Let me tell you what I’ve learned.
Up until six weeks ago, I never paid much attention to how I was taking care of myself. I didn’t understand the value of making time for me. It seemed so selfish and “about me.” It turns out that is exactly what self-care is all about.
And I can tell practicing self-care really reduces my stress.
Let’s look at some of the things I have learned. Taking a break is doing something. Talking to your daughter is doing something. Sitting on the front porch drinking your first cup of coffee as the sun starts to heat the morning air is doing something.
I never thought of doing things quite that way.
If I wasn’t slammed into it and running after it, I wasn’t doing anything. I’m the guy who was reading his phone in the bathroom, making calls from the car so I wouldn’t waste the time driving. I’m the guy who gulps down his food, so he can get going. I couldn’t even sit still for a 30-minute TV show without fidgeting or getting up and checking on something, anything.
It seems obvious now that I need to take better care of myself. Hence the focus on learning self-care.
Here is my list of 10 self-care things I have tried so far:
- Leaving my cell phone in the bedroom when I first get up until I have had my coffee.
- Not taking my cell phone into the bathroom (Ok, this one is harder)
- Taking breaks from writing and getting out in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes
- Watching the birds at the feeder while sitting on the front porch (again, no phone)
- Getting on the riding mower and mowing the yard
- Reading – So far, I am reading books on depression, but it is helping me feel more confident about my future with depression, so I think it counts.
- Focused breathing – Mindfulness meditation
- Journaling (blogging) every day. Not keeping thoughts inside but releasing them into the light.
- Spending time each day with loved ones, sharing their lives
- Going back to the gym. (Ok, this one I am still working on, but I know once I get back into a regular habit, it will be a big boost)
Raphailia Michael, MA says:
‘Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order 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. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.’
In a few words, self-care is the key to living a balanced life.
Self-care takes practice. It isn’t something accidental that just happens. This is how I did self-care in the past, a spur of the moment decision. It just happened when it happened. For it to be most effective, it needs to be a conscious decision to do something. I am still working on that, to plan time each day to take care of myself
While I am doing self-care type of things for myself, I am not scheduling them or calling them that. Getting in the habit of knowing that for the next 15 minutes, I am going to do something for myself is a big part of getting the full benefit of self-care.
Making a list of No, of things I won’t do, is on my list.
I will not take my phone into the bathroom. I will not look at my phone first thing in the morning. I can see this type of list is just as important as the list of things I will do. Understanding behaviors that have negative consequences is just as valuable as creating a list of things to do that have positive effects.
Right now, I seem to be creating all kinds of lists. Doing these is helping me get a handle on how I want to live my life. These lists will become ingrained at some point and I will not need as many daily checklists. But for right now, lists are good.
Last night I was reminded that I have many choices when it comes to relaxing, to practicing self-care. As I was defaulting to my list of 10 self-care ideas, another one came to mind. I could put my swimsuit on, grab a towel, and get in the hot tub on the back deck. This turned out to be very relaxing. The sun was already down, and the soft shadows of night were playing on my view of the lake.
It wasn’t long until the bats came out. They are fun to watch as they patrol the yard, eagerly snapping up mosquitos. I spent nearly ½ hour soaking in the hot tub. The rest of the evening was calm and restful. I must go back and add that to my list.
Self-care is anything but selfish.
I will remember that as I go about each day. Keeping me in top operating condition means I have more energy to help others. This creates its own rewards as my stores of positive energy get refilled, even as I am helping others. While I still am uncomfortable with the title (self-care) I am a believer in the results.