What is self care?
A super easy definition is that self care is an active choice to engage in activities that help to gain and/or maintain an optimal level of health. An easier definition: loving on yourself in ways that make you feel good and are not harmful to your well being. Self care is all about taking the time to engage in activities that nurture you. Self care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.
According to Statistics Canada (2014), about 23% of Canadians aged 15 years old and up (6.7 million people) reported that most days were ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely stressful’. With this feeling peaking at 30% for people between 35-54 years old. We are being pulled in many directions and increasingly overwhelmed by the noise and all we have to do. From the onslaught of marketing messages, having phones attached to us 24/7, increased mental health concerns and job insecurity to still having housework, family and recreational activities to manage when you finally do get home. It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them.
Why should I care?
These factors have contributed to many in health care related professions shifting to take a more holistic approach that includes empowerment and encouragement to engage in healthy lifestyle choices and stress management. Taking an active role in managing your own physical, emotional, social and spiritual health has amazing benefits for you, your family and your employer. Benefits like longer life, more energy, more productivity, higher engagement with friends, family and peers, an overall better attitude and a higher feeling of fulfillment. Self care can help you feel healthy, relaxed and ready to take on your work and responsibilities, all things that contribute to happier employees which lead to happier customers, which lead to happier shareholders.
Rules of Engagement
It is extremely important that I highlight that starting a self care practice is choosing joy in your life and whatever you incorporate should positively impact you and your health (please do not use this as an endorsement to engage in risky behaviour such as drug use, alcohol abuse or unsafe sex among other things).
Here are four rules that you should apply when starting a self care routine:
- Make time for it.
Schedule this in your calendar. It can be electronic or an old school planner – whatever it is, just make sure it gets in there.
- Don’t double book.
Once it gets in there, don’t treat it like it doesn’t belong. Honour the time commitment you have given yourself and make sure that it happens. For good measure, schedule your time when you know you won’t have competing priorities.
- Learn to switch off.
When you engage in some self care time, make sure to stay committed to the time you have allotted by not checking your phone, watching TV, driving, etc. This time is good to recharge, so unplug and get the most out of your time with you.
- Learn some quick fixes
You may not always have time to engage in a longer activity, so find some small things you can incorporate easily, like a walk around the block, belly breathing, meditation or journaling.
Self care does not have to be expensive or time consuming, but it does mean treating yourself like you are valuable, competent and deserving. Many people who have self esteem or self worth issues struggle with seeing the value of taking time for themselves. Putting a self care practice as a priority in your life takes some planning, and may need some support from a coach, therapist, friends or family members that you can trust.
The best analogy I have heard for self care is the airplane emergency scenario. When you listen to the safety talk before you take off, they always stress that should the oxygen masks fall, make sure to put yours on before you help anyone else. We should be applying that all the time – one way that we can become better employees, better managers, better parents, better spouses is to make sure our cups are filled before we pour out to anyone else. By incorporating small but meaningful practices into your life in a proactive fashion, you are making an investment that will benefit all areas of your life now, and for the future.