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What is self care?
Self care is a discovery of self. It is continuous. Self care is finding what makes you energized, what makes you tick, what gets you to peace, a sense of contentment and fulfillment. It is never a quick journey or an easy journey. It requires continuous introspection and self analysis.
My personal experience with self care has gone from knowing what I need to rediscovering it over and over. As I have changed, grown, and transformed as a student to fun employment (aka unemployment) to a steady paying job my needs have changed. As I have explored my true desires and what it means to be happy, my self care regimen has become less about spending money and more about being able to fully express my truest self. My self care habits are changing and I am always struggling to discover what it is I am truly needing in a moment, in an emotion, in a thought. So no I have not perfected self care, nor have I fully discovered all there is to know on it.
What I do know is that it takes time, self analysis and an understanding that some times we don't know ourselves as well as we think. Self care has been one of the more challenging endeavors I have pursued and still am pursuing.
I picture self care as a fuel gage. We have a limited amount of energy. When we don't replenish it, it shows. It shows up differently for each of us, maybe as bailing on social plans, drink a lot more, a shorter temper, or a indifferent feeling towards life. We require self care to recoup that energy to be able to keep going at our best. Without it many things begin to fall apart because we are falling apart. Checking in with yourself on whether you have the energy to go out or stay late at work is a good cue if you have drained yourself and require an infusion.
Importance of self care
Many of us feel that we have to do it all. We have to continue to drain ourselves for others, their happiness and health. But you are just as important as those you give your time and energy to. It is important to know that you can't take care of others well if you are not taking care of yourself. Some of us think well my mother did and wasn't getting manis and pedis every day. Maybe she was journaling, meditating or taking 15 minutes for her self every day. Did she garden, or sew or write? There are many things she could have been doing that were feeding her energy resources. A mani pedi doesn't equate to self care. Each person replenishes differently. That means you must figure out your own needs and not worry about how they compare to others.
Breaking self care down
I am going to break down self care into 4 different categories to help you be able to better assess your needs and deficits. The act of self care for one person could be a torturous act for another. Each person replenishes differently. The goal is for you to be able to assess where you are lacking and come up with quick and easy ways to help replenish now but also for the long haul. The process of self discovery can be difficult but it gets easier.
1. Self Care in Physical Health
Your physical is essential for your productivity. You only have one, so you should be figuring out all of its unique needs to operate at its best. You don't have to reminisce about how your body was when you were younger or before kids. You can work to make your body be just as strong and beneficial to you now. It may not look the same but it doesn't mean it can't support you to and be energized for every day. Negative affects on our health drain us and our energy to be productive.
How are you physically feeling in the moment? Are you sick? Allergies? Achy? Sore? Tight? Nauseous? Tired? Experiencing joint pain? Checkin with the physical. What can you learn from your body right now? What is it conveying to you that it needs more of or less of?
Are you sore because you worked out? Are you tight and have aches in your back because you sit too much and need to stretch? Do you knees ache because there is too much weight on them? Are you gassy because you cheese for lunch and are lactose intolerant? Become aware of what your body is saying. Acknowledge that perhaps some changes are needed on diet, sleep or physical activity to truly alleviate this symptom. Don't just take and Advil to get rid of the back pain. You are only trying to hush a symptom of a bigger issue.
Has something been lingering and you should maybe go visit the doctor or a physical therapist? You'd be surprised what a little bit of stretching can do to alleviate tension and pain.
Are you constantly tired? Have you been drinking so much caffeine that you end up staying awake too late and then doing it all over the next day. Try struggling through one day with one less caffeinated drink or even going cold turkey. Giving your body a break of stimulants could be what you need to get in a good nights rest that continues to many good nights rest.
Think of all these small physical bothers that can hinder a productive day. They take energy to deal with instead of energy being used on what you want it to.
Now based on what you discovered and what you know you now need ask yourself how you can implement some small changes into your every day hectic life (or not so hectic). If you require more sleep and aren't getting it because of time, think about trying to give yourself a 15-20 minute nap during the day. You can go sit at a park, your car, lay on a couch or bed. Set an alarm and think of this as resting your eyes. Do wake up to your alarm! If this seems to inconvenient, try resting your eyes for only 5 minutes, which can easily be done in the bathroom or at your desk.
For food and exercise there is no need to reevaluate your entire diet and start a new one. Just being present to the food that has negative affects will help you be aware of what food should be left for when you don't need to be productive. Adding stretching and exercise to your habits it as easy as doing a couple minutes of stretching right when you wake up. There isn't a need for a gym or knowledge of equipment in order to have a good sweat. YouTube and Pinterest both have tons of ideas for workouts that can be done in the morning quickly or even in the evening. Take advantage of the free opportunities!
The point isn't to revamp everything but integrate small changes to help you maintain these small beneficial shifts. These changes are to help with your long term self care and may feel uncomfortable at first. Working and doing things for yourself can feel awkward or selfish if you don't provide yourself with the necessary daily self care, but it is not selfish. You are important enough to have a physical body that healthy and provides energy to your day.
Easy Self Care Ideas for Physical Health:
1. Deep breathing
2. Meal prepping
3. 8 hours of sleep
4. Yoga/ stretching
5. Water lots and lots of water
6. Add a vegetable to every meal
7. Walk a certain amount of steps each day
8. Get some sun!
9. Watch your posture, don't slouch
10. Get up from sitting every hour
2. Self Care in Emotional Health
Making sure that your emotions are being processed and expressed is always difficult. There always seems to be something that can your brain can wander to. It could've happened 5 minutes ago or 10 years ago, but there always feels to be unresolved emotions springing up. We are all emotional. We all were not taught the perfect way to deal with our emotions. That is okay! It doesn't mean we have to suffer forever or continue to be in emotional turmoil.
