I talk a lot about self-care, mainly because I know how extremely important it is to do. In our demanding, busy, fast-paced lives, we need to remember to take time out to take care for ourselves. That is where healing begins and wellness can be achieved. If we constantly stay in the go-go-go, do-do-do, give-give-give mindset, we begin to loose ourselves, our energy, and our health.
I was reminded of this, yet again, over the past couple of months and it made me remember when I had been a massage clinic manager for a few years. One winter seemed to really have taken its toll on everyone that year, myself included, but even more so, on my employees that I managed at a massage clinic. I was noticing that they all seemed to be more worn down, stressed, emotional, tired, getting sick more frequently, and even had some wrist and hand injuries that were bothering them. In our monthly staff meetings, I liked to talk about ways to be a better therapist, best practices, inspire them to look and start planning the directions of their future massage careers, and to discuss any issues or problems that they run across that they want to address or learn more about. That spring I was concerned about their self-care regimes. All of them worked multiple jobs and were in constant go mode. I brought up the topic of self-care to them. I asked them if they would like to talk a little bit about it and to have it as a main discussion topic in our next meeting. All eagerly responded with a resounding, “YES”! We talked briefly about what self-care was and about the importance of not only physical self-care, but emotional self-care. I then gave them the assignment to come to our next meeting with a list of some things that they do for both physical and emotional self-care, and to be prepared to share them with each other.
Self-Care in General: Self-care is an active role of engagement done to promote one’s own health to obtain and maintain optimal overall health and wellness. Doctors like to prescribe self-care in forms of regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding smoking and alcohol. Self-Care, however, is a combination of actively taking the time for yourself to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self. Some of these categories overlap, and for simplicity of my discussion, I broke them into two focus points of physical and emotional.
Physical Self-Care: Physical self-care is what most people initially think of when they hear about self-care. Taking the time to exercise, eat healthy meals, drinking water, getting plenty of sleep each night…after all, this is what your doctor tells you about. It is very important to take care of our bodies. We only get one to live in, so we need to take care of it and maintain it, just like we would with a car. Routine care and maintenance will help keep it running better and for longer.
Emotional Self-Care: Emotional self-care is a little more abstract or a foreign concept for people. I tend to combine emotional and mental together, for they tend to go hand in hand with each other. How we feel and how we think have a direct effect on our overall health. Our emotional and mental state allows us to cope with stress and to overcome obstacles in our everyday lives. If we do not take care of our emotional and mental self, we can easily become overwhelmed, angry, depressed, develop headaches, muscles tension, and lead us to a compromised immune system, allowing us to become susceptible to disease and illness. Everyone needs to remember to take time out and address their emotional/mental self. Healing from within, leads to healing without. If you feel good and are happy, you will enjoy life more, be able to handle your daily stressors with greater ease, and want to be more physically active and to participate in your overall health.
Things we do for self-care; physically and emotionally: I was very pleased with the thoughtfulness and energy that my employees gave this assignment of sharing what they do for self-care. It was a good reminder for them to actively think about and participate in their own self-care and to be able to give and share ideas that others may benefit from and apply to their own lives. Here are some of the things we do for self-care:
Talk to someone – whether it is with close friends, family members, or a therapist. Talking about what’s going on in your life, both the good and the bad. Simply saying what’s going on and putting it out in the open, allows you to acknowledge and address how you are doing.
Go for a hike, walk, run, or a bike ride – getting out and letting your mind wander is a benefit of these physical activities. You get both some exercise in, and you allow yourself to think, reminisce, and work through your thoughts and emotions. It helps clear you mind and re-energizes you.
Get massages – the down time you take to get a massage is not only is great for physically relieving aches and pains, but it helps calm you down, relieves stress, and allows your brain to relax and take a break as well.
Write it down – writing in a journal, writing poetry, blogging, whatever form works for you, just write. Putting things down in writing helps clarify what you are thinking and feeling. It is a great form of expression and can be very therapeutic.
Exercise – do some weight lifting/strengthening, do a group class at your local gym, practice yoga, do some stretches, or any other form of working out physically. Not only is this good for your physical health, but it is a great way to handle stress and boost your feel-good endorphins.
Do something artistic – you do not have to be talented at art to benefit from it. Paint, draw, mold some pottery, dance, play an instrument, take photos, knit, stitch, or do any other form of art that pleases you. Focusing a little bit of time every day (if possible) on doing something creative, that you enjoy doing, will refresh you. It is a healthy form of expression, therapeutic, and can take your mind off the stresses you are dealing with and leave you in a better mood.
Get outside – whether you are playing outside, walking your dog, gardening, or simply just sitting outside and enjoying nature. The fresh air and the positive energy that nature and plant life projects have a clarifying and re-energizing effect on us.
Unwind before bed every night – you may enjoy reading a book for pleasure before turning off the lights, maybe watch a sitcom on TV, do a word puzzle, or maybe just play and cuddle with your pet. Enjoy a cup of herbal tea and allow your mind and body to relax and unwind for about an hour before going to bed. Turning your brain off from work and your to-do lists and escaping for a while will allow you to feel calmer and lead to a better night’s sleep.
Find some alone time – in our society of always going, it is nice to take time to just be. Take a bath, meditate, or find a quiet room to go in or go outside to sit with no one else around. Sometimes the over stimulation of conversations and the transference of other people’s energies can take a toll on you. Taking some time to step away from everyone, even for 15 minutes, to just be alone, can allow you to reconnect and become more grounded and aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and physical well-being.
What are some ways that you practice self-care? Take a minute or two and write down what you do to help promote your overall health and well-being. It may be something as simple as cooking or baking, entertaining friends and family, or giving and receiving hugs. Maybe some of our ideas can be applied to your life, or maybe they inspire you to do more. Take the time to care for yourself, so that you can then continue to help take care of others in your life (and be there for support), and to lead you to a healthier, and happier life.