Self-Care is Not Selfish

Taking Time for You

Over the last 12 months, as the stress of the pandemic has piled on top of the stresses of every-day life, there has been a lot of talk about making time for self-care. You may think, well, I shower and brush my teeth every day, and I *usually* don’t forget to eat, so I’m already taking good care of myself. And while caring for yourself does include basics like eating right and getting enough sleep, true self-care goes a bit further. It is defined as anything that increases your physical, mental or emotional health, or generally enhances your overall well-being. It can come in the form of literally anything that gives you a break from the rigors of the day and allows you to return to your daily tasks feeling rejuvenated and better able to focus.

Your Idea of Self-Care May Not be the Same as Someone Else’s

Self-care is different for every person, based on what each individual needs and enjoys. If you love doing yoga, go for it, but if the thought of 45 minutes of downward dog makes you want to run for the hills, choose an activity that doesn’t create such angst. Try to do at least one thing each day that really makes you happy, and that allows you to detach from the demands of your daily life. Remember, pretty much everything will work again if you unplug it for a while, including you!

Self-Care Comes in Many Forms

Basically, self-care is any activity that relieves stress for you. Try exercising. Download a meditation app. Pick up painting or drawing, or if you think you have no artistic talent, color in an adult coloring book. Take a bath filled with aromatherapy bath oil or salts; lavender is a known stress-reducer. Consider journaling as a way of parking your stressful thoughts on paper so you can get them out of your mind or writing down things for which you are grateful to help you focus on the positives. If you enjoy cooking or baking, set aside one night a week to make something you really enjoy eating. Or, just sit on the front porch and do absolutely nothing for a while. The possibilities are endless!

Strive for Positive Activities

Downing a whole bottle of wine or an entire chocolate bar, or going on an online shopping spree might seem like a great and gratifying idea in the moment, but the negative consequences of the subsequent hangover, stomach ache or hole in your bank account will only increase stress in the long run. Exercising a little willpower is actually a form of self-care. So, first think “do no harm.” Self-care activities should make you feel generally better about life, and that effect should be lasting. You should never have to recover from a session of self-care!

Self-Care is Not Selfish

If you have children or are generally a person who tends to always take care of others, or if you’re just incredibly busy and me-time is always last on the to-do list, self-care can feel like an indulgence for which you just don’t have time. But, instead of thinking of self-care as something you do only for yourself, look at it as a way to keep yourself mentally and physically prepared to better care for the other people in your life, accomplish your work tasks and just be a more productive version of yourself. You are no good to anyone else if you are too burnt out and exhausted to see to your daily responsibilities.

Self-Care Does Not Have to be an Indulgence

Many of us think of self-care as taking a vacation or splurging on expensive spa treatments or other luxury items, but self-care can be much simpler, and it really should be a disciplined, daily habit and not an every-now-and-then treat. Think of the little things you can do to make your daily life easier, like turning off the TV an hour earlier so you can get an extra hour of sleep, swapping that second beer for a glass of water or seltzer, or *gasp* actually saying “no” to activities you don’t want to do. When you think of self-care as something you do in small doses every day rather than a big extravagance every once in a while, your life will become more balanced.

Try Meditating and Getting Outdoors

Even if these activities fall onto the aforementioned list of “things you think stress you out,” give them a shot. The mental and physical health benefits of both meditating and getting out in the fresh air are incredibly well-documented. Just 10 minutes of sitting quietly, focusing on your breath and being in the present moment is enough to reduces stress and anxiety. And getting out into nature slows us down, allows us to soak up sunshine and the beauty of our surroundings and generally improves our mood. Getting outside your self-care comfort zone may actually give you more and better ways to take care of yourself.

Self-Care Should Help Relieve Stress, Anytime and Anywhere

Stress is a part of our everyday life, and we can experience it at any time. If you’re at home and you feel you’re about to have a meltdown, retreating to the basement for an impromptu dance party may be a great way to ward off that anxiety, but that’s less of an option when the line at the bank is a dozen people long and you’re already late for soccer practice. To calm your nerves when you’re out in public, take a few moments to focus on your inhales and exhales while you think of your favorite self-care activity and how it makes you feel. If you are mentally dancing in your living room, thinking about your favorite song and how happy you are when your body moves to it, the anxiety of being in line at the bank will be infinitely more tolerable.