Have you been guilty of always putting the needs of others ahead of your own? Do you take the time to do the things you need to ensure your best health and well-being? It is time to talk about self-care and to give you some of the tools to include this in your life.
Let’s start by defining self-care. The World Health organization suggests self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
It includes anything that supports you physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially and professionally.
Why is self-care important? There are many benefits associated with good self-care. First, you will notice many positive changes when you take time for yourself. When you take the time to practice self-care more consistently, it can help you to develop a much better relationship with yourself.
Self-care can mean different things to different people. It really boils down to taking the time to do something you enjoy and that is good for you! Many of us forget to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, from time to time, such as our spouse or children or other family members. It is so important, as a caregiver, to ensure you are taking care of yourself so you will have the energy and stamina to care for others.
The list of ideas for self-care is endless. Some ideas include taking time to read a book, visiting with a friend or it can be pampering yourself at the spa. Anything that comes to mind – get creative by making the time to do something just for you.
The benefits of self-care include reduced stress, anxiety and depression; improvements in concentration and energy; positive impacts on your physical health and more self-esteem. It can also lead to better relationships with others.
Taking the time to invest in things that benefit your long-term health and well-being is time well spent. It is important to remember that self-care is not an excuse to lose control by gorging on junk foods or staying up all night or spending money unwisely. It is ok to do such things from time to time or in moderation. Take the time you need to relax, but do not go overboard or it can cause physical, emotional or mental harm in the long run, be sure to find the balance.
Self-care requires good boundaries as well. There are times when what you need and what another person requires contradict. It’s okay to put yourself first.
Part of self-care means honoring what your needs are so that you don’t resent individuals afterward. If somebody asks you for something and you cannot give it to them, it is okay to set a boundary by saying no. You shouldn’t feel guilty about prioritizing your own health and well-being.
Not sure where to begin? Here are some ideas for practicing self-care based on the area of care mentioned earlier:
– emotionally – journal; reflecting on your health and wellness goals, practicing self compassion and talking to yourself as you would a friend; deep breathing;
– physically – eat nutrient rich meals, go for a walk, stay hydrated, stretch your body, take a warm bath;
– mentally – read, try a puzzle, visit a museum or gallery, talk to a friend or counsellor;
– socially – set boundaries; lean on your support system, follow positive media, talk with a friend or loved one;
– spiritually -meditate, spend time in nature, prayer; and
– professional/work – time management, take breaks, set work boundaries, goal setting.
Self-care doesn’t need to involve elaborate ideas or energy. It can begin with taking a few moments, here and there, to be more kind to yourself. Start thinking about what your body and mind might need. Once you have some ideas the next step is to plan the time to do those things.
Sandy Turner is a registered kinesiologist with the Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team