With all of the busy day to day responsibilities we face it’s easy to let self care be something that just happens, (or doesn’t happen) by default. But are self care skills really all that important for a healthy life?
It’s certainly not easy these days to manage a family life, career, finances, etc. It can be a lot to take on everyday and in the meantime it becomes easier and easier to forget that one of the most important things we should be giving attention to gets crowded out: ourselves.
The problem with this is that it leads to exhaustion, discontentment, and ultimately burn out, which can have some pretty negative effects on our overall health and well being.
Most of us have experienced the feeling of sheer overwhelming exhaustion, the feeling of being buried in a sea of never ending responsibilities.
The kind of overwhelm that makes you want to cry for help, or just go bury your head under the covers and hide from all of it…forever!
Back to the question: Without a doubt learning and practicing self care skills is essential to making your own well being and happiness a priority in your life. Everyone needs to take care of themselves.
Think about it this way: If you don’t, who will? Attending to your own needs allows you to be content, focused, motivated, and to be fully present in your life.
Remember that we are interdependent so what we do to take care of ourselves has an impact on all who we interact with which makes us realize that when we care for ourselves we care for others better too. Everyone benefits.
The Proof is in the Pudding – Statistics
The following are a few statistics that prove Americans have a lot of work to do when it comes to implementing practices that safeguard their overall health and well being:
Nutrition: Less than one in three U.S. adults eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Physical Activity: Less than 20% of Americans participate in an adequate amount of exercise.
Obesity: One in three American adults are considered obese.
Mental Health: One in four Americans have a mental health disorder. One in seventeen have severe mental illness and many of these remain untreated. In fact suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
Substance Abuse: Over 20 million Americans struggle with some form of addiction to either drugs or alcohol and one in five continue to use tobacco products.
These numbers show that unless Americans start taking their health more seriously we simply cannot make a positive impact on ourselves, let alone the overall well being of our population.
If we continue to neglect self care it will result in a negative impact first on ourselves, which then trickles down to families, friends, co-workers, and entire communities.
So how do we go about making certain changes that result in a healthy lifestyle?
Do an Assessment to See What Self Care Means to You
Now would be a good time to check in with yourself and see what areas of your care could use some fine tuning. A good place to start is to assess your basic physical activities and see what areas may need attention.
Getting the maintenance of the physical body down will allow you to dig deeper and begin the more challenging work of self love on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is a process of developing a skill set, you will slip up, so be gentle with yourself as you go. The focus is not on being perfect, instead it is on the growth you make from staying open to the lessons along the way.
Remember there is no one-size-fits-all approach to taking care of yourself. This type of care takes on different forms for different people. Which is why it’s about gaining clarity about who you are, what you enjoy, and feeling that your life has purpose and meaning.
Practical Ways to Work Self Care Into Your Life
Put It on Your Calendar. It may sound ridiculous at first, but think about it this way…we have to-do lists and schedules for lots of other things we juggle, so why should it be any different when it comes to scheduling time for ourselves? Try it. Put at least one thing that you find enjoyment in doing for yourself on your calendar each week. You are much more likely to follow through if you write it down and see it as something that needs to be done.
Integrate Self Care Into Your Daily Routine. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have time for a whole day of relaxation. Doing simple little things, even if it’s taking just five minutes to get up from your desk at work to stretch or walk around, going for a walk outdoors on your lunch break, reading a book, or doing some breathing exercises, all these things make a big difference.
Enlist the Support of Family and Friends. Be clear about your needs and intentions to take time for yourself with those that love and support you, especially your spouse or partner, as they are in closest proximity to your everyday life. Many times you will find that your partner is likewise depleted in which case the two of you can explore ways to support each other in self care activities each week. Make sure to celebrate one another’s successes.
Stay Present During Your Unique Process
I encourage you to start defining your unique path to self care, being mindful that it is through the active choices you make to participate in activities that are known to nourish your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being that you not only positively impact yourself but also the overall well being of the planet.
Learning how to apply these skills takes time so be patient with yourself. Be willing to stretch your comfort zone, and continue to remain present in the moment, this will help you recognize that the adjustments in your daily habits are opportunity for growth.
All is well and good as long as you continue to build upon your skills.
Remember to take time to celebrate your successes no matter how great or small. Give yourself credit for the work you’re doing and continue to move forward at your own pace.
Remember there is no finish line, no pressure, this is a never ending journey and your unique process. Make it a joyous one filled with love : )