Self-care isn’t about going on vacation or buying a new pair of shoes. Here are 5 important self-care practices that you can do right now!
One of the primary reasons why we are confused about self-care is because of media and advertising.
Consumer culture wants us to consume… so it makes us think that self-care is about drinking wine, buying expensive things, and going on vacation. Having a candy bar or driving through the countryside in a new car. When really none of these things are self-care. In some cases, they’re the opposite of self-care and can result in more stress.
Admittedly, it’s not always easy to figure out what you need to do to take care of yourself. Our highspeed culture keeps us so distracted that we don’t have time to sit down and actually think about what we really need to do to feel good.
When considering self-care practices it’s important to know that not everything works for everyone.
- The list below isn’t hard and fast requirements, but rather a guide.
- We all have our own starting place. Do what you can to take care of yourself, within your capacity.
- Life is seldom ideal. So don’t let that stop you from practicing self-care.
- Most of all, self-care shouldn’t be stressful. If something is lacking in your life, any step towards improvement is positive. For example, while you may not be able to get the recommended hours of sleep, simply trying to improve your sleep habits is self-care.
Wondering where to start? Here are essential 5 self-care practices.
Getting a restful sleep is the best way to feel refreshed and ready for whatever challenges you may face. Here are a few ways to practice self-care in your sleep habits.
- Avoid stimulants (tea, coffee, chocolate) after 2 pm. Drink chamomile tea instead.
- Turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bed. If you really have trouble settling yourself to sleep, then turn off screens 1 or 2 hours before bed.
- My family physician recommended an exercise of naming 5 animals for each letter of the alphabet as a way of turning your brain off. For example, start with A: antelope, ape, alligator, anteater, and armadillo. It really helps to stop your brain from churning.
- I used a meditation practice to teach myself how to calm down and relax.
Healthy eating is usually the first casualty of stress. But it is really important for self-care. Our body just feels better when it’s being well-fed.
- Healthy eating looks different for everyone. Any diet that works best for you, is the perfect diet.
- However, all healthy diets have a few similarities: less sugar, less salt, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- The easiest way to make sure that you’re eating healthy is to have lots of good food in your cupboard… and no junk food. Otherwise, the temptation to eat junk food will be too strong.
- Looking for some healthy, feel-good alternatives? Try homemade popcorn, dark chocolate, fresh fruit, and roasted nuts.
Movement and exercise are key to taking care of your body. Again, not everyone has the same capacity, but it’s important to do what you can. Some people, like my husband, need a ton of exercise. Other people, like myself, have physical limitations that make certain kinds of exercise more difficult.
Here are a few ways that I motivate myself to exercise on a daily basis:
- Cycling works for my body. It’s better for me than running or walking. So I use my bike to get around everywhere, automatically building exercise into my daily routine.
- It’s harder to do my physio exercises. When I’m pain-free, I don’t feel like I need it. When I have a lot of pain, I don’t feel like I can do it.
- Building my physio exercises into my routine is the best way to make sure I do them regularly.
- I also offer myself a reward for regularly exercising. For example, if I do my exercises 5 days a week, for 4 weeks in a row then I get a treat!
4. Social Self-Care
We are social beings. Even if you are an introvert, it’s still important to spend time, in person, with other people.
Social media, online games, and texting don’t count as social self-care. It needs to be in person, not in front of a screen.
Here are some of the benefits of spending time with other people:
- Helps with self-regulation
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves cognitive functioning
So put yourself out there. Join a club. Volunteer. Invite a friend over for coffee. Share dinner with a neighbor. And practice social self-care.
A boundary, in the context of self-care, is the emotional separation between ourselves and others. It’s what allows us to say
- “I don’t have time to do that right now.”
- “I’m not responsible for your moods.”
- “I need to take care of myself before I can help you.”
Lack of clear boundaries was probably the biggest way that I failed to take care of myself. It’s impossible to be able to care for yourself if you don’t know how to assert your boundaries. Otherwise, it’s easy to confuse self-care with selfishness.
Boundaries are definitely a topic worthy of their own blog post. You can read more about how to respect boundaries on PsychCentral.