“Self care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.” – Katie Reed
Self care: the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health; the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
Many of us spend the better part of our days picking up from practices, helping with homework, paying bills, working, cooking meals, doing the laundry, overextending the charity work, caring for our spouses. This list of responsibilities is seemingly endless yet the one responsibility that eludes most people each and every day is the concept of self care. We worry about all of the minutiae that comes with life; making it to the game on time, what will others think, did you turn off the stove, will your son have a date for the prom. Rarely do most people include other, more personal questions that relate to the care of self as they are creating their to-do lists, grocery lists, and trying to juggle the busy calendar.
Katie Reed, author, speaker, and mental health advocate said it best when she describes self care. How can you possibly give your best self to the world if you do not take the time to invest in yourself? As our busy lives drain the energy and strength from us, we end up giving only what is left after the dishes, laundry, workload, and phone calls have stripped us to the core, depleting our physical energy and draining our emotional fortitude.
In reality, a person who continually puts others first, not only physically and emotionally has nothing left but for some, they place themselves in harm’s way by neglecting their health and overall well-being. When we do not practice self care, placing our own needs above those of our loved ones, we risk suffering our own health issues and even burnout. Yes, burnout! What did you think, you had an endless supply of energy to carry out a thousand tasks, make sure everyone is cared for and maybe have something left for yourself? Unfortunately, as much as we would like to believe this to be true, we all must rest and rejuvenate at some point.
But why wait until you are feeling exhausted, frustrated, irritable, and even anxious! Do the signs of burnout need to manifest into depression, sleep deprivation, a lack of focus and concentration, substance and alcohol abuse, high blood pressure, or worsening health problems? Why do caregivers wait until they have completely neglected their own self care, health, and wellness to take charge of and be responsible for their own health?
In no way should this be construed as neglecting your responsibilities with family, a sick child or spouse but ask yourself the question, “what good will I be to my child if I get sick? What use will I be if my emotional and mental state is teetering on the edge?” Many people believe that it is only caregivers who need to be mindful and conscious of taking care of themselves. In fact, it does not matter whether you are taking care of a mentally ill child, a sick spouse, aging parent or simply managing the stresses of everyday life, self care is important to everyone’s physical and mental health.
The term ‘self care’ may be new to you but in reality, we all participate in some act of self care every day. Of course, showering, brushing your teeth, eating regular meals can all be considered self care but we are referring to something more defined, intentional, and personal. While there are millions of ways to practice self care, you will need to find what works for you to relieve stress, decompress from the daily activities, and place yourself in a better position to help others. Even if you are not in the position of being a caregiver, we all have more responsibilities on our hands than we can count. Self care is about putting yourself in the best position to succeed in life.
10 Tips to practice self care responsibly
- First things first. Although it may go against your very being, you must make taking care of yourself a priority. You often hear people say, “I’ll take care of myself when the kids leave home,” “I’ll do something for myself once my wife gets better,” or “Maybe someday I’ll consider working out.” In each of these cases, another person’s needs come before self care is considered, creating a potentially toxic and unhealthy situation. Self care must take precedent in the daily routine of life otherwise before you know it, you will have gone a lifetime and not given your health and happiness a second thought.
- When thinking about practicing self care, the keyword here is “responsibly”. Life presents us with many opportunities that ultimately may not be considered caring for our physical and mental health. While it may be appealing to lay on the couch, binge-watching reality shows and snacking on chips all night, this is probably not in your best interest in what we would call “responsible self care”. You will more than likely go to be too late, sleep restlessly, have eaten more calories than you should, and wake up feeling horrible about your choices tomorrow. This type of self care may in fact be considered irresponsible self care, causing more harm than good.
- You may be wondering where to begin a practice of self care or even what area of your life to focus on. You should take an inventory of your mental, physical, and emotional health and prioritize each of those things that need improvement.
- Begin your day on a positive note. For many people, the only quiet time that they may have is right before the craziness and chaos of the day begins. Use this time to create a morning routine focused on self care. Use this time each morning to meditate, exercise, journal, or practice mindfulness.
- Create a list of all of the things that you enjoy yet rarely do. Maybe you love to have a manicure, wander around the bookstore, or treat yourself to an ice cream cone. Try to indulge in an activity that truly brings you happiness at least once per week.
- Sit down and think about your meals today. Are they balanced? Did you consume unhealthy snacks on the run or did you fill your belly with good, healthy, energizing food? Food plays an important role in our health and well-being. Depending upon your age and other health concerns, be sure to check with your physician before making any drastic changes to your diet. Proper nutrition keeps you full of energy, helps to revitalize your mental state, and fuel your body to manage your busy schedule.
- Just as important as a morning routine is, it is just as important to wind down from the day with an evening routine. Turning off the brain and getting it ready to sleep can be a critical factor in your sleep habits as well as how well you are prepared to handle the next day. Sleep is a very important part of your self care practice and above all else, should be given priority. Restful, peaceful sleep can be the catalyst for success in other areas of your life.
- Physical activity is crucial for your mind and body. Experts tell us that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise several times per week can do wonders for our overall health and well-being. It helps to bring oxygen to the brain, bringing clarity and focus along with it. Depending on your activity, you may also get to enjoy nature, taking in the beauty and being present in the moment.
- Some people may say that your clothes are an indicator of your mood. Dress in a way that makes you feel good. Have you ever noticed that you feel more alive and vibrant when you put on a splash of makeup or your favorite t-shirt? Although clothing does not define who you are, how you dress can play a role in your mood and attitude for the day. Spend time on yourself to show others that you value yourself.
- Mindfulness is the state of being conscious or aware of something. It is about being present in the moment. By practicing mindfulness, you can significantly improve your state of mind, outlook and perspective on life, and reduce stress. It serves to increase happiness, improve concentration, and even improve your physical health by reducing stress. Mindfulness is very helpful in bringing a sense of calm to your life which can carry you throughout your busy day.
Responsible self care is about putting yourself first. It is about taking care of your mind, your body, and your soul. It is a means of consciously taking back control of your life in preparation for all that life has in store for you. It is about showing the world the best side of you rather than simply what is left of you. Why not set yourself for success! When you are healthy, you are more prepared to handle the stresses, challenges, and chaos that life inevitably throws at you.
If you are a caregiver of a teenager experiencing mental health issues, the spouse of a sick husband/wife, or simply have become overwhelmed by the stresses of life, reach out to a trained professional at Beachside Treatment Center to learn more ways of practicing self care and making yourself a priority.