Self-care has become the “It” word of the decade. There are thousands upon thousands of books available that promote self-care. Self-care Sundays have become ubiquitous. And you cannot go onto social media without being bombarded by self-care memes. But what is self-care?
What is self-care?
Wikipedia says “In health care, self-care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. Some place self-care on a continuum with health care providers at the opposite end to self-care while others see it in a complex multidimensional construct”.
Now that’s a mouthful. But it does point to the fact that self-care is not about being self-indulgent--like some people believe—and it is certainly not selfish. Rather, it is an important part of ensuring we take care of our mental, emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. This means different things to different people but one thing is clear. Self-care is an important step in ensuring our over-all physical health as well as our mental health. So whatever it means to you, ensure you take the time for self-care.
As a woman in midlife I recognize that many of us have put our well-being last while taking care of everyone, and everything else in our lives. Our children, our partner, our parents, our jobs have taken priority for most of our lives. But the old adage “you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first” certainly applies here. So that is why one of my favorite definitions of self-care comes from Maria Baratta Ph.D. in Psychology Today. She states “self-care in essence is the mindful taking of time to pay attention to you, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you”. So give yourself permission to finally find the time to put yourself first and your family will most certainly benefit.
How can we incorporate self-care into our lives daily?
Self-care means something different to everyone. What benefits you, both physically and emotionally, may be different than what benefits me. So deciding on a self-care plan for you is a personal decision. To get you started, here are 7 suggestions for your self-care journey. It doesn’t matter which of these you incorporate into your own life. What matters is that you take the time to take care of yourself. Trust me, if you are consistent, you will reap the benefits.
1. Meditation—I will be honest with you. I have not been able to start a meditation practice and stick to it long enough to benefit, though I have tried. But people who practice regularly swear by the calming, grounding and energizing effects it provides. So it is always one of the first things I recommend to anyone dealing with a lot of stress in their lives.
2. Sleep—So many medical studies have concluded that proper sleep is an incredibly important factor for good health. Yet, as we get older, many of us find it harder and harder to get a good night’s sleep. Try keeping your room cool to promote sleep. Make sure you have complete darkness, with no electronics for at least an hour prior to going to sleep. A warm, not hot, Epsom salt bath can also help. Find what works for you and stick to that routine.
3. Eat for Energy—I love food so I will not tell you not to eat dessert. And I will not tell you not to indulge in something you love on occasion. In this case, moderation is key. I recommend the 80/20 rule. Ensure you feed your body wholesome food full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins at least 80% of the time, then go ahead and indulge a little. But your body does need proper fuel to operate at an optimum level.
4. Learn to Say No—Be honest with yourself. Do you often say yes to things you really don’t want to do? Are these things physically and emotionally draining? We all do it because we don’t want to disappoint. Before you say yes, ask yourself what it will cost you (emotionally, physically, mentally) to say yes.
5. Get Physical—Physical activity is so important as the neurotransmitters released (endorphin, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin) are crucial in improving mood and combatting depression. The good news is you don’t have to be a gym rat to reap the benefits. Try a 20 minute walk daily and see how much better it will make you feel.
6. Listen to Music—What genre of music do you like? Is it classical, pop, rock, country? It really doesn’t matter. Choose what makes you happy and let it soothe your soul. And if it gets you dancing, even better. It’s another great way to get physical.
7. Read a Book—It could be a self-help book to help you on your journey. Or it could be a novel that whisks you away to a whole new world. Either way, reading means taking time to yourself, for yourself. And nothing beats that.
Now do you have self-care routines not listed here that you have found beneficial? Share them with us in the comments below.