Though the term “self-care” has become popular in recent years, we seem to have drifted away from its original intention. People tend to associate self-care with getting a massage or soaking in a bubble bath, and while these activities are certainly enjoyable, self-care extends beyond mere relaxation. A more complete way to consider self-care is as a continual process aimed at settling the nervous system, nourishing the self, becoming more present, and maintaining overall vitality.
To appreciate self-care more fully, it’s helpful to consider that, as humans, we are multi-faceted, sentient beings. As such, caring for ourselves should involve addressing all of our complex needs – physical, intellectual, mental/emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental.
Physical: This is probably the best understood aspect of self-care. Taking care of your body involves a number of elements, including the following:
- Eating nutritious foods;
- Getting a back rub;
- Achieving adequate sleep at night;
- Attending medical appointments, and taking medications as prescribed;
- Exercising – This can include any form of activity, from running to dancing and stretching;
- Taking a break, when you need it.
Intellectual: Keeping your brain sharp is essential for your wellbeing. Here are several examples of how to practise intellectual self-care:
- Reading books, or studying new subjects;
- Visiting museums;
- Playing musical instruments;
- Learning new hobbies;
- Doing puzzles;
- Listening to podcasts.
Mental/Emotional: Self-care should also involve tending to your inner world. Aim to engage in the following:
- Monitoring your inner dialogue, and speaking to yourself more compassionately.
- Meditating to help you centre, and quiet mental chatter;
- Engaging in talk-therapy to acknowledge and vocalize your feelings;
- Using art or journaling as a method of expressing and externalizing your emotions.
Spiritual: When is the last time you nurtured your spirit? Spiritual self-care practices are intended to help you feel connected to both yourself, and to a ‘greater’ power. Here are a few examples:
- Observing rituals, attending religious services, and studying spiritual texts;
- Doing yoga;
- Spending time in nature;
- Volunteering for a cause that holds special significance for you.
Social: As the pace of life continues to increase, it has become easy to neglect key relationships – even though close connections are critical to good health. Perhaps try to incorporate one, or more, of these:
- Hosting a monthly games night with loved ones;
- Scheduling a regular check-in with your best friend;
- Taking time to talk to your partner in the evening, rather than zoning out in front of the television;
- Writing letters or cards to mail to loved ones;
- Setting boundaries – While socializing is important, it’s also key not to over-schedule and exhaust yourself. Practice saying ‘no’ to invitations.
Environmental: When your environment feels chaotic, your emotions often wind up in a state of disarray. Examples of environmental self-care include the following:
- Decluttering your home and office;
- Decorating your house so it feels aesthetically pleasing to you;
- Putting things away when you are finished (including making sure your bed is made, and the dishes are washed).
To borrow a clichéd phrase, self-care isn’t selfish. It serves the deeper purpose of helping you to work toward ease, presence, and increased wellness. Moreover, once your cup is full, you are better equipped to share your beautiful self with others.