Self-care isn’t necessarily an elaborate ritual that you have to perform every day. Self-care, in its purest form, is giving your body what it needs when it needs it in order to perform at your very best. Knowing what your body needs involves staying tuned in to the subtle signals it gives you throughout the day. This means staying present and checking in with yourself often.
What is self-care?
You know how the flight attendant instructs you to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others in case of an emergency? Self-care is kind of like that. It is taking care of yourself so you can perform better for everyone else. If you helped everyone else with their masks first, you would pass out and be unable to help as many people as you would if you helped yourself first. Taking the time for self-care is not selfish, it is essential to keep you performing at your very best.
What self-care is not
In order to better describe what I mean by self-care, it may be helpful to first describe what self-care is not. It is not:
- Taking a vacation in which you eat all of the bad food and drink yourself into oblivion every night. You will come home exhausted, the opposite of what you should feel like after taking time off.
- A daily ritual that you feel like you have to slog through. Your morning or evening ritual should be something you look forward to. It should leave you feeling ready for the day or for sleep. Getting stressed out over fitting it in defeats the purpose.
- Rewarding yourself with food or alcohol. You’ve had a hard day, so you decide that you deserve a pastry or a cocktail–and who can blame you–but this will only make you feel worse. Especially if you’ve been watching what you eat and such things are not on your diet. You will feel icky from the sugar and feel bad for cheating on your diet, a double whammy.
- A cookie-cutter method. What you do for self-care doesn’t look like what your best friend or your sister does. Self-care is very personal. In fact, what you find energizing might be the opposite of what those close to you want to do.
- Being hard on yourself for not doing your self-care, or for any reason really. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself, but being kind to yourself is self-care, too. Do your best to stick with your routine, but don’t berate yourself if you slip up one day. Make an effort to do better tomorrow.
What self-care is
Keep in mind that self-care is going to look different for everyone. My self-care routine is not really a routine at all. Like I said above, self-care is less daily ritual and more giving your body what it needs when it needs it.
For example, I need alone time. Time to myself to rest and reflect is important for my well-being. Therefore, I carve out time during the day for “quiet time.” I also need to eat well and get quality sleep. If I don’t get these things, I am crabby, my inner mean girl takes over, and (now that I am older) I feel achy and inflamed. Much of my day revolves around what I need for me so I can show up fully for my family. My little girl does not deserve a crabby, bitchy mom; so I do my best to eat well, practice good sleep hygiene, and take some time out for quiet time when I need it.
Here are some examples of self-care practices you can try today:
- Exercise. Fit in some healthy movement every day
- Eat clean. Skip the junk food! Sugar and vegetable oil are not your friends. They might taste good in the moment, but will only make you feel worse in the end.
- Epsom Salt bath. Epsom Salt contains magnesium and sulfur which make a hot bath even more relaxing. I often take a salt bath before bed to improve my sleep, especially if I’ve had a hard day.
- Diffuse essential oils. Aromatherapy is fantastic for relaxation and can also be energizing. Depending on which oils you use, you can enhance your memory, decrease your stress, boost your motivation, or help you off to sleep. I use them almost every day.
- Take frequent breaks. Studies show that working for 90 minutes at a time with 10-minute breaks in between increases productivity compared to working straight through. Your brain needs breaks to work efficiently. Even just getting up from your desk and taking a walk around the room will help keep you focused and increase how much you get done in a day.
- Sleep. I can’t stress this one enough. Your body and especially your brain need sleep. Several repair processes can only happen when you are sleeping. If these processes don’t happen things start to go very badly. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, but the current recommendation is 7-8 hours for adults. Newer reports indicate sleep quality is more important than quantity, but most people need around 7 hours.
- Don’t listen to everything your brain tells you. Just because your brain tells you that you don’t have time, aren’t good enough, can’t do it, or won’t make it, doesn’t mean these things are true. Give yourself a break and flex your self-love muscle.
- Do nothing. Self-care doesn’t have to be a thing you do. It could be creating space in your day. This is something I need to do. I need space in my calendar or I start to feel overwhelmed and resentful. It’s ok to have nothing to do!
Whatever self-care you decide to do, give yourself permission to do it. Even if you have to take a break from the people you love to get it done, both you and they will be better off for it.
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