Self-care is something that is frequently discussed in therapy. Most people are not very good at recognizing and taking care of their needs. As a result, I often assign some type of self-care as homework for my clients.
Recently, in a group I facilitate, I assigned it as homework for the group. As I met with clients individually through the week I asked how their homework was going. Well, it was no surprise that most were having difficulty following through. I guess it’s a good thing there was no test at then end ;-). One person even acknowledged going home and looking self-care up online because she wasn’t sure what it really meant.
When we think of self-care we tend to think it needs to be something big…a vacation, a day to ourselves with no responsibilities, or some times something that might only take an hour or two like a massage, a long bath, etc. However, most of these things need to be planned ahead. Which is why I still haven’t gotten the massage I’ve been thinking about for 2 weeks.
So I thought I would share some tips & ideas for self-care you may not have thought of as self-care previously in case you could use a little reminder too. Most of which take little time, but can make a big impact when practiced regularly.
~Gratitude-finding things about yourself. Whether identifying something about your personality, your accomplishments, or risks you’ve taken, it can remind you that you are worthy of self-care.
~Breathe-seems pretty self-explanatory and something you are obviously doing…otherwise I suppose you wouldn’t be able to read this ;-). However, if you pay attention, you might be surprised at how uneven and shallow your breath might be. Right now, take a slow, full breath all the way into your abdomen then exhale completely at the same pace. Doing this regularly not only helps for the obvious reasons, but it also causes you to be more present.
~Practice assertiveness-expressing your thoughts and opinions, standing up for yourself, asking for things you want are all ways to take care of yourself. It helps build self-esteem and stronger relationships.
~Set boundaries-this is somewhat similar to being assertive. Learning to say no, creating breaks in your personal and work schedule. Limit time with people who tend to stress you out or bring you down.
~Time to yourself-we all need time to ourselves, but sometimes have difficulty being alone. We need to learn how to be alone with ourselves. It gives you a bit of a reprieve from focusing/thinking about others.
~Go to the bathroom-wait, hold on. Let me explain. How many times have you needed to go but didn’t because someone else’s needs seemed more important? You didn’t want to be rude and interrupt a conversation or just let the phone ring because someone might need you.
~Don’t compare-related to my previous post. Comparing yourself to others is almost always a sure fire way to bring you down. So don’t do it ;-). Remember, the idea is to take care of yourself.
~Allow yourself to feel…whatever. Avoiding, minimizing, and denying feelings are the opposite of self-care. Feelings are there for a reason. Pushing feelings aside leads to physical problems such as high blood pressure and emotional difficulties that can lead to depression and anxiety. More on the how and why of feelings in this post.
~Watch or read something funny-laughing just feels good. It’s an important part of our human experience and most of us don’t do it enough.
~Get a babysitter or take a day off from work-for no reason other than time to yourself or to do something you typically don’t have time or energy for. Most companies have mental health days for this very reason. I realize there may need to be a little preplanning here, especially if you have children, but still important to do every now and then.
So, now that I've practiced some of these, I’m off to schedule that massage. What do you do to practice self-care? Any tips you’d like to share?