5 Great Tips on Where to Start with Self-Care
Recently, self-care has become a buzzword on the Internet. Everywhere you look, someone is talking about their self-care routine and how you can do it too. When you think of self-care, what comes to mind? Do you think of a spa day or a trip with your buddies to go fishing? A lot of times, we think that self-care must be glamorous or luxurious. Self-care is often looked at as something that we have to enjoy, and it has to be pleasurable.
Recently Elyse Myers, a well-known mental health advocate on TikTok, posted a video about the importance of self-care and how it doesn’t always have to feel good. She points out that self-care is an act of caring for yourself. This means doing things we don’t always want to do but we know we should do to make ourselves feel better in the long run. She shares that some of her self-care tasks are washing her hair and eating a good meal because these are things that she knows, over time, make her feel better mentally.
Self-care does not have to be luxurious, glamorous or fun. Self-care can be all these things, but it can also be in the everyday mundane things that make our life run and function to the best of its ability. Acknowledging that self-care can be daily tasks alleviates the pressure that we put on self-care to be exuberant or extravagant. When we look at self-care on a smaller scale of daily tasks, it also helps to make self-care more attainable. Self-care doesn’t have to be regulated to the weekend or vacations. It could be an everyday task to help you feel better.
I often share with patients in clinic that self-care can be daily tasks. It often surprises them when I talk about self-care in sleeping practices or in our nutrition and exercise routines. Things like doing your hair, eating a good breakfast or making the bed seem like things everyone does and aren’t “self-care,” but in reality, these are acts of caring for yourself. Even if we make self-care tasks smaller, it doesn’t make them easy. All types of self-care come with challenges. So, I wanted to share some of the challenges and tips I give my patients to help increase self-care practices!
How to overcome 5 challenges of incorporating self-care into your routine
Challenge #1 – Viewing it as “selfish.”
Tip – One of the most common challenges I hear is that people view self-care as “selfish” or that people will view themselves as “selfish” if they participate in self-care. It is a long-held belief that we should care for others before ourselves. In recent years, this belief has started to shift, and we hear more about “filling your own cup” to help others. As with anything in life, self-care is about balance. Taking care of yourself is important, but you don’t want to do it at the cost of all your relationships. You wouldn’t go to the spa every day for weeks and not go to work. But you shouldn’t also work and never take vacation. When thinking about it being selfish, remind yourself that self-care is about balance. It is the balance between the larger and smaller self-care tasks. And, most importantly, when you are taken care of, you can take care of others!
Challenge #2 – Lack of motivation or desire
Tip – This one is always tricking. I often go back to setting up small routines and then building on those with other tasks. Set a small routine for yourself, and start adding small daily tasks to it every couple of days. Let’s say you want to start dressing nicer for work, but you often snooze your alarm and wake up rushed in the morning. A small routine could be to set out your outfit the night before. It can also be helpful to attach new desired tasks to an already existing routine. Let’s say you want to make your bed every day. You already have the established routine of brushing your teeth, so you add in putting the pillows on the bed. After a couple of days of doing that, maybe you fold the blankets, and so on. Think of adding small tasks to a routine instead of larger tasks because it makes it more likely that we will follow through. Soon you will be brushing your teeth, making the bed, eating breakfast and journaling before work!
Challenge #3 – Lack of resources (time, money)
Tip – This is often a barrier to self-care when we think of it as being “glamourous.” I would love to get massages every day, but I don’t have $100 extra a day to spend on them. I tell patients to think of self-care with these three categories in mind; money, time and people needed. Think of a Yelp review; it will have the $$$$ to indicate how much a restaurant costs. Use this same method for self-care. Some tasks, like reading a book or taking a bath, might be low on money, time and people need scales. But a girl’s trip is obviously high in all those categories. You want a little in each of these categories. This allows you to pull from a category, depending on the number of resources that you have available to you. If you are short on time, a phone call to a friend might be helpful. Have more time, take a nap or go for a walk. It can also be helpful to think of self-care pillars (personal, professional, spiritual, physical, mental, etc.) and create individual self-care tasks for each of them with the above categories in mind.
