Recently I wrote about Self-Care as a selfless act. I truly believe that we must care for ourselves if we want to care for others. Especially if we are in a position to care for others, whether as parents, partners, friends, care-giving family or if we work in a caring profession, each of us is called upon to offer care and support for others.
But how can we care for and support others if our own resources and energies are depleted? There is no honour in burning ourselves out in the pursuit of caring for others. And, in fact, we really can’t care for others in a meaningful way unless we, ourselves, are cared for first. We give from the overflow. If there is no overflow, we really have nothing valuable or sustaining to give.
Self-care has become an increasingly important topic in recent years. With the rise of burnout and mental health issues, taking care of ourselves has become essential for maintaining overall well-being. There are several different aspects of self-care, including mental, emotional, physical, environmental, spiritual, recreational, and social. Today, I want to explore each of these pillars, discuss how they contribute to a healthy, balanced lifestyle and share how I am (imperfectly) trying to show myself care.
Mental self-care involves taking care of our mental health. This includes activities that help reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and promote emotional well-being.
Taking care of my mental health is my responsibility. It can not fall to anyone else. For me, mental self-care can include activities such as meditation, mindfulness, journaling, therapy, or simply taking time to relax and recharge.
We all need places to unload what is in our minds and hearts, to take control of the wild, often irrational thoughts that can keep us feeling anxious and stuck, and to prioritize rest. I am fortunate to work with a supervisor who insists on unplugging and recharging on weekends. But it is my responsibility to set that boundary with myself and others and not to engage in work (if at all possible) on weekends and holidays. Prioritizing my time to unplug from work and to recharge through meaningful time with the people who matter to me is essential for overall well-being.
Emotional self-care involves taking care of one’s emotional well-being. This includes activities that help manage and express emotions in a healthy way. Emotional self-care can include activities such as talking to a friend, practicing gratitude, engaging in creative expression, or seeking professional help when necessary.
This week, I have practiced emotional self-care by calling up some friends I haven’t spoken with in a long time, just to catch up and remind myself that I am connected and cared for. I have also enjoyed some time tapping into my creative energies, taking a clay workshop with my kids and reminding myself how much I love to write.
When I am not caring for myself emotionally, I recognize that my ability to control my emotional responses to stress and to unexpected events can become significantly decreased. But I also know that when I see or feel that, it is a message to myself to engage in some healthy emotional self-care.
Emotional self-care is important because it helps us to manage our emotions in a healthy way, which can improve overall well-being.
Physical self-care involves taking care of one’s physical health. This includes activities that help maintain physical health, such as exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep.
When I am experiencing stress, physical health is the first thing I neglect. I may not eat well. I may not get adequate sleep. I certainly don’t want to engage in exercise.
Engaging in physical self-care for me this week showed up in attempting to cook healthy meals every day. Cooking is an activity I truly enjoy, so feeding myself and my family healthy food is an act of love for them and for me. With the beautiful sunshine we have been seeing this week, I am trying to get outside and walk, soak up some sunshine and breathe the spring-like air. I am also following a very strict sleep schedule, which I notice makes all the difference for me. I naturally wake up very early so it is important for me to get to bed at a decent hour to ensure I have the amount of sleep I know my body needs.
Physical self-care can also include regular check-ups with a healthcare provider. This is something I struggle with. So I am committing this week to make some appointments to have my eyes checked (they are giving me some trouble) and my teeth cleaned. Maybe it is time for you to take care of some health care appointments you have been avoiding.
This is also a good opportunity to remind you that if you are a person with a uterus or breasts, to make that appointment for a pap if you are overdue for one, and to check your boobs. And for all my friends with testicles…check them too. Life is too important to not be proactive simply because we may find those self-checks embarrassing or too time consuming. Prioritizing physical self-care can help us maintain good health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Environmental self-care involves taking care of one’s environment. This includes creating a clean, organized living space, spending time in nature, and reducing exposure to toxins or other environmental stressors.
I love having my space clean and organized. But one thing I had noticed was that my home felt very stark. So I bought a plant. I actually bought three plants. And I couldn’t love them more. Having some life in my home when I am alone reminds me that I am part of something bigger.
Environmental self-care can also include practicing sustainable habits, such as recycling or reducing energy consumption. By prioritizing environmental self-care, we can create a healthy, stress-free environment that promotes overall well-being.
Today, my daughter and I will be breaking down some cardboard boxes I have been accumulating, to get ready to build my garden beds once the weather is a little more consistently warmer. We will line the bottom with cardboard to reduce weeds.
Spiritual self-care involves taking care of one’s spiritual health. This includes activities that promote a sense of purpose or meaning, such as meditation, prayer, or engaging in religious or spiritual practices. Spiritual self-care can also include activities that promote connection with others, such as volunteering or participating in community service. Prioritizing spiritual self-care can help individuals find a sense of inner peace and purpose, which can improve overall well-being.
This is an area I need to work on. I often do meditate, but lately I have not felt much like connecting with others in a meaningful and purposeful way. As I look ahead to the week coming, I will prioritize this pillar of self-care.
Recreational self-care involves engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation. This can include hobbies, leisure activities, or simply taking time to enjoy the company of friends and family. Recreational self-care is important because it provides a break from the stressors of daily life and promotes a sense of happiness and fulfillment.
When I am with my kids on the weekend, I often try to plan some sort of recreational activity for us to enjoy together. A couple weeks ago we went bowling. This weekend was our clay workshop. It doesn’t really matter what it is, doing something together where we can laugh, relax and just enjoy spending time together is good for all of us.
I have been looking into trying a new activity…pickle-ball. I hear it is really fun and really easy to learn. Anyone out there play pickle-ball? Is it worth trying?
Social self-care involves taking care of one’s social well-being. This includes activities that promote connection with others, such as spending time with friends and family, joining a club or organization, or engaging in group activities. Social self-care is important because it promotes a sense of belonging and connection, which can improve overall well-being.
I wonder sometimes if I am just an introvert, if I engage in so much social time in my job that I just want to be alone when I get home, or if I fear connecting with others. What I do know is that my social self-care game could use some improvement.
Self-care is a holistic approach to taking care of ourselves that encompasses several different pillars, including mental, emotional, physical, environmental, spiritual, recreational, and social. By prioritizing these aspects of self-care, we can maintain overall well-being and improve our quality of life. It is important to make self-care a priority and to engage in activities that promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
As you go into a new week, where do you see opportunities for self-care? What pillars may need some more attention? Remember to be kind to yourself and make self-care a habit, not just a temporary fix for stress or burnout.
Wishing you a wonderful week ahead!
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