It’s not selfish to look after yourself. In fact, giving yourself what you need can improve your physical and mental health, as well as your relationships with others. It’s easy to overlook your own needs regardless of your personal situation. You may not even realize you’re neglecting yourself. You may have a busy career or be retired. You may have young children, teenagers, special-needs children or elderly parents whom you care for. Even pets take up our time and depend on us.
If you constantly do for others and don’t make time for yourself, you can get run down mentally and physically. Self-care may mean something different to each person. It’s something you can do that makes you feel relaxed and re-energized. It can be anything from your favourite form of exercise to getting a massage to doing arts and crafts. If you have to force yourself to do it – if you don’t enjoy it – then it’s not really self-care. Consciously deciding to do certain things and setting aside time for them is the key. If you’re the type of person who just never gets around to doing things that are good for your emotional hygiene, schedule them into your week.
Actively avoiding unpleasant, unnecessary activities can also be viewed as self-care. For example, when you get home after work, turn off your email. Just because the technology exists, it doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to it. Turn off the television or stop perusing the Internet if the bad news headlines stress you out. Instead, put on some music that you find soothing or cheerful.
If you constantly glance at your cell phone to see what’s happening on social media or if you have a Pavlovian-style response every time your cell phone dings with a text message, turn it off. You may feel anxious initially, but if you set aside some time each day to remove yourself from the tyranny of technology, you’ll adapt and feel more engaged in the present.
Try to choose something that you can do each day for your wellness, even if it’s just something for a few minutes. A walk around the block can clear your mind. Time spent cuddling with your dog or cat is excellent for your blood pressure and resting heart rate and is good for theirs, too. Of course, pets aren’t your only loved ones. Find ways to spend time with your friends and family. Reduce the potential for stress by mentally preparing and planning an activity everyone can enjoy without arguments. This can be a challenge for some families. Sometimes alone time is the best form of self-care. Luxuriate in a hot bubble bath and light a scented candle. Close your eyes. Tune out the noise. Let all the problems in the world – or behind the bathroom door – momentarily disappear.
Read a good book. If most of your reading is work-related, pick up a novel or some type of book that you normally wouldn’t read. Whether you’re perusing the shelves at the local library or seeking an e-book online, glance through the titles and grab whatever you gravitate towards. Sometimes the most obscure or unexpected topic can give you a bit of an escape or expand your horizons. Creative writing is self-care. Express your feelings in a journal or pen a poem.
Socializing can be self-care. Playing cards, golfing or going out for coffee and a chat with good friends can be great therapy.
When we sleep, many natural healing processes take place in our body. For example, our muscles relax, blood pressure drops, heart rate slows, growth hormone is released and tissue grows and repairs. Appetite-regulating hormones are better balanced and cognitive and physical abilities are primed when you get a full night’s sleep. There’s nothing wrong with taking a nap in the middle of the day if your body is telling you that you’re tired. If you’re at work, find a moment to close your eyes briefly, breathe deeply and stretch.
Self-care can be as simple as laughing. Watch a funny movie or read a few jokes. It’s interesting how some people consider certain activities as relaxing and enjoyable, while others consider them stressful. For example, some people – women and men – love a pedicure; but if you’re ticklish it’s torturous.
Give yourself permission to make time for your daily needs even in small ways. Focus on self-awareness and how you’re feeling. Think of self-care as preventative medicine.