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Give Yourself the Gift of Self Care

You may be thinking, “Self care- what’s that?” or “I don’t have time for that”. Many of us are guilty of not placing enough importance on routine self care, not seeing it for what it is: an essential part of creating and maintaining health and wellbeing. I emphasize routine, not the occasional night out with your partner or friends, the random manicure or massage, the sporadic walks outside. While these are all activities of self care, they are not intentionally routine enough to sustain us through the physical and emotional demands of our everyday lives. Routine self care is a way of living, grounded in the belief that we deserve to feel well and to be cared for, to “always find time for the things that make you happy to be alive” (author unknown). For me, routine self care includes anything that allows me to feel refreshed, nurtured or relaxed such as sufficient sleep (I’m admitingly working on this one), nutritious food, fresh air, deep breaths, and consciously opening my senses to what is around me: through sight (changing leaves, frost-covered grass, sparkling lights, smiling children), touch (a soft blanket), hearing (music, laughing babies), smell and taste (yummy this time of year). It also means taking time to do things I enjoy: singing, dancing, reading, and spending time with the people I love.

When traveling by plane, the flight attendant’s safety instructions specify to put your own oxygen mask on before anyone else’s. For some people (especially parents) this seems counterintuitive but what help are we to others if we don’t have oxygen ourselves? This same principle applies to our self care: We need to take care of ourselves to maintain the “fuel” to give to our families, jobs, friends, etc. Everyday I see busy, hard-working, successful people feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, sick with digestive issues, headaches, etc. At times, I see one of these people in the mirror when I neglect my own self-care, namely sleep (again, working on this).

For most of us, self-care means maintaining reasonable expectations and setting boundaries. A long daily to-do list that never gets completed that day? Unreasonable expectations. Saying yes to every request asked of you? Set more boundaries by saying no. On the flip side, if you’re someone who never accepts help from others, take someone up on their offer of help or try delegating. Tune into your feelings and honor them before you’re at the point of feeling overwhelmed or resentful. Carefully evaluate how you make commitments. If you often commit from a place of guilt or obligation, experiment with doing less, freeing yourself from unnecessary busyness.

“I don’t have time for self care” is what I often hear but we can incorporate self care into our daily lives in only a matter of a few minutes or even just seconds:

  • playing favorite music or lighting a nice candle, even when doing less desirable activities like cleaning, cooking, reading work reports, grading papers, etc;

  • taking a quick brisk walk

  • write a positive quote or short note to yourself on a sticky note

  • look at favorite pictures on your phone

  • ask for a hug

  • snuggle with your child or pet

  • take deep breaths

  • turn off your phone

  • stretch

  • sit near a window to bask in the sun

  • read or watch something funny

  • replace guilt and “shoulds” with positive self talk, e.g. “my needs are important too”

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation…” ~Audre Lorde

This holiday season and beyond, give yourself the gift of self care!

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