The Importance of Self-Care
The winter season is right around the corner and, for many, the winter blues may be slowly beginning to kick in. Especially with the shorter days, darker nights, and, of course, all the holiday hustle and bustle, it is understandable that finding the time to take proper care of ourselves can be difficult. Nevertheless, caring for our bodies and minds, a process commonly referred to as self-care still remains incredibly important. Here's why:
To give some background, self-care involves reflecting upon, identifying, and then meeting our needs. "It is anything that we deliberately do or refrain from doing with our well-being in mind," Kristen Suleman, a therapist states. "It means giving ourselves the same grace, compassion, and care that we give others."
To illustrate the importance of self-care, here is a helpful metaphor. Imagine that you are flying on an airplane. Seated to your left is a frail older person, and to your right, a young child. Unexpectedly, the cabin loses pressure, and the emergency oxygen masks deploy. Automatically, your mind jumps to those seated next to you, and you struggle to decide on who to assist first. The frail elder? The young child? Surprise, surprise, but the correct choice is neither of these options. Truthfully, the first person you must put the mask on is yourself.
The reason being is if you neglect to put on your individual oxygen mask first, you will lose consciousness in seconds and, as a result, you will be ineffective at helping those around you. After all, it is not easy to help somebody else breathe if you, yourself, are fighting for air. This metaphor symbolizes just how crucial self-care and prioritizing our health is. In the end, the better we are at taking care of ourselves, the more effective we will be in taking care of others. The more diligent we are at listening to our bodies and emotions, the more successful we will be at supporting the ones we cherish most.
With that said, we can divide self-care into four forms: physical, emotional, intellectual, and social. To get you started, below are some actionable tips and strategies for each aspect. Keep in mind, self-care looks different for everyone, so remember to do whatever feels best for you.
Taking care of our bodies is non-negotiable, especially if we want to accomplish daily tasks efficiently and successfully. This is because the mind and the body are not separate entities, but rather, they are interconnected. Therefore, the way we treat our body, including what we eat, how much we exercise, or how much sleep we receive, can have a significant impact on our mental state, be it positive or negative. As a result, by caring for our bodies properly, we can change our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours for the better.
When assessing your level of physical wellness, consider the following questions to pinpoint areas of improvement:
Are you getting adequate sleep?
Is your diet fueling your body well?
Are you taking charge of your health?
Are you getting enough exercise?
Actions that promote good physical health include eating well-balanced nourishing meals, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, partaking in daily physical activity, incorporating yoga into your day, and giving yourself breaks/rest when needed.
Next, emotional self-care involves identifying our emotions and taking the necessary steps that will help us appropriately honour and care for them. Particularly when it comes to uncomfortable emotions such as anger, anxiety, or sadness, employing the help of healthy coping skills is essential. This form of self-care not only allows us to acknowledge our feelings, but it helps us to accept and gain a better understanding of them too.
When evaluating your level of emotional wellness, consider the following questions:
Do you have healthy ways to process your emotions?
Do you incorporate activities into your life that help you feel recharged?
Examples of great emotional self-care strategies include using stress management techniques, practicing mindfulness, being unafraid to seek support from others in times of difficulty, and using a journal to observe and explore feelings.
Thirdly, intellectual wellness entails taking part in exciting, creative activities that stimulate our brains. This form of self-care is incredibly beneficial because a healthy mind serves as the foundation for a healthy self.
Excellent ways to help you enhance your intellect include:
Picking up a new hobby or skill. Finding and exploring our passions provides us with something to look forward to during the day and can motivate us to accomplish new goals or challenges.
Reading. Books have the power to expand our knowledge, bring communities together, and transform the way we live. Additionally, they widen our perspectives, enable us to view how other people see the world and allow us to acquire new skills, making reading one of the best forms of intellectual self-care.
Listening to a podcast. With over 1 million podcasts available, there is sure to be one that caters to every single person’s interests. In addition to offering such a wide selection, podcasts are an excellent way to educate ourselves and discover things we never knew before.
Practicing being more open-minded. Open your mind to new ideas, new cultures, new knowledge, new skills, and new environments. After all, when we open ourselves up to the world, it opens itself up to us.
Social wellness involves building healthy, supportive relationships. It also refers to our ability to cultivate authentic connections with those around us. This aspect of self-care is vital because, as humans, we aren't designed to go through life alone, and therefore, having a reliable, supportive social network is imperative. Furthermore, developing genuine connections with others boosts feelings of love, empathy, and acceptance, which all play a significant role in maintaining well-being and building emotional resilience.
To practice social self-care, consider establishing a dependable support system, setting healthy boundaries, and partaking in activities that nurture and deepen the relationships you have. Examples include spending time with friends, checking in with relatives, expanding your social network, and volunteering in your community. Ultimately, remember to surround yourself with people who add value to your life. People who challenge you to be greater than you were yesterday. People who motivate and inspire you to become a better person daily.
In closing, the most valuable time in the world is the time you make for yourself. So, make your well-being, happiness, and personal growth a priority. Beyond everything, however, make your self-care a priority. At the end of the day, taking care of yourself means nourishing your mind, body, and spirit in ways that work for you. It means finding a balance within your everyday life that allows you to feel at peace and do the things you love. It means caring for yourself beginning on the inside so that you’re able to take on the world outside. After all, taking care of others begins with one essential step: taking care of ourselves.