The American Psychological Association says, “Studies have shown that women who exercise regularly, eat right, get sufficient sleep and find satisfaction in their work and personal lives have LESS Depression, Anxiety and illnesses, such as heart disease.”
Self-care is often neglected in a modern fast-paced, loud, and chaotic society. For many women, the act of self-care is a foreign concept, as we run around chasing career goals, taking care of our kids, spouses, siblings, parents, friends, and coworkers, and completely forget about ourselves.
As we slowly deplete our resources in this vicious cycle, we begin to suffer from various physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual problems. Overwhelm, exhaustion, and high stress begin to take their toll as our cup empties, and ironically, we find that we have nothing left to give, not to anyone nor to ourselves. I know. You’re busy. You work, take care of kids, have a million things to do every day, so who has the time for self-care?
In her keynote interview at Forbes Women’s Summit 2016, actress, Sarah Jessica Parker said,
“If you take on too much, you dilute your efforts, it’s important to focus your energy not just so you have some left by the end of the day but also because it will just result in greater success by more measurable metrics.”
So, what is self-care actually?
As women, we all know what it means to give. We are taught that to be giving is virtuous and that taking anything for ourselves is very selfish. We must put others’ needs first and put ourselves last. Consequently, we often neglect our own needs and ourselves. We are so busy taking care of everybody else, that we hardly even notice we have needs too.
You are going to need to start taking care of YOU, and putting your own needs first, for a change. It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? However, as counter-intuitive as it might seem, it is absolutely essential for your own well-being and that of the others in your life, that you start to take care of you.
Your health and your sanity depend on it, and if you are to be any good at taking care of others, you must be in a fit state to do so. Getting burnt out in the name of “virtue” is not really that virtuous. Your good intentions backfire and you just end up miserable.
Self-care means taking personal responsibility for one’s own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. It’s good for your mind, body, spirit, and life. It is NOT selfish, but a habit that makes you flourish. Furthermore, it is preventative, empowering, imperative and a lifelong practice.
Its effectiveness lies in constant and ongoing repetition of many tiny habits that in their totality ensure that you are well in mind, body, and spirit. This means you don’t have to take a 2-week vacation to care for yourself, in fact, self-care is most effective when it is practiced daily, with even the smallest actions having a big impact on your wellness. So practically self-care is:
- Self-care is taking personal responsibility for one’s own physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health
- Self-care is good for your mind, body, spirit, life, and soul
- Self-care is NOT selfish
- Self-care is a habit that makes you flourish, not just function
- Self-care is a choice
- Self-care is preventive
- Self-care is imperative
- Self-care is a deliberate effort
- Self-care is making yourself a priority
- Self-care is a lifelong practice
- Self-care is empowering
- Self-care is a lifestyle
- Self-care is a ritual
How to get started with self-care?
The truth is you must find the time, if you don’t, it won’t be long before you drop from exhaustion, succumb to burnout, and end up running on empty, and you cannot care for or give to others from an empty cup. So in order to start taking care of yourself, it’s very important that you:
- Learn to say no! Believe in it, practice it, and use it to avoid overwhelm and overextending yourself that leads to burnout and resentment.
- Create and enforce your own boundaries, they protect you from harm, just as borders protect countries.
- Spend time alone and in silence to clear your mind, gather your thoughts, and just slow down, even if it’s just for a few moments.
- Get a treatment at the salon, a makeover, blowout, manicure, or pedicure, anything that makes you feel good and renewed.
- Create a morning routine with mediation, prayer, visualizations, an uplifting podcast, exercise, or anything that works for you. Morning rituals help get you centered for the day ahead.
- Take a few moments each day and do nothing but space out.
- Plan periods of time in your weekly schedule without plans, this allows you to be spontaneous and do something for yourself.
- Be your own best friend, love, honor, support, respect, care for, and be there for yourself.
- Find some grass, lay down, and just watch the clouds float in the sky.
- Do one thing that makes you happy every single day. Smell a flower, listen to your favorite song, hug yourself, think of those good things that feed your soul.
- Evaluate your social media updates. Do you really need to be bothered with constant updates from 100 people? This type of information overload is very harmful and distracting. It promotes stress and prevents your mind from being calm and centered.
- Get into the practice of listening to your body. So often, we run around doing a million things without noticing hunger, thirst, or exhaustion.
- Practice positive self-talk. Use positive affirmations to remind yourself of how great you are and how much you deserve self-nurture.
- Spend time in nature, it is soothing, refreshing, and re-energizes the mind, and spirit.
- Buy yourself something self-indulgent, just because.
The last thing you need to know about self-care
What’s the point in living a long life if you can’t enjoy every minute of it? If you find this list overwhelming, break it down into manageable pieces and start with the easy options first. Many of them are small actions that you can start immediately without much thought or preparation.
It is important that you check in with yourself periodically. Checking in with yourself allows you the opportunity to evaluate where you are in your journey to master self-care. Don’t be afraid to take back control of your health, no one else will do it for you.