What Does Self-Care Look Like?
In our previous post, we briefly talked about how you can identify if you're suffering from self-neglect. We also talked about the benefits of regular self-care. That brings us to that burning question, what does self-care actually look like? Self-care for one person may not look the same for the next. So it really depends on you and your personal needs. First let's talk about three aspects of self-care.
Three Aspects of Self-Care
In life, there are a lot of moving parts that help determine our well-being physically, mentally, and emotionally. When it comes to self-care, these are the three aspects* we will focus on (see footnote). So when we are trying to decide what steps to take to improve our well-being, these are the facets we want to keep in mind. One thing to remember, is that these different aspects are interconnected. So as you begin working on just one of the aspects, the other two can seamlessly follow along. Now, let's talk about what each type of self-care could look like for an individual.
The physical aspect is probably the most straightforward, yet it is one that people neglect often. Physical self-care includes:
- Exercising on a consistent basis
- Getting adequate sleep
- Making healthy food choices
- Practicing good hygiene
You might look at that list and think, "Well duh, I knew that". While these are not new concepts, they are crucial if we want to feel our best. Some may feel that they do not have enough time to exercise and meal prep. Some have so much work or odd schedules that make it difficult to get a good night's rest. Physical self-care takes some prioritizing and work. And let's face it, when you're already lacking motivation and energy, the last thing you want is more work to do. However, think about it like this. If you don't make time to take care of your body while you're healthy, your body will force you to take care of it when it is ill. Yes it takes work, but this is meaningful work that will help build a better you.
Not to be confused with emotional self-care, mental self-care is focused on taking care of the way you think. As we learned early in our journey to wellness, the mind has a lot of power over the way our bodies feel. For example, thoughts of anxiety can impact your stomach and digestive system. So one way to practice mental self-care is by bringing awareness to our thoughts and keeping them in check. Here are some ways we can do that:
- Spend time in nature to do deep thinking. Ask yourself, "Why am I thinking this way?", "Am I being overly pessimistic?" Observe nature and the animals and notice how peaceful nature can be and think about ways you can imitate that peace in your life.
- Take deep breaths and practice mindfulness. Deep breathing has benefits for our physical, mental and emotional health. Mindfulness means to bring awareness to your present moment and accepting the way things are. Take a moment to just be still, be present, and live. Plants and trees can do it, you can too!
- Create an "anxiety journal" full of the things you worry about. Once you write it all out, close the journal and put it out of sight, out of mind. Return to the journal after some time and take note of your expectations vs reality. Often times, we overthink and assume situations will turn out worse than they actually do.
While mental self-care focuses on what you think, emotional self-care is all about how you feel inside. It is closely linked with our mental health so as we boost ourselves in this aspect, it will have a direct correlation with our mental well-being. Thankfully, some of the same things we would do with mental self-care can apply to emotional as well (phew, less things to learn!). So let's get our emotions under control.
- Pour your feelings out even if that means crying. It never does any good to let things build up in us until we feel like we're going to explode. Whether we are angry, sad, depressed, we have to acknowledge it and get those feelings out in a healthy way. Sing aloud in the shower or in the car. Dance like nobody is watching. Beat your pillow up if you have to. Get those feelings out!
- Spend time in nature or a quiet space to do an emotional assessment. Are you feeling upset? Why? Are you feeling sad? Why? Sometimes we have been feeling down for so long, we can't even remember what originally caused our emotional pain. However, if someone hurt us personally, it can be hard to move on. But this is what one person said regarding resentment, "Resentment is like drinking poison, and hoping the other person gets sick from it." If we have been wronged by somebody, it's natural to wish for them to be punished. Still, we need to be careful that we don't end up indirectly punishing ourselves by staying upset over a situation.
- Express gratitude for all the things that you've been given. Life may not be exactly how you pictured it to be, but there are plenty of things to be thankful for. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take some deep breaths and be thankful for the gift of life. Living is such a wonderful privilege that can easily be taken for granted when we face daily struggles. Isn't it true that as soon as you get sick, you long for the day when you're healthy again? So just take a moment and be thankful for the life you have right now.
- Be thankful for the sun and the rain. Without these 2 things, you wouldn't have food to eat or water to drink. Think of how lovely the sun feels on a warm day at the beach. Think of how peacefully you sleep on a rainy day. And how much did you have to pay for these things? Exactly, be thankful.
- Finally, be thankful for your 5 senses. Some people are not born with all 5 or lose one sense over time. Imagine a life without bright colors, varieties of sounds, the plethora of tastes, numerous textures, and pleasing aromas. Do activities that engage all of your senses and embrace them.
And there you have it! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to self-care. Right now you may be wondering, okay this is great, but where do I even start? That will be the main topic in our next post where we will discuss setting reasonable self-care goals you can get started on immediately. Stay tuned!
*Footnote: I would like to note that while there are such things as spiritual, social, and sensory self-care, I will not be discussing those in my blog at this time.