What is self-care and how do I start?

self careDeadlines, projects, tests, homework, and family commitments, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to juggle our endless responsibilities. So how do we make room for everything? Unfortunately, more often than not, the first activities we cut from our schedule are those we enjoy most – yoga, socializing with friends, or maybe it’s our healthy eating habits. Self-care doesn’t just take the backseat in our whirlwind lifestyle, it’s not even a passenger in the car!

So what is self-care, and why is it important? Psych Central defines self-care as “an activity we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health”. This could include activities like exercising, talking with a friend on the phone, meditating, getting a massage, taking a bath, or listening to music, the possibilities are endless! While the activities may vary, the benefits are the same, engaging in healthy self-care practices promotes a greater sense of fortitude and resiliency that is essential in managing life’s stressors.

Understanding that life is hectic, and self-care is often forgone for more pressing commitments, how do we successfully incorporate the practice into our routine? Let’s start small! Take a moment to identify three activities that you would like to incorporate into your schedule. I challenge you to find one that you can incorporate into your daily routine! For the other two, try to think of activities that can be scheduled into your routine at least twice a week. Notice I used the word scheduled. In order for our self-care practices to be successful, it’s essential that we make time for it in our lives!

Here are three examples of daily self-care activities:

  • Sleeping! What is the golden number for you? Try and pinpoint how many hours of sleep you need each night to not only function, but flourish! Once you’ve determined your magic number, work to develop a sleep routine that will allow you to hit your goal each night.
  • Eating! It’s amazing how much diet impacts how we feel, physically and emotionally. Knowing that food fuels our bodies, gas up with healthy, nutritious options that are going to help you go the distance!
  • Smiling! Did you know that smiling lifts our mood? Smiling triggers the release of powerful feel-good neurotransmitters that help relax our bodies, decreases stress and heart rate, and elevates positive emotions. Interesting right!? Perhaps the most compelling piece of information that supports this simple self-care practice is that our brain cannot discern between real and fake smiles! That means that even if you don’t feel like it, faking a smile will still elicit the same feel good responses. In light of this information, I still encourage you to find one thing each day that genuinely makes you smile. J

Having a hard time generating some weekly self-care activities? Here is a brief list of some of my favorite self-care activities to help you get started!

  • Go for a run
  • Ride my bike around a park
  • Participate in a guided meditation
  • Eat something I enjoy
  • Get a pedicure or manicure (this is not just for girls!!!)
  • Get a massage
  • Hike
  • Random act of kindness or volunteer for a meaningful organization
  • Spend time with friends or family
  • Walk your dog
  • Listen to music – better yet, go to a concert!
  • Go to the movies
  • Read a book
  • Garden
  • Listen to an interesting podcast
  • Buy some fresh flowers
  • Sleep in

Consistently implementing a good self-care routine takes some thought and effort, so be on the look-out for small opportunities to integrate the practice into everyday life. Take out your calendar and put your self-care activities on your schedule and make them a priority. The more you can incorporate it into your routine, the better you’ll feel!