What is Self-Care?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is self-care?
Really, it’s anything that we do that takes care of our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health. Because it is such a broad term, it gives us some liberty as to how we want to implement it into our life.
We can also think of it in terms of this question: “how do you take care of yourself?”
When asked this, we can start to think of how we tend to our most primal needs. In essence, self-care is a habitual, conscious routine that we do to take care of our wholesome self. It brings us back into balance with ourselves, as we ebb and flow with the ups and downs of life.
Our self-care plan acts as an anchor when things get too one-sided and reminds us that we have a routine in place that can bring us back to homeostasis.((PsychCentral: What Self-Care Is and What It Isn’t))
What Are the Benefits of Self-Care?
Think back on a time when you really treated yourself. How did it feel? Did you feel lighter, more joyful, more present with the world?
These are some of those butterfly feelings that you can expect when you tune into your self-care plan. When we do good by our wholesome health, we feel good! Sticking to a self-care routine reduces our anxiety, curtails depression, and brings us back to present-moment awareness.
These mental and emotional improvements significantly affect our physical health: lower blood pressure, improved sleep, focused concentration, and a clearer path to exercise and proper nutrition.
A self-care plan also allows us to better take care of our immune system. To paint this in a clearer picture, imagine your immune system as the master dashboard screen on a highly-technical computer. It governs everything. When we take care of this dashboard system, we know everything that feeds off of it is running smoothly.
The same can be said of our physical immune system. When we take care of ourselves in every way, our immune system can be stronger to fight off pathogens and diseases, thus keeping us healthier for longer. In this day and age, that is more important than ever!((Community Partnerships: The Importance of Self-Care))
Customizing Your Plan
Now that you’re ready to get started creating your own routine, here are a few suggestions on how to begin.
1. Observe What Is Out of Balance Today
It may be your physical health or your emotional state of being. Perhaps you’ve been under a lot of stress at work and your mind just needs a reset. Observe what feels out of alignment and where you tend to struggle. This will give you a clearer picture of where you need to prioritize your self-care.
2. Make a Clear Outline of Prioritizing Your Health
When you know what needs more care, you can create a roadmap for yourself. This may look like a simple outline on a piece of paper, or you may want to draw it out or use this template as a creative starting point.
This allows you to get all of your ideas out of your head and into something tangible that you can hold on to. For accountability, stick it on your fridge or your mirror!((Social Work Tech: Making a Self-Care Plan))
3. Keep It Simple
Before you get into the nitty-gritty, remind yourself to keep it simple. There is so much information online and in self-help books that it can be overwhelming to take it all in.
Sometimes, it may feel as if we need to completely revamp our entire life to feel like we’re truly taking care of ourselves. In reality, when we come back to simplicity, this is where our health truly blossoms. When we can cut ties with too much work, involvement, stress, and over-doing, we can return to the basics of a happy life.
Keep this in mind as you attract what brings you peace and health and what (and who) keeps you from it.
4. Choose Categories That You’d Like to Give More Attention To
These may be relationships, work, intimacy, money, exercise, or anything else that is important to you. Think back again on areas where you feel like you could use some more love and attention. From there, categories may naturally arise.
On the other hand, if it’s easier, feel free to simply list out categories that are broad and general, such as mental health, physical health, spiritual health, and emotional health.
5. Creatively Ask Yourself How You’d Like to Take Care of Yourself
For each of the categories above (or any that you created), think about ways that you’d like to take care of yourself. This question really gets into the marrow of self-care. It’s all about what you want.
If you’re a caretaker or someone who gives a lot to others, this may be a hard question to answer. Stick with it! It is teaching you how to prioritize yourself, perhaps for the first time! Some of your answers may be super simple, like taking more walks during lunch rather than sitting in your office. Perhaps they’re more complex and grandiose, like finally taking that dream vacation.
There are no right and wrong answers here; only what brings you joy!
6. Implement Your Answers
Make an appointment in your calendar or set an alarm to remind you to take that walk or drink more water. Plans without action just collect dust on pieces of paper. When you implement your ideas, they slowly begin to create your new healthful habits.
Over time, this will become second-nature. For the time being, if it helps, think about an accountability buddy with whom you can share this experience. They can help you stick to your self-care plan and maybe even join in!
7. Give Yourself a Break
Life happens, and we don’t always stick to our self-care routine. Practice forgiveness! This is also just as much a part of your self-care plan as anything else. Forgiveness reminds us that we are human and that we have off days. It removes the guilt and grief that we carry when we’re subconsciously striving for perfection.
Self-care is any practice that brings us back to our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. When we align with what brings us joy, we take better care of ourselves! Not only do we directly benefit from this, but so do the people and the world around us.
While the overload of self-care information is available to us in large dosages, it’s helpful to know that our self-care plan is entirely up to us to create. There is great liberty in knowing that we can craft the kind of routine that speaks to us in simplicity and authenticity.