Next Exit: Self-care
When was the last time you’ve done something nice for yourself? For many, finding time for ourselves seems like a far-fetched idea due to the high demands of busy lives: jobs, kids, sports …the list could go on. Keeping up with our busy lives seems much more important than taking time for ourselves each day. Unfortunately, many of us do not prioritize our self-care. Self-care is an important piece of maintaining a healthy well-being, both physically and mentally.
What is self-care and why is it important?
Self-care encompasses a variety of activities to maintain our well-being and cope with emotions, such as anxiety and depression. Studies strongly indicate that those who engage in self-care have a greater sense of well-being and are able to cope with stress more effectively. One study found that participants who engaged in self-care routines reported being happier in relationships, having a better psychological health, and reported feeling more hopeful (Richards, Campenni, & Muse-Burke, 2010).
Self-care not only helps us repair ourselves, emotionally and physically, from the stress we are enduring, but also prepares us for the unexpected events that life may bring. Much like taking a daily vitamin to strengthen the immune system, self-care can help prevent the onset of debilitating anxiety and depression in the midst of stress. This is particularly important for those with high-stress careers and lifestyles to incorporate. High-stress careers generally include first responders, health professionals, mental health professionals, and others who work in helping professions. Those with high-stress jobs may suffer from compassion fatigue (being less able to feel compassion in future situations) and burnout.
How do I incorporate self-care into my life?
Each person’s self-care routine will be unique to the individual, their needs, and their limitations. People frequently use exercise as a primary form of self-care. Other common forms of self-care are:
- Engaging in hobbies (cooking, cleaning, writing, reading, journaling)
- Social interactions
For those who find it difficult to imagine creating time in their schedule for self-care, here are some activities that can be engaged even with limited time:
- Healthier diet
- Mindfulness (breathing exercises, grounding techniques–takes no more than a few minutes)
- Quick walk (with a dog and/or family/friend is a bonus)
- Getting enough sleep
- Listening to music or an audio book
- Keeping a routine
How do I start and how do I maintain my self-care?
Just as your self-care routine will be different than mine, your routine may look different each day. Self-care should not have rigidity. Some days, our bodies and our minds will need different things. It is important to have an assortment of activities that refresh and relax you so that you can listen to your mind and body and decide what you need day by day.
With self-care comes self-forgiveness and self-kindness. There will be days when we do not prioritize our self-care and other days when we do lots of self-care; and that’s okay! Self-forgiveness and self-kindness means quieting the inner self-critic and holding acceptance that we are human. It’s okay when we put our self-care on the back burner for the moment, but we recover by prescribing time for our own care again.
Tips for getting started:
- Make a list of things/activities you enjoy (or once enjoyed)
- Check the list each day and decide what you have time for today
- Listen to your body and mind and what it needs for the day
- Forgive yourself if you miss a day of self-care
- Come up with an action plan to maintain self-care
If you are feeling a loss of motivation, struggling to manage stress, or are feeling dissatisfied overall with your emotional and physical state, consider scheduling an appointment with one of our therapists, and we would be glad to assist you in developing a healthier level of functioning.
Richards, K. C., Campenni, C. E., & Muse-Burke, J. L. (2010). Self-care and well-being in mental health professionals: The mediating effects of self-awareness and mindfulness. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 32(3), 247-264.
Maria has a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Adler University. Maria is enthusiastic about working with different populations, including children, adolescents, and families. Maria has experience utilizing non-directive play therapy and her approach is client-centered based, while integrating client strengths within the process.
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