Self-care is a buzzword you’ve likely heard mentioned online, on TV, and by friends and family. But what exactly is self-care, and how can you practice it?
Self-care means taking time to tend to yourself and your physical, emotional, and mental health needs. Practicing self-care is important for maintaining health and preventing burnout. Areas where one might practice self-care include but are not limited to physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual wellness activities.
Often, self-care is sold as treating yourself to indulgent foods or fancy personal care items; and while these indulgences can certainly play a role in self-care, they don’t paint the full picture. Self-care means making sure you are eating healthy, balanced meals, and eating them regularly; it means getting enough sleep at night; it means exercising regularly; it means engaging in healthy relationships; it means establishing healthy boundaries; it means asking for help when you need it.
Often, when we are busy or stressed, self-care can fall to the wayside. It’s hard to give our best when we aren’t taking care of ourselves.
Committing to better self-care can be difficult and finding where to start can be especially challenging. Check out these ideas for getting started.
Make a plan.
A little organization can go a long way toward improving your self-care routine. Set aside time to create an exercise schedule or craft a healthy grocery list. Once you have your plan mapped out, stick to it! Hold yourself accountable to move your body and fuel it with nutritious food.
Of course, also listen to your body as you make these changes; if that salad isn’t filling you up or that intense workout is causing you pain, make adjustments to find what feels good for you! Remember, if you dislike something it’ll be harder for you to commit to it, so take time to explore what works best for you.
Schedule time for rest.
In addition to planning out your diet and exercise routine, spend some time planning out when you will take time to rest, and define what “rest” really means. This should definitely include planning some vacations (after all, those come with their own health benefits!), but also thinking about what you can do daily, weekly, and monthly to take a break. Maybe this includes a daily walk or meditation on your lunch break, or dedicating one weekend day a month to recharging instead of filling your calendar with social obligations. Find the activities and cadence you need to feel rested and recharged.
Establish healthy boundaries.
Setting, and maintaining, healthy boundaries in our lives can be especially difficult, but boundaries can go a long way towards self-care. Take time to think about your personal relationships, your relationship with your job, even your relationship with your personal electronic devices, and determine what healthy boundaries look like. Some might include:
- Committing to not working when on vacation.
- Powering down your devices an hour before you plan to go to bed.
- Politely letting your siblings know you will not choose sides during their conflicts.
- Kindly ask a friend not to poke fun at you for deciding to get a salad when everyone else ordered burgers.
- Politely declining plans because your social battery is low.
- Reminding yourself that rest is not earned but should be a part of your daily life.
The possibilities are endless, so find what works for you and commit to it!
Give yourself grace.
Of course, no matter how many detailed plans you make, there will be times when you fall short. You might skip a workout, succumb to temptation and order fast food, or accidentally scroll through social media until midnight. Don’t beat yourself up over these missteps from your self-care plan; instead, acknowledge it, give yourself grace, and plan to get back on track tomorrow. Flexibility is key in maintaining a healthy routine that benefits your physical, mental and emotional health.