How often have you heard “self-care” used in articles, advertisements, or videos? Although the term has become a mental health buzzword of sorts, there’s an underlying importance in the idea of making space in your life to care for yourself. This International Self-Care Day can serve as an opportunity to redefine self-care on our own terms.
This can feel overwhelming with no direction of where to start, or what self-care really is for that matter. Many of us can feel like there is no extra time in our day for ourselves, with work, family, partners, pets, and whatever else life throws at us. However, self-care doesn’t always need to be grand (or expensive). It can be little things we integrate into our day to remind ourselves that we have value.
Self-care involves a person tending to their own physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and social needs.
It can be a journey to discover, or re-discover, what makes you feel cared for. There’s not a “right” way to practice self-care as it can look different from person to person. What may make one person feel at peace may not sit well with someone else. While an evening bubble bath and lighting a candle may be one person’s way of unwinding, someone else may prefer an early morning stretch and jog around the park. Both are ways of intentionally prioritizing yourself.
We also may not find what works for us on the first try, and that’s okay. We can approach self-care with openness, exploring and experimenting with what feels right for us in the moment. Maybe this will look different tomorrow, next week, or even next year. Let’s say we catch the flu and our usual routine of going to the gym is replaced by lying in bed. Self-care in this moment would be prioritizing rest and taking a long nap.
Putting yourself first can be daunting, especially when we’ve been putting our needs on the backburner. We can begin by embracing that we are each worthy of care. Your value is inherent and is not something that has to be earned or achieved. It can take time to accept these statements, although repeating them as a form of affirmation can be a way to remind yourself of your worth and value.
We also may feel that putting ourselves first is selfish. However, it’s quite the opposite. To be able to be there for others and show up for them, we need to make sure we’re okay and taken care of first.
A way to start practicing self-care can be reflecting on the things in your life that you enjoy or things you haven’t tried that you feel could bring you joy. You can jot these down on a piece of paper or on your phone, or even do this exercise in your own head. From this list, you choose something you feel would be realistic to incorporate into your daily or weekly routine.
Some self-care activities can include journaling, eating a meal to nourish your body, playing a board game, reading a book, taking a walk, painting, spending time in nature, engaging in spiritual or faith-based practices, and connecting with others.
As we start to create new patterns, we may feel like we’re not doing things right or not doing enough. It can be helpful to have a set plan to achieve your self-care goals, but it’s also okay if plans change. A part of self-care is being gentle with yourself as you’re trying out these new routines. Rather than self-care being something else you must do, it can be something you want to do because it sustains you. If you want to keep working on self-care and don’t know where to begin, one of our therapists would be happy to connect with you in a free consultation.