No, let’s talk about self care.
Oh, yes, you say. Doesn’t that mean bubble baths? And a nice vacation at a nice hotel?
Bubble baths can be relaxing, and practically everyone enjoys a vacation at a nice hotel. However, although advertisers might try to convince us that self care is a product that we consume – fancy hand lotion, new clothes, imported luxuries – self care is how we demonstrate to ourselves that we are our own best friend. Self care means that we love ourselves and care for ourselves as one who is precious and lovable.
Think of it this way: if someone gifted you with a valuable and rare pearl, would you toss it into some dusty corner of your house? Likely not -- you'd gently place it in a soft jewel box and care for it as the treasure it is.
After years of working with people as a psychotherapist, life coach and teacher, I’ve made a list of six categories of self-care habits that support a well-functioning life.
The more habits of self care that we can identify and practice helps in reducing stress and increasing our resilience and ability to be present to survive stressful times. Even better, self care habits help us actually avoid much of life’s stressors if we make these actions a priority.
Take a look and notice what you already do – and what you might add to your self-care routine to bring more health, calm and satisfaction into your life.
- I get regular exercise, 20 to 30 minutes three or four times per week
- I attend to my body when I am hurt or fatigued.
- I get sufficient sleep (six to eight hours per night).
- I drink enough water (six to eight glasses per day).
- I eat whole foods in moderate portions and avoid sugary, processed and junk foods and beverages.
- I have a practice of meditation, prayer or simply sitting quietly that calms me.
- I take energizing breaks (walking, stretching, and visiting a friend).
- I am comfortable with my feelings and accept my feelings.
- I do not turn to alcohol or drugs (prescription medications, street drugs and nicotine) to take away uncomfortable emotions.
- I do not turn to overeating to take away uncomfortable feelings.
- I refrain from becoming swept away in mindless activities, including overuse of electronic devices for scrolling, texting and gaming.
- I have people in my life to talk to about my feelings who are non-judgmental and willing to listen.
- I have a support network of friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, helping professionals and others who care about me and cooperate with me.
- When I am with my support network, I feel valued, connected and uplifted.
- I am in touch with my support network on a regular basis.
- I am part of social groups.
- I have a few people in my life where I can share my true feelings without judgment.
- I can ask for help when I need it.
- I see health professionals (physician, dentist, massage practitioner, psychotherapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, etc.) when needed and consider them part of my extended support system.
- I take time for humor, fun and play.
- I have hobbies that I enjoy that are not related to my work.
- I take vacations, even just one or two days off.
- Nature is part of my life in some way (plants, gardening, walking outdoors, and the like).
- I am involved in community service, either formally or informally, which fulfills me and which I genuinely enjoy.
- I plan my day, week, month and year.
- I make to-do lists and set my priorities.
- I delegate when appropriate.
- I refrain from trying to control others.
- I am able to be flexible and improvise new options if my plans don’t go the way I had hoped.
- I am kind to myself if I don’t get all my tasks completed in one day.
Responsibility and curiosity
- I have skills for dealing with difficult people.
- I am able to set boundaries with people who want to take advantage of me.
- I live within my financial means.
- I am curious about people.
- I seek out new ways to live life that are meaningful and satisfying.
- I value my creativity and look at life in a creative way.
- I know my stress “triggers” and am able to recognize these triggers quickly and take action to make changes.