You’ve heard it a hundred times… YOU NEED TO TAKE BETTER CARE OF YOURSELF! And, you probably agree with that statement. Then all of the ‘yeah, buts’ come flooding in… Yeah, but I don’t have time. Yeah, but who will take care of the kids? Yeah, but I’m too tired. Yeah, but I don’t want people to think I’m selfish. Yeah, but then who will make dinner?
Besides the ‘yeah buts,’ what does “self-care” even mean - what does it actually look like to take care of yourself? It seems to be one of those phrases that gets thrown around and then not really defined. One dictionary definition for self-care is: “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health.” In a good and not-so-good way, that definition is very broad. Nearly anything you do, that leads to you feeling better, can be an act of self-care. The tricky part is that not all activities are created equal. I can go home after a long day and veg-out on mindless television, but I know that isn’t going to charge my battery as much as pulling some weeds in the garden or taking my dog for a walk.
And then there’s the question, “How much self-care time do I have to do?” To which the answer is just as broad as the definition of self-care: you need to do as much self-care as you need. There will be weeks and months where things may be going smoother, so less intentional time is spent in self-care activities. And then other weeks and months will be extra difficult, so you’ll need to be vigilant and protective of self-care time.
Self-Care Basics - Lessons From our Furry Friends
Take Yourself for a Walk: Exercise has been shown over and over again to elevate mood, boost energy, and promote better sleep. Aim for 150 minutes per week (about 20 minutes per day) of moderately intense aerobic activity and strength training twice per week. Most importantly, choose something you enjoy. I know that exercising inside is close to the last thing I want to do, so I need to make sure I’m going for walks in nature, running outside, and even doing lunges and squats in the back yard. You, on the other hand, may be content on a treadmill in front of a television or in a group fitness class.
Stretch Out in the Sun: For driven people, it can feel very unproductive to make time for rest and relaxation. But remember, you aren’t going to perform as well if you’re exhausted. We are not designed to go 24/7/365… Rest and relaxation are good for the soul. Give your body, mind, and heart a chance to recharge. Early morning sunlight has been linked with better sleep at night and maintained weight-loss. Sunlight helps the body make Vitamin D and allows for the absorption of important minerals, like calcium and phosphorus. In addition, sunlight aids in the production of serotonin, which promotes energy and helps keep us calm, positive, and focused.
Drink Water: I mean, a lot of water. There doesn’t seem to be a magic number when it comes to how much water to drink; however, it’s often recommended to drink eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon per day. Water is the main chemical component in our bodies, making up 60% of our weight. The Mayo Clinic lists these benefits of drinking water: helps rid the body of wastes (through urination, perspiration and bowel movements), maintains temperature control, cushions joints, and protects sensitive tissues. Did you know that even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you feel tired?
Nourish Your Body: I realize this one may not be exactly in line with the metaphor of treating yourself like a dog - I’ve seen my dog eat my other dog’s poop plenty of times… That aside, eat regularly. Practice portion control. Indulge from time to time. I really like the suggestion of “eating the rainbow.” Eating colorful fruits and veggies, along with healthy proteins and fats, means that we are providing our bodies with necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed to thrive.
Enjoy the Little Things: The other day, I watched my dog literally blowing bubbles in her water bowl. Yesterday, I watched a big old robin bathing in a puddle under a tree. And, this morning, I walked into my office and took a minute to look around and appreciate the calming space that facilitates healing. When we can enjoy the small things in life, there will never be an absence of things to enjoy.
Don’t Stay Mad: The people we care about are going to let us down in little and sometimes big way. In some cases, we’re going to be hurt because of misunderstandings. We can waste so much time and energy holding onto resentments. You’ve probably heard the adage, “Resentments are like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Choose being happy over being right. Give people the benefit of a doubt. Choose to forgive.
Rachel Baker is a Spokane, Washington-based psychotherapist, helping driven and successful people who are overwhelmed and anxious create peace and purpose. Her goal is to connect individual client strengths and experiences with proven therapeutic approaches that increase skill and insight in order for people to create a life filled with peace and purpose. If you are interested in individual therapy to address worry, overwhelm or anxiety and are located in Washington state, please call: (509) 999-8696 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free 15-minute consultation.