What is self-care? And why does it matter? Self-care is a practice of doing things for the benefit of our own physical, mental and emotional health. Does that sound selfish? It can be, but if no one else takes time to care for your well-being, then who will? Also, we’re better able to care for others when our own balance of wellness is not depleted.
Does self-care sound like extra work to take on? That can happen too, but a few simple guidelines will address these questions and other things that get in the way of our self-care practices, which by the way may be most difficult to focus on in a busy season, but are no less important at this time of year.
To make the time you put into self-care have a real benefit, focus on these three things:
Caring for your body.
We all know that exercise is good for us, and we usually feel better after any amount of physical activity even if we were reluctant to get started. Nature is our ally for exercise, especially during a pandemic. And walking counts as exercise. So, why not reach out to a friend...for a walk…in nature? Watch out for icy paths! Decisions about what to eat, and what not to eat are also gentle ways to bring attention to caring for our bodies every day.
Caring for your mind.
No need to seek nirvana or a zen state…unless that feels good to you. Check in with yourself. How’s your stress level? How are you feeling? Then, identify what will help you feel a little better. Is it a few quiet moments to reflect? Or journaling? Or talking to a friend? Or dreaming about a vacation? Or a cup of tea and a good book? Or a glossy magazine? Or spending time with a favorite furry friend? Find ways to mentally relax.
Keep it simple.
Too many people run into obstacles that get in the way of self-care. For example, anyone might think: I don’t deserve to take time to give myself attention. Or, I’m not doing it right. Or, I don’t have time for this. Or, I don’t even know what feels good anymore. Remember that doing anything for the benefit of our own physical, mental and emotional health counts as self-care. And sometimes less is more. There may be times when doing nothing is a helpful way to care for ourselves if we feel depleted.
Two other friendly suggestions for self-care: First, let go of perfection. Part of self-care is giving ourselves permission to make mistakes and half an off day. Second, self-care is a process that takes ongoing practice. And, for self-care - like many, many other things - practice makes pretty good!
What’s your favorite thing to do for self-care? Tell us on facebook!
Jim Gorham provides oversight to the GBS Maine Case Management department. He has more than 15 years working at mental health organizations with people from diverse backgrounds. Jim is licensed in Maine as mental health counselor (LCPC), and holds national counseling certification.