Self-Care 101

What is self-care?

Self-care is the practice of purposeful and self-initiated actions and attitudes that contribute to our general well-being. It is taking care of our physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual wellness through actions, intentions and behaviours that increase our overall wellness. Self-care is not selfish. It is not self-indulgent or self-serving. It is crucial. We know this and yet things still get in the way…

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I hear you. We've got all the excuses!

“Are you kidding me?! I don’t have time for self-care!”

Life is busy! I get that. However, I’m going to go ahead and de-bunk this excuse right now and tell you that practicing self-care does not have to take up a lot of time. I’m not telling you to go on a 4 hour hike in the name of self-care. Taking even a few minutes out of your busy day to focus on your breathing or do a quick grounding exercise will help you to shift your body and mind into a restorative mode and you will be able to be even more present as you go about your busy day!

“Self-care is too expensive!”

I will readily admit that a spa day sounds like the epitome of self-care. Most of us can’t regularly do this, however, so we need to remind ourselves that self-care does not need to be a trip to the Maldives or a luxurious day at Casbah. Self-care can be as simple as going for 10 minute walk with your dog. Or treating yourself to your favourite chocolate when you get home from a productive day.  Or telling your husband that you’re taking the night off mom-duty to go for dinner with your girlfriends. Whatever is going to help you re-charge your battery, do that.

“Taking time to care for myself would be selfish!”

 Here’s the thing: You cannot pour from an empty cup. If you aren’t taking time to care for yourself, those who depend on you will ultimately suffer. You want to take care of those around you but you are no less important than them. Perhaps self-care wasn’t modeled for you in your family. Maybe there was an air of shame or guilt attached to people taking time for themselves. Wherever this belief may have come from, the fact is that we are going to do a far better job of taking care of others if we are also making an active effort to be compassionate and kind with ourselves.

What are the benefits of engaging in a self-care practice?

  • Enhanced productivity! Self-care can help you become more productive because your time has been prioritized in such a way that lends itself to your top priorities. When we stop saying “yes” to every request that comes our way, we create space to pursue the projects and relationships that are most aligned with our needs and values. When we have less on our plates, we are more able to concentrate on the things we really want to invest ourselves in.
  • Better physical health! Have you ever noticed that when you are overwhelmed with demands, you tend to get sick more often? There is some evidence that engaging in self-care activates our parasympathetic nervous system which means that our body switches into a rejuvenating state and increases immunity.

  • Increased self-awareness and self-esteem! Engaging in a self-care practice involves reflecting on what brings meaning and purpose to our lives. It requires us to look within ourselves to determine what aspects of our lives need to be accepted and committed to in order to meet our goals. It also requires us to check in with ourselves regularly to see what components of our lives right now may need to be adjusted in order to feel most fulfilled in our lives.

So, you want to implement a self-care practice? Where do you start?

There are 5 pillars of self-care: physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual. 

Physical

  • Exercise.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Have a bubble bath.
  • Get outside.

Emotional

  • Spend time with those whose company you enjoy.
  • Stay in contact with loved ones.
  • Write in a journal or get a mindfulness colouring book.
  • Notice and acknowledge your inner experience.
  • Connect with a mentor or therapist that you feel comfortable with.

Social

  • Call a friend or family member and chat.
  • Join a club or group that interests you.
  • Sign up for a class or workshop at the rec center and get to know others with common interests.
  •  Go out for coffee with a friend or partner.
  • Get down on the floor and play alongside your child.

Spiritual

  • Download the Calm app and do a mindfulness exercise.
  • Explore your values and beliefs through journaling.
  • Make time for reflection and solitude.
  • Get outside and spend time in nature.
  • Find a spiritual community that resonates with your belief system.

Intellectual

  • Go pick out a new book to read or re-read an old favourite.
  • Listen to a podcast on something you’re interested in.
  • Do a crossword or a puzzle.
  • Take breaks during the workday.
  • Set goals and review progress regularly.   

What kind of barriers do you find when trying to engage in self-care day to day? What kind of self-care practices work for you and how do you make it happen? This week, pick one pillar that you find particularly challenging and try a few activities. Notice how you feel before and after. 

Kristen Hamilton