If you’re like most people, you probably tend to put yourself last. Everyone else’s needs seem, somehow, more important than yours. This is especially true for women, who are more naturally inclined towards care-giving. This usually means that a woman’s own needs get pushed to the wayside. Lack of proper self-care can have real consequences, including physical and emotional stress and a lack of overall productivity, whether at work or at home.
The first thing someone should do to fix this problem is to understand what self-care is. According to a 2016 article on PsychCentral.com by Raphailia Michael, “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” She goes on to note that, “Self-care isn’t a selfish act either. It is not only about considering our needs; it is rather about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, being subsequently, able to take care of others as well.” In other words, taking care of yourself isn’t just something you do for you. It’s part of what enables you to properly take care of the others in your life too!
This is kind of like what they tell you on an airplane. You know when the announcement instructs you about what to do if the oxygen masks drop down out of the overhead compartments? You are supposed to put yours on first and then help someone else put on theirs. And we all understand why– if you pass out from lack of oxygen, you won’t be in a position to help the other person. This same concept applies to self-care. If you aren’t healthy because you’re not adequately taking care of yourself, guess what? You’re not really going to be able to help others either.
But also note another part of what Michael said: It has to be deliberate. Self-care isn’t something that just happens. You have to plan it. You have to make time for it on your schedule. And you need to actively look for opportunities for it. This is a life choice. Are you going to make this a priority or not? Because it won’t “just happen”. There will always be something else that comes up.
How do you care for yourself? First and foremost, you need to take care of your physical health, because without that, you won’t be able to do much else. Currently, one of the biggest problems (no pun intended) is obesity, which has been linked to things like heart disease, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. It also causes high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Working on maintaining a normal BMI (Body Mass Index) is really important.
Here are some other things you can do to help take care of yourself:
• Find time to relax. Some experts recommend taking at least 30 minutes at the end of your day to unwind. This might include doing yoga or meditation. It might even mean just listening to some relaxing music.
• Exercise. This doesn’t have to involve lifting heavy objects. It can be as simple as taking a nice stroll for 30-60 minutes, with your kids or a friend. Some healthy movement can be important for your mental and emotional health too – not just for your physical health.
• Get enough sleep. This is a tough one for many people, but our bodies need – yes, I said need – at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night. Obviously, it’s not always possible, but this should be part of your regular routine. Whenever possible, consider the time you need to be up in the morning, and then count backwards to figure out what time you should be getting to bed. Make sure to give yourself an extra half an hour to prepare yourself for sleep!
• Don’t skip doctor’s appointments. This one should seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people do just that. “My teeth aren’t hurting. I don’t need to see the dentist.” “I feel fine. I don’t need a check up!” Most of us know someone who ignored a health problem and by the time they had enough pain to go see a doctor, it was already a serious issue. There are people who have died because what could have been a curable problem became terminal by the time they bothered to see a doctor. DON’T DO THAT!
• Dress up and make yourself look good. Not for your significant other–for you. Let’s face it: We feel good about ourselves when we look our best. So try this at least once week. Take care of your skin. Put on makeup, if that calls to you. You may be amazed at how making yourself look put together will affect how you feel.
• Spend time with friends or loved ones. Just today, I read a Time Magazine article about the problems adults have with making and keeping friendships. The article stated that, “Loneliness is on the rise, and feeling lonely has been found to increase a person’s risk of dying early by 26%, and to be even worse for the body than obesity and air pollution.” ‘Nuff said.
• Spend time out in nature. Our bodies respond to nature. This is part of why most of us inherently see beauty in the natural world, why we respond to a “beautiful sunset”, why we like to go out and get “fresh air.” We are part of nature and our bodies know that. So when the weather permits it, get outside!
The bottom line is that you are important. We’re all here for a purpose, so the fact that you’re here means that you matter. Treat yourself that way!