How to Get Started with Self-Care
I have always been a strong proponent of self-care. But my experience during my most recent trip to NY at the beginning of March really drove the point home. Even before my trip, February tested my skills with a visit from my Mom and a second round of the flu. Right as I started to get my wits back and was ready to get back to normalcy, a family emergency claimed most of my attention and shortly afterward called me home.
If the emergency wasn’t enough to drop significant stress on my shoulders, while I was in NY there was Winter Storm Riley (when did Winter Storms start getting Names?!). The storm resulted in me getting impromptu winter driving lessons on roads that went from dry to snow covered slushy hell in a matter of 5 miles (and for the next 60 miles), no power for approximately 36 hours in a home with a well (so no running water, hooray!), and heavy snow dropping a tree on my rental car and across the driveway. This required us to rely on the kindness of friends to drive us the few miles to town to get blackout supplies, and I learned some handy pioneer skills. Thankfully, no one was hurt, we had heat, and my family is badass. They came to the rescue and chainsawed us out the next day AND made gnocchi from scratch (I learned!).
What kept me going through all the stressful events was my relationship with my family and some self-care. Some of my favorites that I relied on are also part of my evening routine: a cuppa tea (I love Nighty Night Tea from Traditional Medicinals), a bit of fiction reading, and yoga nidra before bed.
But what is self-care? The phrase seems to have popped into existence from nowhere in recent years, but the concept is timeless.
Self-care, basically, is taking time to do something for yourself for your mental, emotional, or physical well-being. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, expensive, or time consuming unless you want it to be. There really are no rules to what a self-care activity must be, except I would say do no harm. It needs to be something you enjoy doing, so if you hate tea, don’t take my bedtime ritual and force yourself to have a cup before bed.
You may think that after a sizeable stressful event (or season) that you need to participate in an extensive, expensive self-care event. While this might sell more trips to Tahiti, it’s not true, especially if you take time each day to practice self-care!
An important thing to remember when starting to incorporate self-care into your life is taking time for yourself is NOT selfish. As one of my favorite proverbs states “You cannot give from an empty cup.” Whether you are giving to your family, career, or volunteering, you need energy both physically and emotionally to be able to perform at your best. A commitment to a self-care routine enables you to accomplish your goals.
So where do you start?
1) Figure out your BASICS: Self-care is unique to everyone, but there are some standards that can be followed by us all. Figure out how YOU want to prioritize the basics and then the extras:
• Nutritious Food
• Time with Loved Ones & Friends
• Health Care (Little things like eye appts and routine check-ups are often put off)
• Determine things to STOP doing
• Say NO (don’t take on the bake sale, don’t watch your neighbor’s cousin’s sister’s dog if you don’t want to or have time too)
• Spiritual Activities (prayer, meditation, nature walks)
• Relaxing Activities (reading, walking, hot bath)
• At least 1 Pleasurable Activity each day: as easy as a good cuppa coffee to cooking to lunch w/friends (again doesn’t have to extravagant or can be)
2) COMMIT. When you commit to Self-Care being a priority, you are more likely to create a habit. Actively plan when you are going to do your self-care activity aka put it on the calendar! If you choose to exercise, announce your plans, it will create accountability and increase your commitment.
3) Define your WHY. If you take time to determine why you are committed to adding self-care into your busy life and what it is achieving, it will help solidify the commitment. For example, meditation is a great self-care activity. It promotes relaxation and mental acuity. However, if you are merely meditating because you think you should and you keep hearing it’s a good self-care activity you are less likely to start or set up a habit. But, if you decide to meditate 5 minutes each evening because it helps clear your mind before bed and therefore you sleep better and arrive at work rested and ready to face the day, you are more likely to continue this self-care activity.
It took me a long time, years maybe, to fully understand how vital self-care is to my health. Not only is it easy for people to make you feel guilty about the time you dedicate to feeling well, but the temptation to deviate from your plan is everywhere. While creating your new habits, it’s best to use the buddy system, have a coach, or at a minimum a good supporter willing to cheer you on!