The focus: For many of us, self-care is something that ends up on the back burner, if we leave room for it at all.
The opportunity: Effective self-care is essential to reducing daily stress and to living a better, healthier life.
The solution: Use this simple 6-step plan to make self-care work for you, once and for all.
In our busyness and the demands of daily life, we may think that self-care is a luxury we just don't have time for. The truth is, we're all under epidemic levels of stress and self-care is one of the most effective, empowering, and sane ways you can reduce stress, improve your health, and be more fulfilled in all areas of your life.
So, why don't we DO it? There may be as many reasons as there are people on the planet, but there are a few reasons that generally apply to a majority of us. And there's something you can do about those. Before we dive in though, let's start with a definition.
I've found literally dozens of definitions of self-care while researching for this topic, and I'm going to use two of them that I find particularly useful. The first one is short and sweet:
Self-care is taking responsibility for your own health and well-being in all areas of your life.
Pretty simple right? Simple yes, easy no! First off, this says that it's up to you - and nobody else - to take care of yourself. No one can do it for you. You're the only one who can ultimately take responsibility for your own health and well-being. Second, this definition says that you need to do this in every area of your life. Though this is all absolutely true, it can seem like a pretty tall order when stated like this. Let's look at another definition that I feel is more specific and supportive. Try this:
Self-care is an active and powerful choice to engage in the activities that are required to gain or maintain an optimal level of overall health, including the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social
domains of life.
Notice some differences? I like how this definition starts off with the words "self-care is an active and powerful choice." You may already be feeling better about your willingness to at least THINK about committing to taking charge of your own health and well-being. The reason why is that when presented as a powerful choice you can actively make, self-care can seem less daunting, more doable, and even (at least a little) inspirational. If you currently have a negative view of self-care, reframing your view in this way can give you the extra oomph you need to move towards a positive choice to commit.
And the choice you're committing to is "to engage in the activities that are required to gain or maintain an optimal level of overall health." When you engage in something, you are typically all in. You are consciously connected with the choice you are making at both an intellectual and emotional level. Head and heart come together, which is absolutely necessary in order to stay motivated for any length of time. Deep down, you likely already know that activities related to good self-care are "required," but here again you're given another choice: "to gain or maintain an optimal level of overall health."
To me, this definition isn't saying that you have to improve or else! Instead, it says that you can either gain OR maintain an optimal level of health. The goal is optimal health in all areas of life, not a never-ending quest for the perfect body, relationship, spirituality, etc. What optimal health means to you can be a matter of interpretation. You're not after perfection. The quest for perfection is a path to self-criticism and disappointment. Instead, as they say in 12-step meetings, strive for progress, not perfection.
What optimal health means to you can be a matter of interpretation. You're not after perfection. The quest for perfection is a path to self-criticism and disappointment.
4 Reasons We Don't Do It
TOO BUSY or TIRED
In our society, busy is the norm. The expectation is that if you're not busy, then you're not measuring up. If you're not regularly tired and stressed from being busy, then you're not doing your part to be productive. In essence, if you're not busy, you're not normal. You may have had "busy battles" with friends and family to prove to each other just how busy you are. We tend to wear our busyness like badges of honor, and whoever has the most busyness wins. Even more challenging is when we tie the social expectation to stay busy with our own sense of self-worth. The trap here is that you're never busy enough to feel good about yourself for long because there is always something else that needs to be done. Self-care is difficult to even consider if you strongly believe that staying busy is more important than your overall health and well-being.
You might think that it's just plain selfish to take time for yourself. Care givers are especially vulnerable to this pitfall. With so many other people to take care of, isn't it a waste of time to indulge in self-care? No, of course not! Like the old quote goes, "Just like on a plane, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before trying to help others." When you are not at your personal best physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially, you can not give your best to others. Chronic stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout are common for helpers who can not effectively prioritize self-care.
Just like on a plane, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before trying to help others.
To some, self-care can seem like a sign of weakness instead of the strength that it is. Not taking care of yourself over the long run means that others will do it FOR you instead, and sooner rather than later - in the form of doctors, hospitals, family members, and the list goes on and on.... If you value your strength and independence, take care of yourself starting now. And if your understanding of self-care is all rainbows and lollipops, you've got the wrong idea. Remember, self-care is all about optimal health, and that's anything but soft.
Others believe that it will never happen to them. The heart attack, the stroke, the injury, the spiritual crisis, the nervous breakdown, etc. We've all heard stories of those who never thought it would happen to them either. Don't fool yourself by thinking it's too soon to worry about self-care. This is the perfect time to get started. Why leave your health and well-being to chance when you could do something about it right now?
Ok, no more excuses. Let's do this.
Create Your Own 6-Step Self-Care Plan
Here are 6 simple steps to help make self-care work for you, once and for all.
1.) First, make a commitment to take responsibility for your own self-care. No one can do this for you. You are worth it!
My commitment is to:_________________________________________________________________________________.
2.) Next, take action. Prioritize the top 1-3 domains of your life (listed in the chart below) you want to focus on first. (Ex. physical, social, emotional)
My top 1-3 domains of life are:_______________________________________________________________________.
3.) Get specific. Exactly how do you want to improve your self-care in each area? List 1-3 things you will do in each domain.
The 1-3 things I will do in each domain are:
4.) Schedule it. Put these on your calendar, mobile device, bathroom mirror, office desk, work station, etc. SCHEDULE IT.
I have scheduled each of my specific goals. __YES __NO (If you selected "no," repeat step #4.)
5.) Tell somebody. Let friends, family, and co-workers know what you're doing and why it's important to you. Ask for support!
I have told somebody about my important self-care goals. __YES __NO ("Yes" is required.)
6.) Do it. Follow your plan and treat yourself to a healthier, more fulfilling life. Get an accountability buddy and stick to it. Celebrate your successes, and be honest about your setbacks. You can do it!
I am following my plan and have an accountability buddy. __YES __ NO (Say "yes"to your life!)
The Domains of Life
Simple definitions of each of the domains of life.
PHYSICAL: anything having to do with the body, including physical exercise and nutrition.
MENTAL: anything having to do with the mind.
EMOTIONAL: anything having to do with the feelings and emotions.
SPIRITUAL: anything having to do with something greater than ourselves alone.
SOCIAL: anything having to do with the people we are connected to, including friends, family, and co-workers.
For more great tips and insights, listen to my Blog Talk Radio interview with host Sharissa Sebastian.
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