There is a way our societies are designed. They are designed to squeeze as much from us as possible – to work, think, and do more every day. Whilst this is good for the growth and sustenance of society, it can drive one crazy.
It is no news that growing up comes with responsibilities – work, kids, family, and other obligations. The “incentive system” we find ourselves locks us in a situation where we are in trouble if we don’t participate in the bustle, and we get into more trouble when we get submerged in it.
It’s safe to say that our health, finances, and sanity are all on the line. It is like finding yourself in the middle of a vast blue sea – you drown if you stop paddling, and you get exhausted if you paddle too hard.
This is why it becomes expedient that you learn to find balance in all these. To cut off all unnecessary activities, and to focus on the most productive and meaningful ones. Think about it like taking well-thought-out strokes towards the shores in that vast blue ocean called life.
This process of readjusting and rejuvenating yourself is what is known as self-care.
You might have heard about it, or maybe not. But here is the thing, we all need that break from the endless demands of life. Sometimes, it could be the difference between life and death.
WHAT IS SELF-CARE?
Self-care is not self-indulgence, being selfish, nor is it getting self-absorbed. It refers to your conscious effort to take care of yourself (to promote your physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual health).
Self-care basically involves caring for yourself first, so you can care for other important people and things.
And practicing self-care is not complicated: self-care practices can be as basic as prioritizing sleeping, working out, eating right, and reducing the use of social media just to mention a few.
And as the name implies, self-care can only be done by you, and for you. By its very nature, it cannot be offered to you by someone else. It is your responsibility. And something that people who love and care for you expect from you too.
So, self-care basically enables you to be your best self and to do your best – for yourself first, then everyone else. It boosts your confidence, motivation, and overall quality of life.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SELF-CARE
As you can imagine, it is a multi-facet endeavor – there are several aspects to self-care just as there are several aspects to your life.
There is emotional self-care, physical self-care, spiritual self-care, and so on. And whatever you do to replenish, restore, and maintain your balance (in any of those aspects of your life) can be considered self-care.
For example, emotional self-care involves saying no to things that waste your energy, or trigger and makes you feel unhappy. It involves finding peace of mind and an expansion of life experiences – think about love, trust, and excitement in general.
Physical self-care involves taking good care of your body. It entails simple activities like working out and grooming yourself.
Spiritual self-care entails finding your purpose – or rather, choosing one yourself – and always keeping that in remembrance.
Other important aspects of your life that you want to pay attention to include your social, mental and professional wellbeing.
In general, you must monitor yourself. Whenever things start getting too chaotic and stressful, it is an indication that you need to readjust.
Below are some practical self-care steps you can adopt and practice for different aspects of your life.
HOW TO PRACTICE SELF-CARE
Look, self-care is personal. This means, not everyone might need everything – at least not at once or in the same proportions.
Some people need to pay more attention to their relationships, and others need to pay more attention to their health. Depending on your age and position in society, you might want to shuffle your priorities.
It is important to note that the aim of self-care isn’t to eliminate every stress in your life. The truth is that some stress can be good. The aim however is to cut off the negative ones – the ones that are killing you.
That being said, below are some activities that can be exceedingly beneficial to you.
- Exercise: Ensure you stretch your muscles, and keep the joints lubricated by working out regularly. This could be as basic as running (or going for walks, depending on your age or health).
- Oxygenate yourself: To do this, simply draw in deep breaths into your lungs – so that you have a full “Buddha-belly”. Then exhale gently. Repeat until you feel more alive – relaxed and attentive.
- Eat Healthy: Replace junk foods with fruits and vegetables. Drink more water, and try making small healthier changes to your diet.
- Sun Bath: Sunlight is magical. Fifteen minutes of sunlight can work wonders for your health, especially if you find yourself in a cold climate. Taking out time to absorb the morning sun and getting your body charged up is beneficial for your health.
- Laugh: “Laughter is the best medicine”. Apart from working out your diaphragm, improving blood flow, burning calories, and relaxing your whole body, laughing also floods your brain with endorphins, which makes you feel good, improves your overall sense of well-being, and relieves pain temporarily.
- Rest: Take naps, and have sufficient sleep in general. Having a nice rest keeps you ready – agile and clear-minded – for the rest of the day. Without it, we wake up feeling like zombies.
- Observe: Observe your emotions as they come and go. Try to figure out how you feel about different things and people. This would help you know what to focus on or let go of. The result is inner peace.
- Take Notes: Pen-down how you feel. You can literally write them down on a piece of paper or a notepad app. This way you see what is bothering you, and you can finally come up with a strategy to tackle them.
- Choose People: Pick who you spend time with. Stick around people who resonate with you – who are enthusiastic, supportive, and who motivate you. Avoid those who drain your energy – with pessimism, complaints, and doubts.
- Stimulate Your Mind: Do something that excites your mind. It may be reading, playing chess (or some other game that requires thinking), visiting an art gallery or a museum, etc...
- Environment: Disconnect from the chatter. Stay offline for a week or two. Tell those who are close and might need your presence that you’ll be away for a while. Don’t worry, the world would not come to an end, nor leave you behind. See it as a vacation. Use this time to reassess your life, clear your mind, and relax your nerves.
- Reach Out: Call or text someone you’ve been meaning to talk to. This could be your parents, long-lost friend, role model, etc. Most times things turn out fine. But don’t call toxic people because it just defeats the aim of self-care.
