For many of us, the idea of self-care may seem elusive and foreign. What exactly is self-care, and how do we put it into practice during our busy, usually overly scheduled lives? To begin,
there isn’t one generic cookie-cutter model for self-care. Self-care is rooted in the practice of recognizing one’s mental, physical, and emotional needs, and finding consistent ways to attend
to these needs, to increase your overall mood, reduce anxiety or distress, and build a more balanced lifestyle. Here are 5 practical strategies to improve your self-care. Fortunately, many of
these strategies are easy to add to your current routine!
1. Start a nightly gratitude journal. Carve out 5-7 minutes of your night and spend this time reflecting on 3 aspects from your day that you are most appreciative or grateful for.
These can be simple, even ordinary parts of the day, such as enjoying a nice lunch with a friend, completing a challenging task at work, or even just that you got to enjoy some time outside that day. By spending time reviewing your day and remembering the parts that brought you joy, you will end your day feeling more content and grateful. It is easy to end our day with frets or anxieties, and this simple gratitude journal can guide you to focus on the positives.
2. Practice saying “No”. You may be wondering how this fits in with improved self-care. Saying “no” can be a powerful way to enhance your recognition and attention to your
needs. Practicing saying “no” to certain plans and commitments is a simple way to eliminate overly scheduled days or nights, and frees up opportunities for you to be alone and comfortable with yourself. You may initially feel some guilt or “FOMO” (fear of missing out) when turning down social plans, but most people feel increased calmness and satisfaction when routinely prioritizing alone time.
3. Spend an hour or two outside in nature, without an agenda. This strategy is weather- permitting, but a wonderful one to do when the weather is pleasant. When you have an hour or two free, pick a spot in nature, such as outside in your own backyard, a nearby park, or a lakefront or beach, and dedicate some time to be present here, without any specific agenda in mind. This may be uncomfortable or create some initial anxiety, but remind yourself that the intention here is to be present with nature. Just as you are. You may bring a journal, music, or a book with you, but think of this as secondary to being engaged with nature. Some people find that observing the sky, lake or ocean, or trees, is a great place to begin your focus. If you enjoy mindfulness or meditation, this is a nice opportunity to do so.
4. Take stock of your entire well-being. Devote some time to reflect (mentally or by writing) on the main aspects of your entire well-being, including the following areas: your mental health, physical health, relationships, career/ vocational goals, and religion or spirituality. How are you doing in each domain? Which of your behaviors help you feel fulfilled and adequate in each domain? Which behaviors inhibit your growth? By reviewing your daily habits, you will notice that some behaviors help you feel connected to this domain, while others may be problematic behaviors, leading you to feel insecure, unhappy, or incomplete.
5. Create one daily, simple ritual. Think about your typical morning, afternoon, and nighttime routines. Is there an opportunity to add a personal ritual to any part of your day? This ritual can be anything that you want it to be, focusing on enhancing your connection to yourself and your needs. For example, if you are a morning person and enjoy starting your day slowly, perhaps you want to add a 2- 3 minute meditation practice before you eat breakfast or jump into the shower. If you feel more focused in the nighttime, you may want to dedicate 10 minutes of time to lay down and listen to music, or time to dedicate calling a close friend or family member. If you are more artistic and creative, you may enjoy starting a new hobby or craft, and carving out 10- 15 minutes of your day to practice this new skill. By creating a daily, simple ritual, you will increase feelings of competency, improve your overall mood, and reduce general anxiety. By completing this daily ritual, you strengthen your dedication to yourself, your needs, and your emotions…before you jump to tackle your to-do list, chores, errands, or work responsibilities.
By: Abby Levin, LCSW