Challenge #4 – “My life isn’t that bad” or “other people have it worse.”
Tip – Therapy spaces, at times, are plagued by “toxic gratitude.” This is the concept that we try to make everything positive. In reality, bad things happen. I often tell patients to be mindful when they are having thoughts of “it could be worse” because they are invalidating their experience. Just because someone else has it “worse” than you doesn’t mean you, too, aren’t struggling. Both things can exist at the same time and feel uncomfortable. Just because your life isn’t as bad as someone else doesn’t mean that you can’t, or shouldn’t, care for yourself. Remember that self-care doesn’t have to be a luxury. It can be simple things. Reading a book, going for a walk, talking to a friend. These things seem small but do wonders for your mental health and overall well-being!
Challenge #5 – “I can’t fit it into my schedule.”
Tip – This is my favorite! I call it like I see it and often tell patients that it’s because they don’t value taking care of themselves. I know it might sting, but it’s the truth! You don’t view it as essential. Because we view self-care as a luxury, we tell ourselves that we can’t do it because we don’t have the time. We think self-care must be very time intensive, so we often put it off because other things are a priority. But I am here to tell you caring for yourself is A MAJOR priority! Take the luxury out of self-care, and it makes it easier to fit into the schedule. Depending on your life and how busy you are, you might have to think about using “Tip 3” here. If you have children, soccer practice, board meeting and dinner, you are probably short on time. But why not take some time to find a good audiobook or podcast to listen to while you are driving? Something that is interesting to you and brings you a little slice of happiness. This is what I mean by not “a luxury;” it doesn’t have to be a night out or going to the movies (although those certain can be tasks, too!). Even small things can be helpful for our mood and overall well-being. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into thinking that self-care must be bigger than it has to be!
6 self-care strategies guaranteed to help you recharge
Here are six quick ways you can incorporate some self-care into your daily life.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important factors of our overall health and wellness. And getting enough of it is crucial to ensuring key components of our health are optimized. Sleep is the time our bodies need to heal and replenish themselves for the next day, and most of us need seven to eight hours of it per night. Think of sleep as a self-care mechanism, one that’s critical to your emotional and physical health.
2. Head Outside
Just 20 minutes of Mother Nature can significantly lower stress hormone levels. Visit your nearest park for a stroll. Or just enjoy sitting on your front porch or in your backyard.
3. Boost Your Serotonin with Exercise
Exercising helps us feel energized while also relieving stress. Find a routine you love and stick with it. In our new normal, that might mean joining an online exercise class and working out at home. On days when even the thought of exercise sounds too exhausting, take a casual walk with your dog or a loved one.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness is a simple way to reset when you’re in the middle of a marathon meeting day or are feeling like you’re constantly on the go without any breaks. To reduce stress, try taking a few minutes to breathe, focus and be present in the moment.
5. Get Some “Me” Time
Often, we feel “on” when around other people, whether that’s at our job, with our families or our friends. Flying solo gives us the guilt-free time we need to recharge, even if it’s only for a few minutes. For a busy parent with children, “me” time might mean five minutes locked in the laundry room alone or spending an afternoon doing a favorite activity. For an introvert, it may be cuddling up on the sofa and reading a book. Whatever it is, take the time to take care of yourself. You deserve it.
6. Focus on Prevention
One way to take care of yourself is to stay healthy through prevention. You can prevent sickness through lifestyle choices, such as a healthy diet and exercise. You can also make prevention a priority by maintaining your health screenings and participating in proactive programs like Ochsner’s Concierge Health, a new program centered around a holistic approach to health and wellness. In addition to having a dedicated concierge physician, you also get access to a full team of health and wellness clinicians, including dietitians, health coaches and exercise physiologists, that will serve as partners in your health and wellness journey.
It’s important to remember that self-care is the act of caring for yourself. You are the only person that is going to do it; therefore, we must make it a priority. Self-care is essential to healthy well-being. Trust me when I say if you put it off, it will come back to get you in the end. Take the time now to care for yourself!
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