The concept of self-care appears to be self-explanatory given the definition is in its name. It just means taking care of ourselves, doesn't it? It should be easy to figure out how to practice self-care; at least it seems so in an abstract sense. But, figuring out how to practically incorporate self-care can be about as clear as mud.
To begin to understand your own self-care needs, think about times in the past when you have felt at peace or calm. Maybe it was when you were young working on a car with your grandpa. It could have been last week planting flowers in the garden. Or, you may feel this way each morning, walking your dog around the block. To exercise self-care, engage in the activities that help you feel relaxed. Common self-care practices can include reading, going for a walk, spending time with loved ones, napping, and watching your favorite movie.
Self-care will look different for me than it does for you. There is no one way, no right way, to practice self-care. We all have different personalities, different talents, and different interests. Running is one of my hobbies I utilize as self-care. To some, if they were to run, it could be a source of stress. Playing Pokemon and Minecraft are common self-care practices for my elementary school age boys to utilize outside of counseling sessions. As an adult woman, I do not plan to incorporate these games into my self-care routine. When we practice self-care, it is a celebration of what makes us unique and what matters to us.
It is important to be mindful of the amount of time you have to spend on a self-care activity. Self-care is meant to be a way to ease the impact of stress and tension in our lives, not add to it. On Friday, between responsibilities of work and family, planning ahead to get a full eight hours of sleep may be your most realistic and needed form of self-care. Come Saturday, you may be able to take a full afternoon to meet a friend while your spouse cares for your children.
Many of my clients tell me they feel guilty when they practice self-care. They most commonly say they feel selfish and unproductive. I get it because this happens to me, too. It is important to me that I am a reliable family member, friend, and employee. I find a sense of pride and satisfaction in completing my daily tasks to the best of my abilities. However, I am finding that in order to live true to these values, it means taking the time to give myself the rest I need. Self-care and accomplishment are not in competition with one another. They work together to live a life of balance and authenticity.
I am slowly learning that my own needs are important. When I give to myself by practicing self-care, I am more capable of giving to others and living in a way that is meaningful to me.