Self-Care Practices For A Balanced, Vital Life
There is a famous quote that states “If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?” This is so true. Self-care is the most important thing we can do for ourselves, yet it remains one of the most neglected parts of our routine. Many of us grew up with the attitude that setting aside time to rest, relax, and take care of oneself is the equivalent of being selfish and lazy. So as an adult taking a break from work, chores, and obligations to nurture ourselves induces feelings of guilt and restlessness. It is important to recognize that self-care does not mean pampering or self-indulgence. Rather, it means doing activities that create physical and emotional balance in our lives. It means taking care of ourselves so we are not dependent on partners or family to soothe all stressors and pain. So how do we change and begin to integrate more self-care into our lives? Answer these 5 questions and you will be on your way to better health through self-care practices that are necessary for a balanced, vital life.
1) What self-care practices do you routinely perform that actively promote your health and well-being? Be honest. This is not wishful thinking or something you’ve done once in the last 5 years. Write it down on paper so you can see how long or short your list is. Some examples might be exercising, getting a massage, getting at least 8 hours of sleep, eating nutritious food, meditating, praying, reading, resting, laughing—anything that nourishes your mind, body, and soul.
2) Why is it important for YOU to practice self-care? Really think about it. What possibilities and joys open up in your life when you take care of yourself? Make a list on paper of at least 5 benefits self-care will bring to your life and be specific. Just to give you some examples, when I practice self-care I have the energy and enthusiasm to take care of my family, complete work projects, and be involved in my community. I have patience and laughter with my 3-year-old daughter when she does things like dumping an entire jar of sunflower seeds all over the floor I just cleaned. (Yes that one just happened an hour ago.) I can set boundaries and say, “No, I’m sorry I can’t do that” when I have a full schedule to prevent increased stress levels.
3) What are possible outcomes if you don’t practice self-care? On your paper make a list of specific results such as burnout, irritability, fatigue, headaches, stress on relationships, foggy thinking, anxiety, depression, tension, getting sick, etc. Now compare this answer with your answer for #2. Which do you choose?
4) Is your health important? I find this question to be the most simple and the most challenging to answer. A common knee jerk reaction is “yes of course,” but you have to really look at your actions on a daily basis to see if they match your response. For example, if you put everyone else’s needs above your own, are always taking care of those around you to the detriment of your own health, or prioritize your job over your health than you essentially are saying NO my health is not important or it is not as important as other things. If you recognize that your own health is important and you will not be able to help others in the long term or sustain your other priorities if you don’t take care of yourself then you are saying YES my health is important.
5) What self-care practices do you get to start making part of your routine? Write down 3 practices you are COMMITTED to doing every week to support your health starting immediately. This means no matter what, no excuses. This is where things really get fun. The possibilities are limitless such as going for walks, swimming, eating home cooked meals, having 15 minutes of alone time, spending time with children or grandchildren, gardening, yoga, journaling, taking a nap . . . Write down the date and time you are going to do them as well and put them into your calendar. If you need more motivation to continue your self-care practices just remember these wise words–If you don’t take care of your body where are you going to live?