Have you found yourself feeling more stressed out than usual, lately? Are you looking for effective ways to practice self-care, but aren’t sure where to start?
You’re not alone. Anxiety, depression, and overall stress are on the rise right now, thanks to the Coronavirus. Most of us are feeling out-of-sorts in one way or another, and we’re looking for ways to cope. Learning where to begin on your self-care journey, and knowing what practices would be most helpful for you in the long-term can be a confusing journey.
In this blog post, I’m going to break down the basics of effective self-care.
You’ll learn what self-care is & isn’t, as well as the different types of self-care. We’ll also go over different activities for each area so you’ll have tons of ideas to help you recharge and show up for life with more vibrancy. Let’s get started!
What is self-care?
Self-care can be defined as the techniques we use and activities we do to promote physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Things like getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, practicing meditation, setting boundaries, and spending quality time with loved ones (even virtually!) are all ways we can practice self-care.
The goal of self-care is to recharge our energy so that we can show up as the best version of ourselves in all areas of our lives.
What self-care is NOT…
The most important thing to realize is that self-care is not selfish. We can’t serve from an empty vessel, and that vessel only gets refilled by taking care of ourselves.
Self-care is also not about temporary fixes or fleeting experiences of peace & calm. This would be self-comforting or self-soothing.
The key to effective self-care is to create routines and learn what you can do to support your overall wellness every day, not just when you’re feeling burnt-out or depleted.
Self-care is also not about avoiding or distracting yourself from your problems – effective self-care allows you to face things head-on.
Why is Self-Care Important?
Self-care is the key to staying balanced and maintaining the physical, emotional, and spiritual energy we need to be our best selves in all areas of our lives. If we are not spending the necessary time cultivating this relationship, it’s like trying to draw water from a well that is slowly drying up.
Practicing effective self-care allows us to have the energy and inspiration we need to show up as our best selves in all areas of our lives.
When we compassionately hold ourselves accountable for caring for our own well-being, we can act from a place of connection, wholeness, and integrity.
Perhaps now, more than ever, self-care is important for maintaining our overall wellness. With the various ways this pandemic is affecting all of us, finding ways to care for ourselves holistically allows us to navigate these uncertain times with as much ease as is possible.
While we’re certain to continue to face difficulties as the pandemic situation continues to play out, addressing our needs as they arise will help prevent us from finding ourselves completely depleted once it is over.
We’ll begin to see how by maintaining our personal self-care practices, we are better able to recover from our normal everyday stresses, as well as the unique things that are currently happening.
What is the Difference Between Self-Care and Self-Soothing or Self-Comforting?
Self-soothing or self-comforting are the quick-fix things we do to feel better, whereas self-care is the things we do to prevent us from getting burnt-out in the first place. Self-care helps us recharge, while self-soothing only provides comfort in the moment, without renewing our energy.
Self-soothing is more of an escape, while self-care can be a permanent solution to something that is causing our energy to deplete. Things like Netflix bingeing or comforting ourselves with food or alcohol can be seen as self-comforting.
Both can certainly have benefits, but if we prioritize effective self-care, we won’t need the quick fixes as frequently.
Confession: choosing self-care when I really just want to self-comfort isn’t always easy for me.
Even I sometimes turn to self-comforting before I can move to self-care. When we first went into enforced quarantine mid-March, my anxiety skyrocketed. As a person with a chronic illness, I am considered high-risk for complications if I were to contract the virus. My husband is also considered an essential worker and has only been able to work from home part-time due to the needs of his job.
I also realized that I’d be spending my birthday in quarantine, instead of taking the vacation to visit family I had planned. I found myself unable to focus or control my emotions well – a level of anxiety I had not experienced in years.
The first way I chose to deal with it was with food. I’d been living a low-carb lifestyle for a while prior to the outbreak, but I chose to let go of that in favor of the comforts of junk food like PopTarts and ice cream. I couldn’t bring myself to turn to practices I usually rely on, like yoga and EFT Tapping, because my anxiety was so strong and I wasn’t ready to move through it with awareness.
It was only after a few weeks when the shock and anxiety relaxed a little that I began to let go of the need for self-comforting with food and began to turn more towards self-care that would help me maintain my wellness on a daily basis throughout the pandemic.
I’m still enjoying foods that I had previously cut out of my diet, but I’m balancing it with more nutritious foods and my daily morning self-care routine.
But What if I Just Really Need a Quick Fix – NOW?
Craving immediate comfort isn’t a bad thing – we all go through this from time-to-time, especially when our stress level is high.
The important thing is to be able to differentiate between self-comfort and self-care and to be sure to balance your quick-fix solutions with creating new habits to promote permanent relief.
When feeling the need for self-comfort, instead of instantly turning to your usual standbys, see if you can take a moment to reflect on what your need for a certain kind of comfort is really telling you.
Is your longing for distraction & escape via Netflix really because you’ve not yet processed the things that are stressing you out? Could you benefit more from confiding in a trusted friend or professional? Is finishing off a bottle of wine really going to help move the energy of stress out of your body, or would you benefit more from journaling, meditation, or dancing it out?
By taking the time to shift from reacting to acting, we allow ourselves the chance to provide ourselves with the comfort we crave while also caring for ourselves and allowing ourselves to deal with the intense emotions that may be causing our burn-out in a more holistic way.
How Can I Get Started with Self-Care?
The first step is to realize there are different types of self-care for different areas of our lives. Those areas are: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental, intellectual, sensory, and financial.
Physical self-care activities include getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, exercising, eating nutritious foods, and releasing physical stress through techniques like massage or yoga.
Emotional self-care can take the form of practicing gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion towards yourself and others. Journaling, meditating, and reflecting on your emotions are more great ways to practice emotional self-care.
Social self-care can be things like setting healthy boundaries, having a support system, limiting the amount of time you spend on social media, and the types of things you allow on your feed (keeping politics and news to a minimum, for instance). Spending time with friends and loved ones, even if it’s only virtually, is also an important act of social self-care.
Ideas for spiritual self-care include meditation & yoga, spending time in nature, studying sacred texts, creating and maintaining a sacred space, and fellowship/worship with others of your chosen faith tradition.
Environmental self-care activities are maintaining a clean, safe, and organized space; decorating and/or rearranging your space.
Activities for intellectual self-care are reading, writing, learning a new skill, watching a documentary, spending time on a hobby.
Sensory self-care is anything we do to promote our well-being via our 5 senses of smell, sight, sound, taste, and touch. Using our sense is a great way to practice mindfulness and to bring ourselves back to the present moment, assisting us with emotional and spiritual self-care as well.
Financial self-care looks like: learning to manage your money well, budgeting, saving, treating yourself occasionally, paying bills on time.
By incorporating each type of self-care into our daily routines, we are certain to feel more balanced, energized, and connected, no matter what challenges we may face.
I hope this overview of what self-care is and isn’t, as well as some of the different types of self-care, has given you some ideas of how to best help yourself cope with the stresses of everyday life.
Be sure to come back for next week’s post, where I’ll be discussing how to deepen your self-care practice to maximize its benefits with more advanced practices. You can sign up for notifications via the form at the bottom of this post.
Until next time,