Have you heard any of the following phrases?:
"You can't pour from an empty cup."
"You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm."
"Put on your own oxygen mask first."
"Most things work well again after being unplugged for awhile, including yourself."
"Self care isn't selfish. Self care is necessary."
The words "self care" are scattered all across our society through news, social media, books, trainings, and maybe even your professional and social circles. Self care is promoted as a necessity for a well-balanced life, yet at first, it can feel like one more thing added to your to-do list. Rather than self care becoming just another task, you can incorporate self care into your daily life so it feels natural. With thoughtfulness, intention, and perhaps a little guidance, you can cultivate a lifestyle that cares for you throughout your days, your actions, and your mindsets.
What the heck is self care, anyway?
Self care is any action, practice, and mindset with the intention of improving your overall health and wellbeing. Self care can be something you do once, and it can be something you do daily. Though you can take ideas or follow suggestions from others, self care is ultimately what best serves you and your lifestyle.
Not all activities that feel good also improve your health and wellbeing. And, not all activities that improve your health and wellbeing feel good while you're taking care of them. I'll share examples of both those instances in my life...
I love chocolate and have a major sweet tooth. In fact, all of my teeth might be sweet teeth. For me, it's easy to eat cookie after cookie (after cookie after cookie...) and feel so good in that moment while satisfying my sweet tooth. Then a little while later... I'm not feeling so good anymore. So while it feels great to indulge those sweet cravings in the moment, this isn't caring for or improving my overall health and wellbeing. Instead, I can look for self care ways to *treat myself* while not overindulging, such as having a small dessert after meals, incorporating more healthy sweets, and so on.
I like my space to be clean and tidy, but don't necessarily enjoy doing the dishes or making the bed. Though it might feel good to leave the chores for later, it definitely doesn't feel good seeing tasks pile up, my to-do list growing, or my space feeling cluttered. So, I've found ways to better enjoy the acts of cleaning and organizing. I can repeat my personal mantra or sankalpa (goal or intention), sing or listen to my favorite tunes and podcasts, and schedule my chores throughout the week. Knowing how good the end result will feel, seeing progress as I go along, and having a tidy space improves my mood and my mental health. And that, dear reader, is self care.
Self care goes beyond activities.
There isn't a set list of what does and doesn't classify as self care because each of us and our lives are so different. There are several actions of self care you can partake in, such as getting a massage, taking a bath, exercising, meditating, enjoying fresh air/nature, and so on.
While it is important to partake in those feel-good activities of self care, it will be even more beneficial and sustaining to incorporate self care into your daily life. Here are a few options to spark ideas of your own:
Spice up the regular.
Where are those mundane moments in your day and how can they become enjoyable? Maybe you fit in a jam session to your favorite playlist while getting ready for the day or folding laundry. A drab commute might be missing a thrilling podcast or audiobook. Do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling on your phone or absently watching TV? How else can you fill that time so it recharges you?
The regular in my life is spiced up during car rides by calling family and friends and I try to remember to sing or have a little dance party in the shower. When laundry needs to be put away (my least favorite part!) I try to listen to a podcast.
Mmm, a regular and refreshing morning or bedtime routine does the soul wonders. Whether daily, once a week, or once a month, there is room in your life for some sort of routine. It might involve some adjustment getting up earlier or shutting down your screen time sooner. And, the resistance or growing pains you may feel are normal and to be totally expected. Give yourself grace on the days you skip or shorten your routine but do hold yourself accountable. Remind yourself of the reason(s) you're establishing routine and find a buddy to check in on how it's going.
I find routine by planning my evening meals one week at a time, scheduling chores throughout the week, striving for a bedtime, and having a morning routine or minimum morning tasks before starting the rest of my day (do my meditation, walk the dog, eat breakfast, make the bed).
Repeat a personal affirmation, mantra, intention, verse, or quote to yourself throughout the day. Maybe you pick one quote and stick with it through thick and thin. Perhaps you find a daily devotion or inspirational quote generator to guide each day. However it fits for you, repeat something comforting regardless of what's going on.
The words, "I AM" hold great power. Imagine if you told yourself throughout your day, "I AM CONFIDENT." even in situations when you are unsure of yourself. We tend to give ourselves negative self-talk and begin to believe, act, and allows others to treat us in regards to how we demean ourselves. We hold the same, transformative power to shape ourselves positively. Allow yourself to be empowered by your own positive encouragements.
One of my favorite practices from my yoga teacher training came from a sankalpa (intention setting) workshop. After revealing my sankalpa (intention, goal, or affirmation), I was asked to identify 15 bad habits and choose one to eliminate. My bad habit was skipping breakfast. Each day, I would make time to eat breakfast and repeat my sankalpa, either out loud or in my head, three times. AND, on days when I didn't make time for breakfast, I would still repeat my sankalpa three times. I felt a shift toward my goal even on the days I failed. Whether you are making progress or giving yourself grace to be a human being, repeat positivity and goal-driven language to yourself.
Whether it's 20 seconds, five minutes, or an hour to set aside for yourself, do it. Starting small, but consistently, will help you build time and priority for yourself. Depending on your household dynamic and members, it might be difficult to even feel as though you have and deserve this time. I don't know your life or your situation so it is for you to decide how much time to give yourself and what you do with it. What's important is that you do give yourself at least some time and that you allow yourself this time each day.
For me, this time is most easily found in the early morning when my partner and pets are still sleeping. In times when I lived with two, three, or four other people, I found this time to myself before bed. It isn't always a glorious home spa day or yoga-filled two hour time span, but it is always at least some time (even two minutes) to myself; breathing and being.
Connect with your breath.
Especially when feeling stressed or down, your breath can guide you and bring you to a place of peace or activation. While there are countless pranayama (breathing) practices and techniques to specifically guide your breath, you can connect with your breath at any time and in any way that feels good for you.
Here is an example of connecting with your breath: Begin by noticing your breath. Notice your inhales and notice your exhales. When you inhale, think "IN" and when you exhale, think "OUT." As you breathe, you are focused on IN, OUT, IN, OUT, IN, OUT, IN, OUT. If other thoughts distract you, gently bring your focus back to IN, OUT, IN, OUT.
Here is an example of finding a balancing breath: Begin by noticing your breath, how it feels and sounds as it enters and leaves your body. Count the length of your inhales and count the length of your exhales. Then, work to even the length of your inhales and your exhales to match the smaller of the two numbers, coming to a 1:1 breath ratio. If you inhale lasts three counts and your exhale lasts four, have your inhale and exhale last for three counts each. Continue breathing. As you connect with your 1:1 breath ratio, see if you can comfortably lengthen both your inhale and your exhale one more count each.
DITCH THE SCREENS
Screen time is not restorative. While there are resources, educational materials, and even calming and meditative apps, a screen cannot heal you from exposure to screens. Screen time is stimulating and must be moderated for your own self care. If this is difficult for you, set timers, passwords, and reminders. The accessibility and sense of connectedness that screen time allows perpetuates an underlying fear of missing out.
Make time to heal from the screens in your life. Imagine how that might look for you and incorporate breaks and actively avoid screen time when you can. Allow yourself to be present in the life that is happening directly around you. Participate in the present.
Adding a self care practices to your daily life can change the way stress affects you. Changes will occur both physically and mentally as you grow through your self care practice.
Ready to start now? Click to schedule your free 15 minute connection call with Rachael and start your self growth journey.
Thank you for joining me in this overview of relaxation. May your life be full of peace, gratitude, and love for your true nature.
shanti, shanti, shanti | peace, peace, peace
Rachael Schauer - Your guide through growth