When life comes at us hard, it’s easy to start sacrificing our own needs for the sake of getting it all done—and we may not even realize it. Looming deadline for school or work? No time for dinner. Too many errands to run? No time to get on the mat or get in a workout. Overwhelmed by the abundance of bad news in the media? No desire to leave the house or spend time with friends. These reactions may seem like reflexes that help us just “push through,” but eventually they take a toll on us physically and emotionally. Enter self-care.
What is Self-Care?
If you thought self-care is code for overspending on spa treatments or trendy detoxes…well you’re not alone. The term is applied pretty loosely. But – to some extent – that’s the point. Self-care can mean something different to each of us. The basic idea is to consciously do activities that nourish your physical, emotional and spiritual health.
While some self-care activities may seem like indulgences, taking care of yourself and making time for yourself are fundamental needs. No act done with the intent to reclaim balance and recharge your battery is selfish, no matter how it may be perceived by others. Self-care can be as basic as taking a shower, eating a balanced diet, getting the right amount of sleep—the things we neglect or take for granted. It also includes other practices that we can build into our daily habits to maintain our mental hygiene.
The benefits of good self-care include improved concentration, better sleep, increased energy, reduced stress and a more positive outlook. But there are benefits associated with particular practices. The most important benefit is helping you find a connection with your own needs when balancing all of the other demands in life. It’s a survival skill. It’s even descried by the American Psychological Association as “a moral imperative.”
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
No two self-care plans, routines, rituals or practices will look the same (and by the way, there’s no standard way to say it either). A daily mindfulness meditation practice may work for you. For someone else, it may be a morning workout, using essential oils, walking in nature, grooming, etc. It’s not about what you do. It’s the fact that you’re choosing to “do you” and take care of yourself in whatever way serves you best. Here are three ways to spruce up your self-care routine this fall season:
- Journaling: Jotting down your experiences gives you a chance to note how you feel about them, what you observed or learned, and how to process those feelings. Start noting your accomplishments, progress and your challenges. Explore solutions. Journaling can help you look at things differently and objectively, and try to identify the positive. Check out these journaling tips on PscyhCentral to make the most out of your journaling practice.
- Gratitude: Start a gratitude jar, practice a gratitude meditation or keep a gratitude journal. Regularly giving thanks for the people, experiences, places and blessings in your life has been linked to lower blood pressure, higher levels of positive emotions and better connection with others, according to the University of California at Berkeley. Even just a daily practice for three weeks has shown benefit in kids and adults. Don’t wait until the greeting card companies tell you to give thanks, do it now!
- Hydration: Self-care isn’t just about feelings and emotions, it includes physical health as well. Getting the proper amount of water based on your body weight keeps your immune system performing and shapes your energy level. Poor hydration is linked to lack of focus, moodiness, lack of energy and more. When you feel overwhelmed or run down, take a water break. Bring a large refillable bottle with you each day. There are plenty of buildings that now have filters on their water fountains for refilling bottles. Add a few pieces of seasonal fruit or slices of cucumber for natural flavor.
Keeping it Fresh
To reap the ongoing benefits of caring for yourself, start a practice or ritual that you can stick to regularly. The key is to find something that you enjoy and that fulfills you. Maybe that’s running or yoga. Maybe it’s taking a Sunday afternoon nap, calling your favorite person to talk to (therapists and professionals count, too!) or coloring outdoors. Do what makes you feel good and what you feel a connection to. It’s also a good idea to reassess your self-care routine with the changing seasons to accommodate shifts in energy, weather, etc.
If your self-care needs a tune-up or a jump start, join us on Oct. 15th from 4-6pm for Your Inner Yogi’s first Self-Care Sunday. Kandace Stewart, RYT-200 and Caroline Miles, RYT-200 will guide you through a grounding yoga flow that you can practice at home, followed by a candle-gazing meditation (featuring Sweetfire Candle Co.), journaling, reflection and a nice cup of tea (courtesy Ele & Ivy Tea Co.). We’ll discuss ways to work self-care into your day, share each other’s energy and vibe to our favorite self-care soundtrack, A Seat at The Table. Click here for more information and to register.