Close your eyes and imagine the person you’d like to be.
Picture yourself thriving in every aspect of your life – physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, intellectually, and professionally.
Sound too good to be true?
I’m here to tell you that it is possible. And there’s a key factor that will help you reach your goals.
Self-care is a popular trend right now.
You’ve seen #selfcaresunday all over social media. Maybe you’ve noticed advertisements tempting you to treat yo’ self.
But did you know self-care is more than just allowing yourself an occasional treat?
Self-care isn’t just something that you should do every now and then. It’s an everyday way of life.
Self-care is unique for each person, but the benefits are universal.
Why it’s Important to Practice Self-Care
Right now, during COVID-19, self-care is more necessary than ever before. High levels of psychological distress are being reported around the world.
Self-care strategies such as meditation, yoga, and mindful breathing can help control your body’s stress response. This lowers your anxiety levels and eases your depression.
Not only does self-care protect your mental health, but there’s fascinating research evidence to support its power to benefit your physical health, too.
One research study revealed a strong connection between self-care and coping more effectively with cancer.
In another study, patients with diabetes mellitus who practiced self-care experienced less complications and higher quality of life.
The National Wellness Institute identifies six dimensions of wellness which are vital to our health: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, intellectual, and occupational.
Let’s dive into each dimension and discover self-care strategies you can use to enhance your life.
1. Physical Self-Care
When you think of physical self-care, it brings up images of hitting the gym, getting your sweat on, and developing a strong body.
And yes, physical self-care does encompass physical activity, but it’s more than just that.
It’s also about healthy nutrition, getting the right amount of quality sleep, and improving your body image.
Check out some strategies you can use for better physical health.
Physical Self-care Strategies
- Go for a walk or jog. Bonus points if you go out into nature. Experiences in nature can lower depression, anxiety, and stress.
- Do yoga or stretch. Practice deep breathing while you hold the poses. Yoga breath work, called pranayama, can boost feelings of peace, happiness, optimism, and confidence.
- Keep a balanced diet. Eat a variety of foods from different food groups – fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and dairy.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration has been linked to low mood and poor concentration.
- Say affirmations when you look in the mirror. Choose affirmations that inspire positive feelings about your body. For example: I am grateful for everything my body allows me to do. My worth is not defined by my weight. My current self is enough.
- Get enough sleep. Insomnia can contribute to mental health concerns. Practice good sleep hygiene by sticking to the same sleep schedule, turning off electronics an hour before bed, and avoiding caffeine or alcohol in the evenings.
2. Emotional Self-Care
Taking care of your emotions is equally as important as caring for your physical health.
Your emotional health is deeply linked to every other aspect of your wellbeing. If you aren’t feeling well emotionally, it’s super hard to take care of yourself physically, maintain a social life, excel professionally, or develop intellectually.
Here’s some ideas to help you feel your best so you can experience the best life possible.
Emotional Self-care Strategies
- Allow yourself to feel your emotions without reacting to them. Be present in your feelings. Notice them, but don’t judge them. All of your feelings are valid.
- Remind yourself that emotions are temporary. No feeling lasts forever. Even the most painful emotions come and go.
- Set healthy boundaries. It’s okay to say no to things you don’t want to do.
- Write in a journal. Journaling helps you explore your identity, thoughts, dreams, and values. You can also try bullet journaling to keep track of daily habits and cultivate a healthier routine.
- Practice gratitude. This can go hand-in-hand with journaling if you keep a gratitude journal. Start your morning by writing down 5 things for which you’re grateful.
- Attend routine therapy appointments. Even if you don’t feel like you have major emotional concerns, therapy can still help you grow and learn more about yourself. I’d recommend it for anyone.
3. Spiritual Self-Care
Whether you have religious beliefs or not, it’s important to develop an understanding of life and your purpose in it.
Taking time for spiritual self-care helps you get to know yourself, discover your core values, and cultivate compassion for others.
Spiritual Self-care Strategies
- Pray and meditate. When you meditate, your relaxed state reduces inflammation, aids energy metabolism, and builds your immune system.
