Let’s break up!
As a counselor, I advocate for self-care and stress management every chance I get. Self-care is the most important thing you can do for yourself. The definition is simple. It essentially means taking good care of yourself. If this concept is simple, then why is it not easy? We are so busy working, going to school, or taking care of others that we do not make self-care a priority. In addition, the thought of carving out time to do something for ourselves can seem a bit selfish. What I tell my clients is, “selfish is not a bad word”. And just like most things, it is okay to be selfish in moderation.
Self-care can be taking care of your basic physical needs. This includes eating well, exercising, and going to the doctor regularly. For some, these basic needs are not being met. Unfortunately, we do not always make time for the things that are most important to our health. We live in a fast food society, where it is much easier to drive through rather than take the time to plan and cook a meal. In American culture, most people work long hours and sometimes do not even take a break for lunch. However, just taking 15 minutes out of your day to play music, stretch, or go outside can be beneficial.
Another form of self-care is mental and emotional care of ourselves. There is a mental health illness known as “functional depression”. Ultimately, people are able to go to work and school and for the most part handle their daily lives. However, they are still dealing with depressive symptoms, such as sadness, lack of motivation, and isolation and may not be able to identify why. The damaging side of functional depression is that people who suffer from it are not seeking help and others around them do not notice the signs. It is important to talk to someone about how you are feeling and understand that you do not have to cope with it alone.
Are we taking care of our spirit and soul? How often do we say, “I’ll go to church next Sunday” or “I am going to meditate every morning” but do not follow through with it? Taking good care of ourselves, spiritually, can offer peace, guidance, and comfort. Thinking positively and engaging in mindfulness activities can soothe the head, heart, and body.
Take care of your finances. Pay your bills on time, set aside emergency funds, grow your savings and retirement accounts, and put money away for fun things. Paying bills on time and planning for the future reduces anxiety and gives us a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of being responsible. If you are able to do so, it is important to set aside funds to take care of yourself in the future and also a little fun money to take care of yourself now.
We live in a demanding and challenging world. We cannot always control what happens around us but we can pay more attention to what is going on inside of us. Taking the time to reduce our stress is so important in living a healthy life. Here are some small ways to incorporate self-care into your life:
• Go to bed on time
• Add some healthy foods into your diet
• Take a walk
• Take a lunch break
• Have fun (play a game, spend time with friends, sing in the shower)
• Start a travel fund (put money away every pay check and then treat yourself to a trip)
• Silence your phone for 30 minutes (quiet the chaos and enjoy yourself, rather than always being available for others)
• Relax your body (take a deep breath, stretch, lower your shoulders)
• Surround yourself with positivity (positive people, words and images)
• Seek help if you are feeling down or anxious (talk to your pastor/spiritual leader, mental health provider or primary care doctor)