Self-care is pretty easy to figure out; it’s taking care of yourself. What’s difficult is justifying the time or expense. But we all need to take time for our own mental and physical well-being. That’s what self-care is about; cultivating a healthy relationship with yourself and maintaining the best version of yourself. Most importantly, self-care is not selfish.
WHAT IS SELF-CARE?
To be fair, self-care is personal and different for everyone. The important thing is that the action be good for your mind, body, or soul. This can include reading a book, taking a nap, cleaning out your basement, watching a funny video, getting a manicure, etc.
WHY IS SELF-CARE IMPORTANT
The best analogy is the speech you hear from a flight attendant before take-off. We have to put our own oxygen mask on before helping anyone else. By focusing on your own health and happiness, you’re not just taking care of your needs, but you’re helping others, by ensuring they get the best version of you.
We are a part of a very work-central culture. For years we’ve been expected to work long hours, with little vacation time. We can only function this way for so long. Ultimately, our productivity and efficiency will decrease. Not only will we start making more mistakes, but our mood, energy, and competence will all drain. Taking time to relax, or be active, laugh, or sleep for a day; whatever your body needs has been clinically proven to:
- Increase energy and happiness.
- Minimize frustration and anger.
- Decrease stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Improve concentration.
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
There’s an American organization called The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). They have recognized eight dimensions of wellness that work together to make us whole. The following are those dimensions with tips on improving each as an act of self-care.
- INTELLECTUAL WELLNESS: Learning a new skill, exercising your brain with a crossword puzzle, or reading.
- PHYSICAL WELLNESS: Improving nutrition, adding physical activity, ensuring you get enough sleep.
- FINANCIAL WELLNESS: Ensuring your savings are in line with your goals, paying off a debt, setting a budget.
- ENVIRONMENT WELLNESS: Begin a recycling project at work, walk through the woods, clean and organize your office.
- SOCIAL WELLNESS: Have lunch with a friend, find a support group, join a local service club.
- OCCUPATIONAL WELLNESS: Improve a relationship with a coworker, do something that makes you proud or offers a sense of accomplishment.
- SPIRITUAL WELLNESS: Meditating, attending a religious service, volunteering in the community.
- EMOTIONAL WELLNESS: Speak to a therapist or counsellor, write in a journal, watch a funny movie with a friend.
GROWING YOUR SELF-CARE PLAN
As you now know, self-care is personal and customized. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Not only might your self-care plan be different from someone else, but you might find your plan is different one year to the next.
Start by assessing the areas of your life that need attention. You might find that you’re reassessing often, because your life situation changes. That’s why it’s important to check in with yourself and take the time to understand your current needs. Your self-care plan should change with your needs.
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