Many people associate self-care with manicures, massages and facials and feel that it’s either beyond their financial means or they do not have time for it. However, self-care expands far beyond the idea of just pampering our bodies. Self-care encompasses taking care of your mental, physical, emotional and social needs on a regular basis.
I’d like to share several ways to practice self-care when you are overwhelmed and feel like you do not have time for it. As you consistently take care of yourself, you will have more energy to tackle your to-do list and take care of others around you.
“You are not a helpless victim of your own thoughts, but rather a master of your mind.”Louise Hay, a motivational author
Human brain produces thousands of thoughts every day (different sources cite the number between 60,000 and 80,000). Most of those thoughts are negative and repetitive. At least 95% of our thoughts are unconscious and we are simply not aware of them.
You do not have control over thoughts that come into your mind, but you do have control over how you respond to those thoughts. Instead of unconsciously going wherever your mind wants to take you – usually down the dark rabbit hole – you can consciously take control of and guide your mind in a different direction by working with your thoughts.
The first step is to notice and acknowledge your thoughts. Many of the negative thoughts relate either to dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Sometimes you get so consumed by your thoughts that you are not aware of what is actually happening in the present moment of your life.
Once you realize that you got caught up in excessive negative thinking, the next step is to move your focus into a present moment and replace negative thoughts with more positive and constructive ones.
Creating a daily meditation practice can tremendously reduce your stress and anxiety. While many people think of meditation as something you do sitting cross-legged inside a yoga studio or Buddhist temple, it can be as simple as paying attention to your breath while driving a car, eating your lunch or taking a shower.
Mental self-care also includes doing things that keep your mind engaged, like taking up a new hobby, reading a book or learning something new about a subject that fascinates you.
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”Jim Rohn, an entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker
Physical self-care encompasses not only exercise, but also nutrition, sleep and taking care of your physical needs. Exercise goals would differ for everyone, but generally it’s recommended to exercise 3-5 times a week.
Just find the type of exercise you enjoy – walking, running, swimming, playing tennis or strength training – and make sure to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. When you exercise, the body releases endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, which improve your mood and reduce stress.
A lot of research has been conducted that shows all negative impact that sleep deprivation can have on our brain and body. Developing a regular sleep routine and getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night will make you feel more focused and boost your well-being and happiness.
We all heard that we should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, drink eight glasses of water and eliminated processed foods from our diet. Even if you can’t follow all these recommendations, even small healthy everyday choices can make a huge difference in your life.
“Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier”.Sabaa Tahir, a young-adult fiction writer
Emotional self-care involves taking care of your emotions and feelings. First step of the emotional self-care is self-awareness – the ability to recognize and understand the emotions that you are experiencing, without any judgement or guilt. Your emotions can often manifest themselves physically, so it is important to be aware of how you are feeling and how your body is responding.
Allow yourself to feel these emotions and treat yourself with kindness and care, the way you would respond to a loved one who was going through a similar experience.
Setting aside brief moments throughout the day to simply check in with yourself: What am I feeling right now? What is bothering me? What would make me feel better now?
Writing can help you express and clarify your feelings and emotions, while taking a few deep breaths when you are feeling overwhelmed can slow down the emotional waterfall.
Mindfulness – the ability to stay present in the moment – can help you become more aware of what you are doing, feeling and thinking.
Gratitude practice – taking time to notice and reflect upon the things and experiences you are thankful for – can help you focus on positive experiences and appreciate good things in your life.
Find activities you enjoy doing outside of work. Find a hobby that puts you in a state of flow: cooking, playing music, painting, reading, writing, hiking or whatever else brings you joy. Even spending 15 minutes on an activity that you enjoy can bring you the feeling of happiness.
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”Brené Brown, a research professor and author
Close connections are important to your well-being. Romantic relationships, friendships and family relationships make us feel loved and connected. There isn’t a certain number of hours you should spend with your significant other, friends or family. Everyone has different social needs. The key is to figure out what your social needs are and to allocate enough time in your schedule to cultivate and maintain personal connections.
Another important aspect of self-care is giving to others. Research shows that helping others, giving gifts, volunteering or donating to charities can improve our mental health and boost our happiness. Random small acts of kindness – smiling at a stranger, holding a door for a person walking behind you, giving up your seat to a person in need – can have a positive impact on your mood and change someone’s day.
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly”.Unknown
Self-care requires understanding of your needs and your priorities. It takes some discipline to do things that are good for you instead of what feels good in the moment. By taking care of your mental, physical, emotional and social needs on a regular basis, you will have more energy to live your best life.
Ready to start your journey towards a more balanced and fulfilling life?
If you would like to learn how to incorporate self-care in your everyday life, grab a free copy of my Ultimate Self-Care Guide.