care of others. Find your oxygen mask, if you will.
Again, taking care of your mental and your physical self doesn’t necessarily mean weekly pedicures or monthly trips to the islands. No, it starts smaller than that. Much smaller. Self-care can be as simple as a morning facial care routine with your favourite natural product or a regular bedtime at night. Self-care could be asking your spouse to schedule the dog’s vet appointment, or telling your boss that no, you can’t work late tonight.
Of course, there are more involved ways you can celebrate yourself, as well. We’ll talk about a few of those later. Just realize that you don’t have to run a marathon or learn to fly a plane in order to care for yourself.
Self-Care Is Something You Deserve
If you take nothing from this post, walk away with this imprinted on your mind: self-care is not overindulgent. It’s not selfish, it’s not arrogant, and it’s not self pitying. It’s essential.
You now know that giving yourself the love you give others is beneficial to your health, your relationships and your mental state. Don’t let anyone guilt you into thinking otherwise. If you feel that you’re at your wit’s end, take a break. Are you snapping at your spouse unnecessarily? Stop and breathe. Then remember these two truths:
It’s okay to say no, and it’s okay to say yes.
You can say no to someone who’s making unreasonable demands of you. You can say yes to pampering yourself from time to time. This is nothing more than treating yourself with kindness, and that’s something that you deserve.
Are you ready to start seeing the benefits of self-care in your own life? Here are 10 easy self-care tips that you can incorporate into your daily life. Do only what you feel you can, but don’t be afraid to try something bigger. Your health and your relationships will be all the better for it.
If you feel like you can spare an hour out of your week, take some time to volunteer. There are dozens of organizations which don’t demand a lot of your time. Consider, for example, Habitat for Humanity. You can work in the ReStore for an hour on a Sunday, or spend the afternoon working on a new home construction. You’ll meet new people, learn new skills, and feel good about yourself.
- Do Good – For The Planet
You don’t have to spend time volunteering to do the planet some good. You can do something as simple as using non-toxic products in your household, or as complicated as cleaning up your local waterway. Doing good for the planet, like volunteering, will make you feel confident about yourself.
- Pamper Yourself
You don’t have to recycle or volunteer to practice self-care. Instead, why not do something which will directly benefit yourself. Take a hot bubble bath, take 10 minutes and rub lotion on your hands and feet or visit a massage studio downtown. Take some extra time to do your hair in the morning instead of throwing it back in a ponytail. Do something to pamper yourself that you don’t normally do.
- Eat Healthier Foods
It can be so difficult to eat healthy foods when you feel like you’re constantly on the move. Your lunch break at work might be cut down to a half hour because of meetings. Supper may be interrupted by the kids’ sports schedules. But it’s not too hard to make better choices. Plan your meals ahead for the week, so that you’re never left ordering pizza. You’ll probably find that you save money in the process, and that’ll make you feel good!
- Be Mindful Of Your Personal Care
You brush your teeth every morning and wash your hair every time you shower. But have you given much thought to what’s in the products you’re using? Many products you can buy in drug stores have very harmful ingredients. Some have even been shown to cause cancer. Instead, do something good for your body by choosing products which contain natural ingredients. PurelyGreat deodorant, for example, is paraben and aluminum free. It’s all natural and vegan, too! Choose products like these to make sure that you’re not putting harmful substances on your body.
- Splurge A Little
You don’t have to take a lot of time to start practicing self-care. Instead, you can do simple things for yourself which will make you feel better, more confident, and which will serve as a reminder that you’re worth it. Have you had your eye on a dressy necklace? A new pair of dress shoes? Go ahead, treat yourself!
- Take Control Of Your Bad Habits
Do you drink too much? Smoke? Maybe you forget to buckle up your seatbelt more often than not. Take notes of the habits which will negatively impact your health and well-being. Then, commit to change them. If your habit is one that you feel you can’t kick on your own, join a support group. These exist for every habit from overeating to sleep disorders, and support groups are a great way to meet others who share your difficulty. Prefer to remain anonymous? There are online groups, as well.
- Read A Book Or Watch Television
There’s nothing wrong with doing nothing. In fact, diverting your attention from your daily stresses can sometimes help to alleviate them. Try to read a book or tune into your favourite television program. There’s nothing quite like reruns of an award winning comedy to take your mind off things for a while. This is especially true if you typically have other, unhealthy ways of relieving your stresses.
- Go For A Walk
Maybe even try going for a short one alone. You can put on your comfortable walking shoes and just go. Pay attention to the things around you. The leaves on the trees are turning such beautiful colors, aren’t they? And you never noticed how the neighborhood smelled after a rain! When you observe the world around you, you’ll be taking care of yourself. And the fresh air won’t hurt your health, either!
It doesn’t matter how you do it, just laugh. You can sit down with the comics section of your newspaper, or turn on a slapstick comedy, like Airplane. Do whatever it takes to get your giggle on, because it’s a proven health booster! Of course, it’s always a good idea to laugh with a friend or a loved one, but that’s up to you. The only thing that matters is that you find a bit of humor in your life, and laugh about it! It’s one of the best forms of self-care there is.
In the end, no Matter what you choose to do to practice self-care, just make sure you do it with love for yourself. You’re deserving of that.