In my master's program at NYU, our professors harped on the idea of self-care. I remember the first day of class, my professor asked everyone to raise their hand if they were currently in therapy. Of course most of my peers, myself included kept our hands to ourselves, unsure what the correct response would be. My professor, who was also a successful clinician in NYC pointed out that everyone of us should be raising our hand by the end of the semester. She highlighted that self-care is one of the most important parts of the helping profession and added that in order to help others we must first help ourselves.
Another example that truly emphasizes the importance of self-care is explained by part of the standard on-boarding procedures of flying a plane. The flight attendant points out the oxygen mask on the plane and reminds everyone that if they are traveling with someone, they should always be sure to put the oxygen mask on themselves first and then assist passengers nearby. While I know many parents for example would instinctively protect their children before their own lives, the idea of this makes sense. What if you were to pass out from lost oxygen before helping someone you love because you did not put the mask on yourself first? Wouldn't this defeat the purpose of sustaining life?
While this is an extreme analogy, I find that it often helps my clients understand why taking care of their own well-being is so crucial if they want to be their best selves for their loved ones. What do you do to put yourself first? Does reading this make you realize that maybe you should be doing self-care more regularly? If so, this is normal, as so many of us get caught up in the rat race of life and forget to take time for self-care.
So what is self-care exactly? According to medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com self-care is "a concept referring to actions that people initiate and perform on their own behalf in maintaining life, health, and well-being." In other words, it is something positive that we do for ourselves, to enhance our lives.
While I know some of you are thinking, "I don't have time for me with all of the things on my to-do list" take a step back and acknowledge that if you are not your best self, you will not give your best to the activities you are working on and to those you care about. And while it may be hard to do this for ourselves, a lot of people find it easier to start by doing it for others. We are more likely to be kinder, gentler, happier, and more open to opportunities when we are taking care of ourselves, putting the oxygen mask on ourselves first.
Here are some tips to include more self-care in your life today - as always, take what you want and leave the rest or feel free to come up with your own:
- take a hot shower/bath for longer than usual
- stop and smell the roses... or the food, the air, or anything else to help you feel grounded
- get enough sleep
- take time for you (even if you need to schedule it into your day)
- make time for a favorite activity, be it reading inspirational quotes, sitting outside, etc.
- drink a cup of coffee (or your favorite drink) and notice the taste, the temperature, the aroma
- set a time before bed to shut down work, media, etc. So you can quiet your mind and relax
- do yoga or go for a run
- cuddle up with a soft blanket
- rest for a short while
- breath deeply in and out 10 times slowly, following your breath as you exhale and inhale
- give yourself a break, let go of judgement and pat yourself on the back for making it this far
- write a gratitude journal
- talk with people you love who bring you joy
- eat mindfully and healthfully
- schedule time for yourself every day to be mindful (5 minutes counts but the more the better)
- make it a goal to live more authentically
- you don't have to say yes all the time
- focus on your progress
I am sure that you can think of some more activities that work for you. Give it a try, YOU DESERVE IT!