For anyone who knows me personally, you would know I lead a pretty stressful life. My job involves running Early Childhood Development programs where I work with families from all different backgrounds to provide intervention & prevention services, I teach an anger management program , I volunteer at the Sexual Assault Center, I provide early childhood developmental screening assessments, I attend provincial training sessions, I’m currently applying for my Masters in Psychology, and I am currently battling my own body.
It’s freaking exhausting and I don’t think I could have gotten through it all if I didn’t have a self-care routine. Working with people day in and day out is not only physically tiring, but it’s emotionally exhausting as well!
The stresses of everyday life can take such a toll on a person, whether you are fighting a chronic illness or not. Literally. Just getting through a day’s bullshit can deplete you of everything by the end of the day, and the worst part is you have to do it all over again tomorrow! This is why having a personalized self-care routine is so important!
But often, we do self-care wrong or we don’t even make the time to take care of ourselves because we are “too busy”! But how are you expected to handle anything as your best self when you aren’t taking care of yourself? We have years of education, yet so many of us struggle with the simple concept of loving and taking care of ourselves.
Self-care was a foreign concept to me until I had to start teaching other people about it. Before, my first thought was that if I went to the gym, went for a walk, had a bubble bath, ect. that I was engaging in self-care. And I mean technically you are, but that’s not complete self-care.
What do I mean by complete self-care?
Complete self-care has two big key areas.
- It’s regular self-care, not just a one time thing you do to help you blow off steam after a hard day.
- There are generally 4 forms of self-care: Physical, emotional/mental, social, and spiritual. I have seen bigger lists, smaller lists, sub lists, it can go on. But in research (my inner psychology student coming out) these 4 are pretty prevalent and are found cross culturally!
Why is it important?
Well if you have children, nieces, nephews, or any young mind in your life try and think of why we go out of our way to take care of them and make sure their needs are being met. Self-care allows us to build a resilience so we can tackle any of life’s greatest surprises. Self-care is simple and can even take just 5 minutes!
Self-care is for you, by you. You create your plan because ultimately you know how to meet your needs the best.
So let’s explore the 4 forms:
Physical: This is usually the one that people focus a lot of their energy on or get stuck on because they may not have the time to physically go out and do something. Or if you’re like me, you just don’t have the energy after a full work day. Essentially, physical is anything that helps you stay healthy and fit, while still having enough energy to get through a normal day (whatever that may look like to you). Ideas can include but are not limited to:
- Going to the gym
- Going for a walk
- Making small changes in your diet
- Stretch out your muscles
- Get better sleep
- Take a quick nap
- Take breaks at work (some of us skip our lunch breaks and that’s a big no!)
- Try acupuncture or get a massage
- Play a sport
Emotional/Mental: we are emotional human beings who go through so much in a day. Focusing on your emotional self care means you are allowing yourself to safely experience whatever range of emotions you need to go through. Tough day and need to cry it out? Do it! Ideas can include:
- Taking a bubble bath
- Going for a massage
- Punching a pillow out of anger
- Going to a movie
- Reading a book
- Starting a new hobby or doing something you enjoy
- Calling a friend or family member
- Positive self-talk
- Write down things you’re grateful for
Social Self-care: We are also social beings. No matter how introverted we are, it is human nature to want to feel like you belong somewhere and addressing this aspect of yourself in self-care is so important. Ideas can include:
- Having a girls/guys night
- Having a date night with your significant other
- Phoning a friend/family member
- Attend special events
- Try a new coffee shop or visit a new place
- Join a support group/forum
- Join a group related to a hobby you enjoy
Spiritual Self-care: This one is where some people tend to falter the most, because often they associate it with needing to go to church. But spirituality is so much more than that. It’s about being connected to something greater than yourself and having a perspective that is beyond your day to day life. Ideas can include:
- Going to church
- Watching clouds
- Nature walks
- Reflecting with a close friend
- Writing what we are grateful for
- Light a candle
- Practice deep breathing
- Check in with yourself
As you can see a lot of these activities I have purposefully repeated in different sections and I’m sure I could even go back through my list and repeat them even more. And that’s the beauty of self care- it can overlap and it should! This way you’re hitting more than one area! And if in a week you are able to hit all 4 areas, you’ll find that your whole self is taken care of and you feel a lot better handling whatever will come your way.
Self-care should be purposeful. If you come home after a long day of work and just want to nap tell yourself “I worked really hard today and I need 30 minutes to recuperate. I’m going to nap as my self care” versus napping and then convincing yourself after the fact that is was self-care. That doesn’t usually work out as well (because usually we feel guilty and start thinking about all the things we should have done instead).
I attached a self-care planner that you can use to help visualize what you want to do. I find writing it out and seeing it helps me, especially when I’m trying to form a new habit. I am also slowly working on a resource page in hopes that I can get you guys more freebies and in there I’ll put some more self-care ideas that I’ve come across or that my participants have said really works for them!
Best of luck and happy weekend!
Resources: http://au.professionals.reachout.com/developing-a-self-care-plan, http://tinybuddha.com/blog/45-simple-self-care-practices-for-a-healthy-mind-body-and-soul/, http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/concurrent_disorders/a_family_guide_to_concurrent_disorders/selfcare/Pages/building_selfcare_plan.aspx, https://www.ucalgary.ca/wellbeing/files/wellbeing/self-care-starter-kit.pdf