The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers the simplest definition of self-care: “to care for oneself.” Commonly, when I have asked this question, people become defensive and list off a slew of barriers as to why they cannot engage in self-care: “My addiction took over.” “I am too stressed out.” “I struggle with anxiety and depression.” “I have too many health complications.” “My family keeps me too busy.” “I don’t have enough money.” “What is self-care?” “I am working two jobs, so I can’t.” “I can’t be selfish; I have other people to worry about.”
You certainly are not alone. As a social worker who researched mindfulness for several years, I have used these excuses too. What’s so interesting is that the reasons we think we cannot practice self-care are the very reasons to engage in self-care on a day-to-day basis. Self-care promotes and enhances sobriety, fosters self-love, increases self-esteem, boosts our immune systems, activates our parasympathetic nervous systems so we can rejuvenate and calm ourselves, promotes emotion regulation, increases happiness, increases insight into ourselves and our own needs, and allows us to be more productive human beings. These are a few of the countless benefits of practicing self-care.
Simple reflection, which is a form of self-care, increases our insight into what we need at any given moment. At times, life may feel mundane and routine, and other times, life seems to be ever-changing and ebbing and flowing at a fast pace. Our self-care needs will change from hour to hour and day to day. As life changes and emotions change, our needs change. Through mindful awareness and exploration, ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” Be sure to notice your emotional needs, spiritual needs, physical needs and any other needs, and begin to offer yourself as much as you can each day.
As you reflect on your emotional needs, self-care can be as simple as a five-minute meditation, a session with your therapist, an art class, an evening journal entry, a laugh or a cry. Your physical self-care may look like yoga, a morning walk, a gym routine, or dancing to your music while you clean your space. It may even mean cleaning to de-clutter and free up space in your mind and your heart. Your spiritual needs may be spending time in nature, breathing in the air, smelling the flowers, watching a sunset, making a happiness list and pursuing those sources of happiness, making your favorite tea, star gazing, and telling yourself you are strong, worthy, and capable.
Self-care can be a simple acknowledgement of gratitude. It can be a positive self-affirmation, telling yourself you are worthy when you feel the world is telling you that you aren’t. It can be understanding how you feel and permitting those emotions. The list is endless. It is unique to you and unique to every moment in every day.
So, whether you are tired, anxious, experiencing cravings, too busy, or lacking resources, I encourage you to engage in a self-care regimen. Consider new and ongoing ways to care for yourself. Embrace and explore the relationship you have with yourself every day. Create the life that you want and find your own unique happiness!