Why is Self-Care Important?
We hear so much about self-care today particularly since the COVID 19 pandemic. We have had to navigate work from home, parenting from home, unemployment, COVID related health worries and much more leaving us feeling anxious, stressed, and sometimes depressed. We read and hear from others to take it “down a notch” and take care of ourselves, where some promote different self-care approaches from meditation to salt baths.
Self-care has never been more important. Many people want to integrate self-care into their lives. The common theme that I hear back from my clients is “I cannot find the time.” Self-care becomes something that some do after they do everything else… it is not a priority on their to-do lists. This is understandable with the pressures from responsibilities at work, with family, friends, and others. Often by the end of the day, there is little motivation or energy to focus on ourselves.
The reality is that making time for ourselves, for our self-care is critical for us to perform well in other focus areas of our lives. Dr. Kelsey Patel shares that “self-care is part of the answer to how we can all better cope with daily stressors. People are feeling lonelier and less able to unwind and slow down, which makes them feel more anxious and overwhelmed by even the simplest tasks.” (Everyday Health, May 2021.) To include self-care into our daily lives, we have to have a different mindset. We do have to change what we do and how we think. A positive approach to self-care requires that we integrate self-care into all aspects of our daily lives versus the mindset that we have to separate self-care from the other key areas of our life.
What is Self-Care Anyway?
Many of us have always thought of self-care as being equivalent to being selfish and self-absorbed. We think of expensive spa visits or trips to exotic places that often are not in our budget. Dr. Darling explains that “self-care is just another name for taking care of yourself, which is vital for your health and well-being. More specifically, self-care means identifying and meeting your needs, something that most women struggle with.” (Cleveland Clinic, Health and Wellness Tips, April 2021)
Researchers and several organizations like the World Health Organization define self-care as, “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” Interpretation of this statement is that self-care includes everything that you need to stay physically healthy.
A deeper definition suggests that self-care is anything that you can do to take care of yourself and stay physically, mentally, and emotionally well. Research generally concludes that self-care promotes positive health outcomes, fosters resilience, living longer and being better equipped to manage stress. (Everyday Health, May 2021)
Other benefits of self-care outlined in an Oprah Daily article shares that “research suggests that the more we practice self-care activities, the more confident, creative and productive we are.” The article also mentions that self-care means that “we can experience more joy, make better decisions, build stronger relationships and communicate more effectively.” (Oprah Daily, March 2021)
What Should We Consider When Starting Self-Care Practices?
First, there is not a best or correct way to approach your self-care. Self-care is about self-love. What you have to consider is whatever you need to feel relaxed, happy, and joyful. That differs with each of us. For some people that might be an early morning walk, or lighting a scented candle, or doing yoga or reading a book or taking a run or riding your peloton bike or having a glass of wine…. You can ask the question what brings me peace and calm and wellness? What is the Zen that I can integrate into my daily routine that nourishes my spirit and rejuvenates my energy?
As you explore what self-care means to you, here are some things to consider:
You can notice when you feel energized and when you feel exhausted or drained. When do you feel good and when do you feel anxious or overwhelmed? What themes and patterns do you see and what is helping you overcome some of those stresses and what is bringing you joy? These can be the little things in your life that you need or love.
Recognize that self-care is not an all of nothing proposition. For example, if I do not have time to take a trip for ten days, then I do not have time for self-care. Or some may think they need to go from not doing anything to becoming a full fitness expert in a short period of time. We can progress to what are daily, incremental steps of self-care while learning as we progress.
What are types of self-care?
Dr. Gill Lopez suggest that self-care is “Anything that puts a smile on your face. Anything that makes you feel cared for, even if it’s you caring for yourself” (Everyday Health, May, 2021.)
Dr. Lopez shares that there are different categories of self-care: (Everyday Health, May 2021.)
- Emotional self-care which may include self-talk, bubble baths, saying “no” to unnecessary stress, setting up a date with a friend or taking a pause from life
- Physical self-care can include prioritizing sleep, or establishing an exercise routine, healthy foods into your diet
- Spiritual self-care may include attending religious services, meditating, performing acts of kindness in your day
Dr. Darling had several recommendations for self-care beginners that may help you get started. (Cleveland Clinic, April 2021)
- Spend time in nature, like gardening or walking barefoot in the grass or sand, a practice called grounding.
- If you’re especially tired, try to go to bed early
- Spend 10 to 15 minutes a day on few simple yoga poses or stretches
- Try an Epsom salts bath
- Use a guided meditation app.
- Read a book in your favorite chair.
- Take a walk around the neighborhood without a goal.
- Do a craft.
- Take a nap.
- Sit on your front porch or deck and just sit there. No phone.
Whatever your self-care routine is, the bottom line is that it should help you find peace, calmness, joy, and self-love. I have found that it is okay to take time for me. I enjoy taking my dog for a long walk, reading a book in my favorite chair, exercising on my peloton, talking to a good friend and giving back to my favorite charity or to my church. In fact, I know that my performance on my job, my connection with my family and friends, my spiritual well-being, and my love for who I am and where I am in my life was directly related to taking time for myself.
I encourage you to prioritize self-care in your life. It is something that you have to make intentional and critical to your physical, mental, and emotional health. What is your self-care approach? What impact has it had on you living your best life ever?