“…drop words of comfort on yourself like falling leaves …” ~ Brian Andreas
Do you engage in the ‘bandaid’ approach to self-care?
This is the emergency downtime that becomes necessary when you are completely exhausted and suddenly realise you simply cannot go one more step. At this point, you might take time for self-care action steps such as massage, a relaxing bath, eating comfort foods or drinking alcohol…anything for a moment to catch your breath. While it is helpful in the short term, it is not a long-term strategy that has staying power.
True and lasting self-care is much more than a one-off activity.
Taking care of your needs in an authentic and effective way is about:
- consistent self-parenting that pays attention to your inner energy meter and pre-emptively steps in before exhaustion sets in;
- developing routine daily practices that confidently manage your own needs and provide inner peace so that you have the reserves to support others;
- recognising that part of personal well-being does include massage, your favourite dessert or that relaxing bath but those activities are an integrated part of your life rather than a place to run to when you are out of gas.
Whether it involves physical, mental, emotional or spiritual practices, self-care assures that you can be fully present to yourself so that you can avoid excessive stress and burnout in your life.
Physical self-care includes
- eating a healthy nutritious diet
- getting sufficient exercise (30 minutes a day) and
- assuring adequate sleep (7-9 hours a night);
Mental self-care encourages improved brain function and alertness. Mental self-care includes:
- taking time to nurture personal creativity (painting, sketching or writing),
- continued learning (languages, courses of interest), cognitive exercises (crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles) and
- engaging problem-solving challenges.
Emotional self-care engages awareness and self-compassion to find ways to express and clear any blocks against self-love. Such practices include:
- committing to therapy for self-help, and
- developing the ability to identify and manage one’s range of emotions.
Spiritual self-care offers the ability to identify meaning and values within life. It can lead to an understanding of a universal presence that is greater than self, to feelings of gratitude, and can present clear context for life experiences. Spiritual self-care practices can also include:
- spending time in nature,
- reading books about spirituality,
- socializing with others of like mind
- engaging in discussions about spiritual topics
- volunteering to help others.
Your Self-Care Checklist and a Challenge to You:
Make a plan to incorporate one of these action steps every week for two months. Notice how these surprising self-care activities begin to change your energy levels and your ability to be present for yourself and for others:
- Be honest by saying exactly what you are feeling. – don’t be afraid to say yes or no
- Be kind to yourself and others – smile often; help one other person who needs it
- Take time for yourself – intentionally plan ‘me time’ into your schedule
- Forgive yourself for mistakes and let go of what you can’t control
- Make a date with the gym or begin a consistent exercise routine
- Spend quality time – call a friend and arrange to meet for lunch
- Create a healing support system for massage, Breathwork, acupuncture, other healthcare
- Celebrate your successes and accomplishments big and small
- Learn something new and become more self-sufficient – take a class or read a book
- Begin mindful walking – allow each step you take to keep you in the present moment
- Clear the clutter from your home – get rid of things you never use or don’t need
- Repeat daily heartfelt “I AM________” statements to improve your entire body chemistry
- Encourage positivity by listing what you are grateful for in your life – refer to the list daily
Suggested Reading: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/134-activities-to-add-to-your-self-care-plan/ – a comprehensive list of practices that can be incorporated into your self-care plan