This month has found me doing a lot of thinking (and a bit of writing) about self-care. Because when we’re stressed and things go off the rails (I’m talking to you, 2020! I mean, come ON!), it’s the first thing we tend to put on the back burner.
Here’s the crazy thing: Just thinking about how to take care of ourselves can add even more to our to-do list and, by extension, to our stress levels. At least that’s what happens to me. So let’s take a deep breath and dive into what self-care means, why we need it and how to get started/back on track.
Self-Care: A(n attempted) definition
Self-care is a word you hear a LOT. But what does it actually mean? There are a many definitions out there, but this definition and this one really make sense to me: “something that refuels you, rather than takes away from you“.
Or “an emphasis on flourishing rather than just surviving“.
Why you need it
Simply put, because we all do. You wouldn’t let your phone’s battery go dead, but what about recharging your own batteries? You can’t run without a charge, and our “batteries” need more fuel than we think.
If you’re like me and tend to feel guilty for taking time JUST for yourself, you need it even more. Look at what and how much you’re doing. If you were your own best friend, what would you tell yourself? Probably “you need a break!”.
The research is clear: self-care helps you maintain your mental health, avoid burnout, and offsets the negative effects of stress. (Which, by the way, can cause much more than a stress headache. Did you know constant stress without relief can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and anxiety? It can also lead you to make bad decisions, ruin your relationships, and – if that’s still not enough to convince you it’s a bad thing – help pack on the pounds (hello cortisol!).
I don’t know about you, but those are all things I’d like to avoid!
How to do it
Let’s focus on the principles first:
- Move (well and often)
- Eat (well and regularly)
- Sleep (deeply and long enough)
- Be social (spend quality time with friends and/or family)
- Take breaks/time off from work (daily + 1 day/week)
- Unplug from technology periodically
Exactly how you do that will depend on you and your circumstances. Introverts will often enjoy different things than extroverts. If you have small children, you will want to schedule your personal time when they are asleep or being taken care of by someone else, etc.
Remember, the things you choose to do during that time should NOURISH AND SUSTAIN YOU. So don’t use it for stuff you absolutely hate. (If you loathe running, don’t use your “me time” for that.)
Need some ideas? Here are my (totally) personal favorites:
- Taking a nap – yep, this one is right at the top of the list when I need it!
- Being in nature – gentle hikes in the mountains, sitting on the back porch listening to the birds
- Working in the garden – nothing compares to getting my hands dirty in order to get out of my head
- Reading – (nothing I *have to* or *should* read – I’m currently into birds, but also love good fiction and non-fiction)
- Baking bread – something about the kneading and the process of making sourdough relaxes me
- Roasting coffee – I picked this up years ago, and love sitting on the back porch, letting my thoughts wander and smelling the coffee roasting
- Looking up into the sky and letting my thoughts wander
- Chatting with friends over coffee or a beer (I’m an IPA-and-wine sort of person)
- Calling my family (they live far away)
- Traveling and exploring new places
- Listening to radio programs or podcasts about interesting people and ideas
- Going for a run – at almost 50, I’m enjoying running for the first time in my life – 3 miles and my head is clear!
- Moving with others – I just love the feeling of connectedness that gives me*
Try this: Sit down in a comfy spot, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and take a few moments to breathe. Take 5 minutes and write down the things that make you happy. Don’t self-edit – just let it flow. That’s a great place to start.
Now look at the week ahead. When can you fit those things in? Pick realistic times and things you don’t have to drive across town to get to – it will only stress you out more. (Trust me on this!)
Finally, schedule it into your week. Make it non-negotiable. (I like to use a large day planner, my current favorite is this one, but any kind will do).
If you want to take it a step further, take another 5 minutes and write down what takes away from your happiness. See if you can do less of those things. (Be specific. If your work makes you unhappy, ask yourself what aspect of it makes you unhappy. See if you can change that part. After all, most of us do have to work for a living!)
The bottom line is: Observe what makes you feel good and recharges you – and what doesn’t. And then go from there.
Take good care of yourself!
Eva @ Sunroom Pilates
PS If you want to schedule more movement into your week that doesn’t feel like a chore, click here to plan out your Pilates classes for the week – or maybe even the month. They’re short, sweet, come-as-you-are and sure to brighten your day!