- Visit: Take some time out to visit a loved one. Most people are welcoming of visitors, and would really enjoy spending time with you – especially when you share common interests.
- Go Out: Take some time to go out with friends. Have a drink, or just visit exciting places with people you care about.
- Compliments and Appreciation: Tell a friend what you like about them. Make them know that they are important to you. It’s counterintuitive, but making other people feel good also makes us feel good.
- Gratitude: Think about all the nice things your friends and family have done for you, and how glad you are to have them in your life. Think about all the nice things you have in your life as well.
- Show Up: Ensure you show up on their special days – weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, etcetera. It is the little things that matter most. It is also an avenue to have nice experiences and enjoy life.
This doesn’t have to be religious. It’s all about establishing a connection with the "Universe" or "God" and developing a deeper sense of meaning in life. To do this, you can practice activities such as
- Meditation: sitting with your thoughts, and letting go of any attachment with them. Meditation can also lead you to forgiving yourself and others – as you learn to let go of the attachments.
- Going To Religious Places: If you are religious, then attending a religious service can go a long way to help you reconnect with your roots and find peace in life. This could mean going to the church, mosque, or shrine. The practices are sometimes elaborate, but over years of practice they have been proven to be quite effective
- Praying or Making Positive affirmations: It is strange, but speaking out your problems, or making declarations about what you want out of life can somehow clear the air. Maybe it’s just you being more proactive, or maybe it's “god” or “the Universe”, whatever the case, letting go of the reins and surrendering can be good for you – as usually results in a positive attitude towards life, which then leads to positive results.
- Yoga: You may not necessarily have a Kundalini experience, but yoga has a way of helping you release pent-up negative energy. This could be stress, pain, or negative emotions like anger, hate, anxiety, and fear.
- Questioning Yourself: No, this is not the same as doubting yourself. Asking yourself “Why?” can help you uncover your core drives. Which then helps you set your priorities right.
Emotions emerge from our subconscious mind and are rudderless, so it takes skills to deal with uncomfortable emotions, like sadness, anxiety, or anger.
Therefore, emotional self-care is about regulating these feelings – to channel and control them – before they consume you.
Some things you can start doing to take care of your emotions include
- Letting Go: Disconnecting from things that bring you unnecessary stress and worry is a great way to ensure they don’t bother you anymore.
- Songs: Singing songs or listening to music helps you coordinate your emotions. Done perfectly, singing helps you connect with the feeling, and then redirect them as you change songs.
- Talking to Someone: Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just vent. This is why we all need someone to talk to once in a while. This could be all the emotional self-care you need.
- Forgiving: Forgiveness is not only beneficial to the forgiven but doubly so for the forgiver. You should definitely try it – if you have someone you are angry with.
- Expressing Positive Emotions: Sometimes, all you need to do is call. Call someone you love, and tell them how you feel – who knows, they might feel the same. This could also involve doing something for someone you care about or donating for a course you care about.
Even in the workplace, you can practice self-care. It’s not even complicated, all you have to do is:
- Maintain Strong Boundaries: Take care of your job and let others do theirs. If someone is getting paid for a job, don’t let them “guilt trip” you into doing it for them – as this can be abused and lead to unnecessary stress for you.
- Delegate Tasks: If you’re in a leadership position, trusting others to handle tasks that you are unavailable for is a way of decluttering your life – and that is self-care.
- Create a Peer-support Group: Peer-support groups would enable you to know the challenges people are facing and how to maybe resolve them.
- Develop Yourself: Boosting your competence by studying and attending development programs would make your life a whole lot easier – as you get good at handling your job and even get paid higher for less work.
- Asking For Advice and Help: There is nothing wrong with asking for a little assistance. You just have to know the difference between a difficult task and hitting a brick wall. You might handle difficult tasks alone, but attacking “brick walls” is just counterproductive. Seeking help in such situations would save you time and stress.
Creating A Self-Care Plan
They say, if you don’t plan, you’ve already planned to fail. Self-care is a conscious undertaking – and there are no umpires for it. You need to hold yourself accountable.
This means you’d have to decide, set up, and follow through all by yourself.
And, as you can imagine, it isn’t a one-fits-all course. The self-care a young university student would need is drastically different from that which a retired civil servant would need.
Based on your needs – relationship, emotional, or spiritual needs – you would have to prioritize and adhere strictly to different activities in different hierarchies.
Whatever you decide on – that is important to you – you have to follow through religiously. This is because self-care is not one day of meditation or exercise, but a consistent activity – a lifestyle.
Self-care isn’t an event but a habit – a way of life. Being in shape, and having peace of mind requires you to consistently work out and avoid things that threaten your peace.
So, the plan isn’t for the week or the month, but for years, and even a lifetime. And yes, you would need to focus on the daily and hourly tasks to achieve that lifetime goal.
Therefore, your self-care plan could look something as simple as
- Wake up early
- Work out
- Eat a healthy breakfast
- Do the most important task of the day
- Check mail and use social media
- Go to work or school
- Eat a healthy lunch
- Spend time with people you care about – or reach out to them.
- Go for a walk
- Retire home early
- Eat a healthy dinner
- Schedule important activities for the next day
- Sleep early
Rinse and repeat for life…
That is how to practice self-care.
Photo by Gabriela Cheloni from Pexels