It might sound trivial, but I bought myself some face moisturizer last week. I’ve been skipping using product on my face and, as a result, feeling “old” and worn-out. So I splurged and devoted some time and money to purchase something to enhance my sense of well-being. It might seem odd, but I notice that since I’ve been using this product, I feel in control and more lively.
Weird? Maybe not so much.
What I have discovered here is an element of self-care that I found missing AND that enhanced my overall feeling of well-being.
Just what is self-care?
A 2010 study defined self-care as “the set of activities in which one engages throughout life on a daily basis,” focusing on health, preventing illness, and managing mental health issues that arise. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27819888/)
How do you know it’s self-care?
In a 2021 study on self-care (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8488814/), researchers identified several outcomes of self-care, including: enhanced well-being and coping, improved quality of life, deepened sense of being. Keep these points in mind when you are seeking self-care
- Self-care improves mental health, self-esteem, self-worth, and optimism
- Self-care helps put value on ourselves – enough to make our health, well-being, and happiness the biggest priority
- When we don’t take care of ourselves, our overall health and well-being suffers as a consequence
Self-Indulgence or self-care?
An online shopping splurge at the end of a busy day for items you can’t afford or drinking a glass, or three, of wine to “calm down” are not self-care techniques.
While it may make you feel happy in the moment, ultimately these actions result in negative consequences and detract from well-being.
Self-care activities make you feel better long-term – and don’t cause “harm.”
Time to reframe your view of self-care?
If you’re someone who is constantly thinking of others, it might help to look at self-care in a different way.
Rather than thinking about self-care as something you’re doing just for yourself, envision it as what you do to help take care of others.
For some, a daily self-care isn’t realistic. Instead of putting more pressure on yourself, start to become aware of signs that you need a break and Institute small changes over time.
Incorporate these attributes into your routine:
- Make quality a priority. Quality food, ample rest, and intentional time will help you connect with friends, family, and ourselves to nourish, repair and restore body, mind, and spirit.
- Notice your thoughts. Challenge negative talk, fears and feelings of inadequacy.
- Be as nice to yourself as you are to others. We’re our harshest critics and relentless worst enemies.
- Say “no” more. Especially to requests to help out when running on empty or you don’t have time to take care of your needs.
- Stay connected to yourself. Engage in an activities that bring you joy – no matter how brief. Do things that bring joy and love.
- Move. Just 30 minutes of walking can help boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up – you can do 3 or more bouts of 10 minutes at a time. Don’t like to do cardio? Lift weights, following the same tips outlined here.
- Eat well. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy, mood and focus throughout the day. It might help to limit caffeine and excess sugars.
- Prioritize sleep. Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Blue light from devices and screens can make it harder to fall asleep, so reduce blue light exposure from your phone or computer before bedtime.
- Relax more. Explore meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these or other activities you enjoy.
- Express gratitude. Remind yourself of things for which you are grateful. Be specific.
- Connect. Reach out to your friends or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help.
The road to self-sacrifice is paved with good intentions. We sacrifice ourselves to meet deadlines, help others, and show others we love and care by going above and beyond – at a cost. We over-extend, over-promise, and exhaust ourselves – so much that we don’t even realize how depleted we are.
The solution? Begin quality self-care activities that sustain you, factoring your well-being first and foremost into your life.