- Connect with nature. In my personal experiences, God often reveals truth to me when I’m at the beach, going hiking, or camping. No matter your religious or spiritual beliefs, nature helps you connect to something outside of your earthly concerns.
- Be an active, authentic member of a spiritual community. In order to develop meaningful connections, you have to be vulnerable. Be honest about what’s happening in your life so you can develop a real, vital relationship with the community.
- Set aside daily time to be alone and reflect. Even if you only take 5 minutes to sit alone and reflect, it helps you stay centered through the rest of your day.
4. Social Self-Care
Humans are social creatures – we’re genetically wired for connection and belonging. Through our relationships we experience love and empathy, which are crucial for our wellbeing.
The amount of socialization you need depends on your personality. But even if you’re more introverted, it’s still important to carve out time for connection with others.
Social Self-care Strategies
- Build new connections. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and invite someone for coffee. Chances are, they’re looking for new relationships, too.
- Catch up with old friends. Schedule a regular Skype or phone call. Better yet, send letters or postcards.
- Volunteer. Not only do you connect with others, but you also connect with yourself. You discover passions which might even inspire you to pursue a new career. A growing body of research shows that volunteering builds your social support, protects you from depression, improves mortality rates, and increases your life satisfaction.
- Be intentional about who you spend time with. Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself. Choose friends who encourage you and help you grow into the person you want to be.
- Follow positive social media accounts. Social media can be a great source of connection but be mindful of who you’re following. Follow accounts with uplifting content – posts that inspire you and give you energy, instead of draining it.
5. Intellectual Self-Care
Did you know your brain needs to be exercised just as much as your body?
To stimulate your mind, you’ll need to try new activities and be willing to get creative. You might have to explore a few different activities before you find the right one that piques your interest.
Intellectual Self-care Strategies
- Watch a TED Talk or listen to a podcast. Call me nerdy, but this is one of my favorite pastimes. Right now, there are more podcasts available than ever before. If there’s a topic you’re interested in, chances are there’s a podcast about that topic.
- Read a book. Browse your local bookstore and see if anything catches your eye. If you don’t like reading, try audio books. You can even practice both intellectual and social self-care by starting a book club.
- Sign up for a seminar, workshop, or online class. There are hundreds of online events happening every day. Check out Eventbrite, or take a look at Harvard University’s free online courses.
- Pick up a new hobby. Try photography, yoga, painting, baking, dancing, learning a new language, hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding…the possibilities are endless!
- Do logic puzzles. Crosswords, Sudoku, and Nonograms are all great for activating your brain.
6. Professional Self-Care
Self-care isn’t only for weeknights or weekends.
Successful employees know that self-care is an important part of productivity and happiness at work. If you’re not taking time for yourself at work, you’re going to find yourself feeling exhausted, disengaged, or burnt out.
Let’s explore how to care for yourself on the job so you’re more motivated and productive.
Professional Self-care Strategies
- Take breaks. I know, sometimes you have a lot to get done and you end up working through your breaks. But did you know you accomplish more when you take a break? Taking short breaks boosts employees’ daily work engagement.
- Set healthy boundaries. Employees who set boundaries between their work and personal lives are better protected from stress, insomnia, and negative thinking patterns.
- Ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to check in with your boss about your performance. A lot of my anxiety and stress at work came from my uncertainty about how I was doing. Finally, I decided to take charge and asked my boss for feedback. He gave me some excellent tips and feedback that helped me to grow in my role and eventually, I landed a promotion.
- Write a list of your accomplishments so far. Giving yourself credit for your past achievements will boost your confidence and motivate you going forward.
- Optimize your workspace. Make your workspace work for you. Get a standing desk. Create ambient lighting that evokes feelings of peace and calm.
Start with Small Steps
At this point you’re excited about self-care, but also feeling a little overwhelmed. That’s normal.
It’s important to start with smaller steps. Choose one area of self-care that you’re going to work on this week and commit to it. Make sure to define why that area of self-care is important to you.
Enjoy your journey into self-care. Always remember you’re worthy of the love you give to yourself.