When I think about self care, I do not just think about face masks and a good nature walk. Although, for those of you who know me, know that I love a good face mask- lol. These are of course some ways self care can be practiced, but there is so much more to self care than just that.
To start, let us talk a bit about what self care even is. I know we hear about it all the time but one way I have heard self care described is: intending, planning, and actually taking the time to attend to your basic physical, mental and emotional needs. I like this description because it is pretty straight forward. I look at self care as simply taking the time to reflect introspectively and recharge.
When I sit down and really think about self care, I think about it through the lens of therapy (surprise). When I think about how I can help individuals in a counseling/therapeutic setting, I look to do so through an all inclusive holistic approach. What I mean by this is, I take into consideration many areas in an individual’s life that may be prevalent for them. These factors include (but are not limited to) physical, social, mental/emotional, spiritual, and overall lifestyle.
So when it comes to therapeutic self care, there are many categories an individual can focus on in order to achieve a goal of living a balanced and enhanced life attending to their needs. Depending on the needs of the individual one category focus may suffice, but for some, choosing to focus on all categories can be important (and well-rounded). Soooooo without further ado, let’s take a closer look into these categories.
What does physical self care look like? Well, this can include anything from nutrition to breathing, with a million and one things inbetween. Physical self care can be as simple as making sure your body is well nourished and getting enough rest. This can be hard to do if you have a hectic schedule and many commitments. Trust me, I am very guilty of not getting proper sleep. I find myself spending more time on my phone than actually trying to put it down and just rest at night. Some areas to consider in this category can include nutrition, exercise, sleep, water intake, personal scheduling, etc.. Lately, my focus in this category is exercise! This can be extremely therapeutic for me and is one something I try to do 3-5x per week (…I said try).
Examples of physical self care activities:meal prep (a well balanced diet), a weekly nature walk, a water goal for the day, nightly yoga, developing a regular sleep routine, etc.
When I talk about the social category, I really stress the importance of finding a good support system! Whether that be through family, friends, a church community, or any other category of people, I urge that you establish one for yourself. I understand that everyone has different familial circumstances and sometimes do not have access to that sort of support, but there are definitely other ways to navigate around that. This support can even just be a therapist, I promise you, if you find a “support person” this can contribute to your overall self care practice. Having someone to talk to, and I mean anyone, can truly be good for your health… more specifically your mental/emotional health.
Examples of social self care activities:going to therapy, outings with friends once (or more) a week to catch up and relax, visit with family (engage with loved ones), letter writing, etc.
This is my favorite category! This category is all about making sure you are taking care of your mental health. No, I do not just mean going to therapy every week- even though that is great and I believe everyone should do it, but I am biased soo…yeah. Anyway, I am talking about positive self talk, positive beliefs, letting yourself feel feelings.. like really feel them (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Yes, all of these things can be done and worked on with the assistance of a good therapist, but these are also things that can be individually practiced each and everyday. For example, talking to yourself nicely is self care. It may sound silly to say, but seriously, practice talking to yourself nicely. We tend to be the hardest on ourselves. We cannot let negative thoughts and beliefs dictate our lives. Take active control; practice this silly sounding rule of talking nicely to yourself. Trust me, this is no walk in the park- it is hard. This is something I myself need to work on, but with practice and encouragement (from that support system previously mentioned) it can be done!
Examples of mental/emotional self care activities:positive self talk exercises, journaling, reading, therapy, attending support groups, unplugging, online self reflective worksheets, etc.
This category includes activity in which one engages in to find connection to, or nurture, a higher power and meaning for their lives. Nurturing the soul, if you will. This can be achieved through prayer, meditation, and deeper search for purpose and meaning in your life. Implementing our spiritual beliefs into our daily lives can be a self care practice for those coming from all different religions, beliefs, and spiritualities. This can be a very private and intimate aspect of one’s life. Ensuring it is practiced upon can improve your sense of self and connect you to your greater beliefs- truly a transcendental experience. I come from a christian reformed background and one aspect I try to implement daily is quiet time and devotionals (I do have a few favorite ones I would be happy to share with you if you are curious!).
Examples of spiritual self care activities:devotionals, meditation, prayer, yoga (again), various reflective practices, mindfulness apps, readings, group studies/ bible study etc.
Last but not least, I have highlighted general lifestyle self care. In this category I look at structure, routine, and goals. Are you taking time to relax? Are you setting goals for yourself? Taking that previously mentioned nature walk? These are all areas you can take a deeper look into and assess how it is leading you to an enhanced lifestyle. Are there any changes you canmake? Any changes you need to make? I personally, am a goal setter.. that is my thing. I love making goals for myself, working towards them, and eventually crossing them off my list (literally, because list making is also my thing). While crossing things off a mental or physical list is not what self care is all about, it definitely positively contributes to my personal needs in respect to self care.
Examples of lifestyle self care activities:checklists, goal making, scheduled relaxation time, nature walks, hiking, waking up a few minutes earlier to have morning quiet time before the day gets started, etc.
These are the five areas of therapeutic self care that I think are important to think about. I provided some random little examples of what that can look like, but there are MANY out there (a more comprehensive resource listed below). There can be a lot of overlap in these categories as far as activities. From this, I better understand why I lean towards a holistic approach and that is because these little categories contribute to the greater whole of who we all are and they are equally important to consider.
All in all, self care is SO important and it can truly help you maintain a lifestyle that produces positive feelings, recharges you, and enhances your overall well being. What are some of the ways you practice self care? Keeping these categories in mind, where do your current self care practices fit?
I understand the hustle and bustle of schedules these days and I know life can be hectic. However, I strongly believe that in order to put your best foot forward, you need to first take care of yourself. It is important, and it is worth it- do it for you! I would love to hear more about your self care journey and personal practices!!
Here is a wonderful list of self care ideas that I stumbled upon a while back and stored: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/45-simple-self-care-practices-for-a-healthy-mind-body-and-soul
Self care assessment worksheet: https://www.andrews.edu/services/ctcenter/prevention/self-care_ax_worksheet.pdf