Does self-care seem like something you don’t have time for? I’ve got some tips for you here on what self-care really means and how to practice it, even when you’re short on time.
Self-care seems to be having it’s the moment these days, but there is often a lot of misinformation flying around about what self-care really is. I’ve seen it become a marketing tactic for spas and beauty products as well as a reason one should overspend or indulge and not feel guilty about it. I am all for enjoying spa days, beauty care and appropriate indulgence; but all this does not necessarily mean they are acts of self-care.
Let’s first dive a little deeper into what self-care is and what it isn’t.
As I sit here and reflect, I believe learning to care for myself may have created the most profound shifts in my entire well-being, which is probably why it’s become a top priority in my life and something I love sharing about! It is the foundation for all the pillars of health I teach; emotional well-being, spiritual growth, care of our physical bodies, and nutrition.
I used to neglect all these areas in my life and it showed. I had chronic migraines, digestive issues, chronic back pain, acne, anxiety, exhaustion, depression and much more. I was outwardly successful, but failing miserably when it came to my health and caring for myself. In fact, I used to be a first-grade teacher, I took great care of those kids, ensuring to the best of my ability that they felt safe, nurtured and cared for during their time with me. The thing was I couldn’t do the same for myself, I felt I needed to be strong, push through and achieve- I simply was too busy and didn’t have time for myself. However, my body eventually revolted with illness, stress, and pain; so I finally had to listen and have since learned to take better care of myself.
My personal definition that I subscribe to when talking about self-care is listening to your body, your mind, and your heart. Supporting yourself in what it is that you need to be at your best from a place of love.
Self-care, when it’s done right, doesn’t need to be an “extra” task to do each day and can often mean you’re actually doing less.
Here are 5 simple, yet powerful ways to integrate self-care into your day.
1. Quieting the noise and slowing down- We live in a fast-paced world and it’s so easy to get caught up in the noise. We have the ability to know what’s happening on the other side of the world in real-time, to communicate with anyone anywhere at any time; but do we really need to?
Self-care is checking in with ourselves and how the noise really makes us feel, is it contributing to our well being or creating more anxiety in our lives. Consider this an experiment, becoming aware of what outside noise is in your life and how it is impacting you. For some this may be experimenting with turning off news notifications, selecting designated times to check email, being deliberate with time spent on social media, turning off the radio or podcasts in the car and just enjoying the quiet for a time period.
I’ve found that even when I’m standing in line or sitting in a waiting area, rather than reaching for my phone (like I used to) just giving myself those short minutes to sit, do nothing, breathe, can be a great opportunity to find some moments of calm in an otherwise busy day. Remember self-care is about listening to what you need and responding in a loving and kind way.
2. Eating more mindfully- Nutrition is a foundational pillar for good health. How and what we eat our both important considerations for optimizing our nutrition. When it comes to our food, we want to take time to quiet the outward noise and tune inward, doing so allows us to listen to our body’s nutritional needs so that we are fueling with the right amounts and kinds of food. When we are able to find calm during our meals, our bodies are better able to digest our food from this state of being. This act alone has the power to improve your digestion and overall health. How and what we fuel our bodies with is a choice in how we care for ourselves.
3. Check-in with how your body feels- As we turn off the noise, it becomes easier to start listening to our bodies and what they are in need of. This is where it can also get fun! When you tune into your body throughout the day, notice how it feels. Do you need more movement or less? If you need more, where can you take the stairs instead, get some extra steps, take a walk outside? If you are in need of rest, can you opt to take some things off your list and go to bed earlier? Take an Epsom salt bath in lieu of showering? Are you in need of physical touch? A heating pad or hot water bottle on some sore muscles? The list can go on because this is about what your body needs, make it simple as you can, honor what you need and challenge yourself to ask for what you need when necessary. If time becomes an issue in caring for your body, take inventory where you may be able to reprioritize your time or get creative with how you are using your time. Maybe that means doing more small movement exercises or stretches throughout your day or opting out of some time on the couch for more time in your bed. The more you begin to prioritize self-care the easier it will become to integrate it in and opt-out of things that don’t support your self-care.
When we are tuning into how our bodies feel and giving them the proper care they need. When our bodies are in rest, our immune systems are able to fully function. Providing the potential to ward off illnesses as well as resting may prevent aches and pains from setting in by relieving additional stress in the body and releasing muscle tension.
4. Say no more often- The word no has incredible power behind it, particularly when we are using it to empower ourselves. As a recovering people-pleaser and a do-er, I used to take on waaaay to many unnecessary tasks in my life to keep myself occupied, to feel valued and appreciated. Saying yes to all these things also left me run down, exhausted, short on time and stressed out. Does this sound like you at all? Where in your life could you be saying no more? Are there people, opportunities, committees, that you are saying yes to, that you really want to say no to. Notice what is draining you rather than filling you up. While there may be some things you just can’t say no to for whatever reason, there are likely at least one or two things in your life that you could start taking off your plate.
Learning to say no to what exhausts you or adds stress in your life is self-care. The goal is to take care of yourself so you are staying at your best mentally, emotionally and physically.
5. Ask for what you need- This has been and continues to be the most challenging for myself. As someone who was raised to be independent and self-sufficient, asking for what I need can feel like I’m weak, that I can’t take care of myself. The truth is it’s okay to ask for our needs and those who love and care for us will respect us for doing so. This could be as simple as asking for a hug. Asking for help in lifting something, so you don’t hurt yourself. It could be asking for help on a project that you just don’t have time for. Calling someone to ask for emotional support. The list could go on as you are the one who knows what you need. And although it seems like partners, co-workers, friends and family members should be able to read our minds, they can’t. They don’t know what we need if we don’t ask them. In order to practice self-care, we have to be willing to ask for what we need from others.
Learning to listen to our bodies and our emotional needs takes practice and is something that continues to evolve with attention, acceptance, and care. Wherever you are on your journey, be gentle and kind to yourself. Begin where you can and move forward with love and care.