Self-care is an activity that we do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Here’s how to put you first.
In today’s day and age, it’s easy to neglect taking care of ourselves because we’re just so busy all the time. We’ve got a ton of things to juggle—from trying to excel at work, managing our relationships, to handling our kids and pets, and striving to maintain some sort of social media presence. It’s a lot to handle, and usually the first thing to fall off the to-do list is self-care.
Most of us grew up believing that the more you sacrifice, the bigger the reward. In fact, for many of us, the idea of taking a break to eat a proper lunch, or exercise, or hang out with friends feels a lot like “slacking,” even though we rationally know better. We also know that the effects of stress are real and painful and can prevent even the best of us from living happy, healthy, lives. While a little bit of stress can serve a productive purpose, too much of it simply breaks down our minds and bodies, slowly inching us towards “burnout.”
Sure, we know that self-care is supposedly good for the mind, body, and soul. But, it’s such a common buzzword these days, most of us are like, “Yeah, yeah, of course it’s good to care about yourself.”
But what is self-care really? And why is it so crucial?
Well, as fluffy and indulgent as the phrase sounds, self-care is really meant to preserve or improve our health and well-being. Contrary to popular belief, the point of self-care isn’t to tick things off an indulgent list of to-do’s. It has nothing to do with taking hour-long baths, or meditating twice a day, or getting regular massages—although these can be really great things to do. Rather, self-care is actually just a commitment to doing whatever it takes to care of ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally over the long term.
It’s about creating habits that support us throughout our lives and keep us feeling good continuously, instead of short-term quick fixes that we only turn to in times of stress. Often, it’s just things like showing up on your yoga mat day after day, saying no to things that you really don’t want to do, or designing a meal plan that makes it easy for you to eat healthy during the week, that make the biggest impact.
Committing to self-care does take a bit of time and effort, but it’s well worth it, given that self-care supports:
Better productivity: when you learn to make time for the things that support your health and well-being and say “no” to things that that over-extend you, you’re able to slow down, re-center, and focus better.
Better physical health: stress can take a serious toll on the body, which can weaken your immune system and leave you feeling defeated. Better self-care can help you feel more physically able and strong overall, which positively impacts all aspects of your life.
Enhanced self-esteem: when you regularly carve out time to be good to yourself and meet your own needs, you send a positive message too your brain that you “matter” and are valued. This can greatly reduce negative self-talk and boost your overall sense of self-worth.
Even though we know it’s important, it can be hard for us to find extra time to prioritize our well- being. But moments alone can help us regroup and refocus on what matters, and moments with friends can help us feel more relaxed and connected.
You don’t have to pick anything dramatic to add to your daily self- care to-do list in order to be “doing it right.” Simply going for a short walk, taking a hot bath, enjoying a show or a movie, or writing in a journal can work wonders. I suggest you start by looking for small ways to incorporate some of these elements into your everyday life.
Ask yourself: Can you wake up 15 minutes earlier than you normally do in order to do some journaling? Can you take a short walk on your lunch break? Or can you simply prioritize getting the recommended eight hours of sleep each night?
Self-care doesn’t have to “sound cool” or be dramatic in order to be effective. Whether you decide to meditate, work out, or simply curl up with a good book a few times a week, the point is to prioritize yourself and your needs. The more you do, the better you’ll be able to grow, thrive, and give to those around you.
More Insight: Check out this other great article by Sonia on how to uplift others.
Author: Sonia Jhas is an award-winning health and fitness expert. She is a certified personal trainer, nutrition specialist, speaker and media expert, and is also an ambassador for the Canadian Mental Health Association.