As a mental health counselor I often have conversations about self-care with my clients. When we are feeling stressed out, burned out, anxious or depressed, we need to do things to take care of ourselves. We can’t pour from an empty cup, so to say. We need time to relax, renew, restore, and to replenish what we often give to others. It is vital to our well-being that we take some time to nurture and restore ourselves. When I ask clients, “what do you do for you?” or “how do you take care of yourself?” Well, that begins to be a difficult question to answer, partly because I think many people have a misunderstanding or misconception about what self-care means. So, what exactly is self-care? Self-care is an activity or way of thinking that we do to deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
Self-care is an activity or way of thinking that we do to deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
It is important to remember that it is not about being selfish. It is not self-ish, it’s self-care. Often, I see individuals struggle with this concept of self-care because they believe they are being self-centered or selfish, which leads to feelings of guilt and apprehension when trying to implement self-care behaviors. Most often, clients are hesitant to take care of themselves because they feel it would negatively impact their family, children, significant others, partners and friends. Here is the thing, in order for you to be there for them, you need to take the time to refuel your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual energy, so that you can be the best version of yourself to give to them. It actually helps us to have healthier and stronger relationships.
Understanding what self-care is not might even be more important. We often confuse self-care as thinking that we need to have a lavish spa day, get a massage, a manicure/pedicure, or take an extravagant vacation or getaway. Self-care does not have to be some big extravagant, expensive plan or gesture. It is about how we treat ourselves on a daily basis. It is looking at what we do to replenish ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Let’s review some ideas as to what self-care can look like.
Are you treating your body well? Fueling your body with healthy nutrition, drinking water, establishing a structured daily routine, and getting adequate sleep are crucial. Take a shower or a relaxing bath. Keep up with your daily personal hygiene routines. Are you moving your body or exercising in some way? Examples include going for a walk, stretching, yoga, dancing, swimming, running, and sports.
It is important to assess our self-talk. Examine your thoughts and the impact they have on your emotions. Are you using compassion, empathy and grace with your thoughts toward yourself? Be kind to yourself. Are you surrounding yourself with positive people and engaging in healthy relationships? Learn to assert and express yourself with others by setting healthy boundaries. Talk to a friend for support. Say “no” to things you don’t want to do. Turn off your phone for periods of time to set aside time just for you.
Are you using compassion, empathy and grace with your thoughts toward yourself?
Participate in activities, hobbies and interests that you enjoy such as reading a book, painting, drawing, writing, journaling, cooking, crafting, listening to music. Practice relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, meditation, and visualizations. If you are not sure what you like to do, spend some time exploring and follow your curiosity.
Set aside time to connect with something bigger than yourself. Spend time in nature by going for a walk or observing a beautiful sunset or sunrise. You can participate in a collective group initiative, practice your faith, attend a religious service. Read or listen to something inspirational, engage in meditation, practice gratitude or utilize prayer.
Remember that you are important and deserve to take some time to care for yourself!