Two major changes I have made in my life that have exponential affects are journaling and making sure I present my true self.
Some of you may roll your eyes about journaling or say I tried but it didn't work. The act of physically writing out emotions and thoughts every day has helped me clear my mind and get rid of the excess emotions that often boil over everyday. Maybe writing isn't what you want to do, but every day expressing your thoughts and feelings for a set amount of time and THEN laying it to rest and letting it go for the day is key. The act of releasing emotions and thoughts along with knowing that they have been expressed leave more room for peace and less contemplation over things that were. Try a form of emotional expression and release, this could be journaling, drawing, voice recording or even dance. There are many ways to express yourself daily. Choose an amount of time you will dedicate and do it daily, after two weeks you will see a difference and have a sense of calm added to your days.
I know we all know that we should be ourself... our unique selves. We have heard it before. But how many of us really are. Do you share your thoughts and opinions when you know they will not be well received? I have found that a true test of showing my true self is sharing my true thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. Even when they may not be well received I have to remind myself that I am not sharing these emotions to hurt feelings, but so get mine out. What I feel or think is important and worth sharing.
Taking care of your emotional well being is not easy or a quick fix. We often discover that anger or sadness that occurs today might be tied back to emotions from your childhood or traumatic events. This can be challenging as you move forward, feeling like you are moving backward. But being able to understand that you have layers of unresolved emotions helps you slowly chip away at them. Understanding them, acknowledging them, and letting them go.
Easy Self Care Ideas for Emotional Health:
1. Journal daily
2. Write a letter to someone who has wronged you - give it to them or burn it
4. Listen to happy music
5. Cry, yell, scream
6. Talking it out
7. Have a dance party
8. Write down your accomplishments every day
9. Watch a funny gif, clip or movie
10. Write out all the negative you feel towards yourself, give it to a loved one to discuss
3. Self Care of Your Physical Space
We should all have a sanctuary, somewhere we feel safe and comfortable. If you have house mates then it really is key to make your room your sanctuary. A place that you can shut the door feel at peace. Having a space that you can fully relax in and revel in who you truly are is important to maintaining you! Everyone needs a place to feel at home and comfortable.
So, set up a place that you enjoy being in. Perhaps being in the living room with noise and people all around you makes you feel comfortable and replenishes you. Maybe sitting in a closet to have your peace and solitude in a small space brings you safety and solace. Or Maybe you enjoy listening to Metallica and the smell of mint.
What smells bring you comfort? What sounds make you feel safe and comforted? What type of lighting most benefits your mood? Being aware of all your senses in making a space your sanctuary will help you be able to bring your sanctuary with you if you need it.
Easy Self Care Ideas for Physical Space:
1. More light- natural, lamps
2. Incense, air freshener, - smells
3. Music that brings peace and calm
4. Declutter- get rid of stuff
5. Rearrange furniture
6. Is it time to move?
7. Get a carpet
8. Hang art/ decorate your space to make it your own
9. Add plants
4. Self Care for Relationships
Maintaining healthy relationships that energize you can be difficult. It can seem like your are playing Russian roulette since you don't have control over anyone's emotions or actions. But before we dive into the actual interactions and relationships I think it is wise to understand yourself. Are you an introvert or extrovert? How you maintain your relationships will be dependent on how much time you require by yourself versus with others.
Introverts require more time by themselves to recharge. So maintaining constant in person interactions may look different from an extrovert who can get their energy from people. Know that it's okay if you are tired and feel drained and have to cancel plans. That is what self care looks like at times. You want to show up with energy to share and give, not to bring down others.
Most relationships are maintained with one on one interactions. Establishing boundaries in all relationships provides you with a cushion for what you will accept and not accept. Boundaries are difficult to establish if yours have not been respected. But know that you have a right to your space, your thoughts and the lines that you draw. People who don't respect your boundaries are not respecting you. Defining the important aspects of your life and having people know them is key to every relationship.
You can't assume that everyone will have the same priorities or goals even if they are in the same walk of life you are in. It is not about what others should or could be doing but what you have chosen to do. Who you have chosen to be. Establishing your values with others can help establish boundaries.
Communication. Honesty. Presenting your true self, how ever messed up, imperfect and beautiful you are. Hiding it will only cause you anguish and stress later. It is hard, knowing that you may lose friends or have judgement passed on you. But, I personally always feel better knowing that there is no confusion about how I feel or who I am. Being honest with ourselves and forgiving ourselves in this journey is perhaps the hardest part of life.
Know that we all make mistakes. We are all learning and exploring. You will find a different new part of you that you never knew existed, share it. Share the processes of discovery, of failure, of brilliance. And when you discover that a relationship no longer provides the joy and energy it once did it is okay to let it go. Some relationships are for a season. Some are for you to learn, or have a specific experience.
Easy Self Care Ideas for Relationships:
1. Have alone time
2. Schedule a play date
3. Set up boundaries and keep them
4. Positive physical touch
5. Write a letter to a person for closure, then burn or tear up the letter
6. Greet someone with pure excitement and joy
7. Compliment someone
8. Send a text or call to tell someone you are thinking of them
9. Ask for forgiveness and say you are sorry expecting nothing in return
10. Listen in a struggling relationship
Self care is a process. You cannot reenergize yourself in a day if you are completely depleted. It takes time and consistent attention to your needs. Do what YOU need for YOU!
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