You’re overwhelmed at work. Projects are piling up at home and your calendar is crammed with overdue tasks. To make room for all that you skip lunch, stop going to the gym and forget about your social life entirely. When we’re stressed, self-care is usually the first thing to go. And that only makes things worse.
It’s easy to take the old adage “hard work pays off” too far, to the point that it becomes counterproductive. Your abilities are worn, skills aren’t as sharp. You lose focus. You might think you’re working hard, and maybe you are in some ways, but you’re not working efficiently.
We function more efficiently by taking the time to care for ourselves. Self-care is really just a few basic habits that are crucial to your overall functioning.
Your social support system plays a key role in a healthy mental outlook. Do you have good resources, techniques you use that help you cope with stressful situations?
It can be as simple as having someone that you can talk to and share your feelings with. Can you think of someone or something that you do that fills this need?
To be your best for work, friends and family start by making time for yourself. Without practicing self-care, it is difficult to care for another and make yourself available physically and emotionally to others.
Divorce, care for aging parents, the loss of a loved one and raising children can all be stressful. If you have a self-care strategy in place it will help you navigate times when you feel overwhelmed.
It is so easy to put self-care on the back burner, especially when life is busy. Learning to self-soothe takes practice. The more often you do it, the easier it is to calm yourself.
Stop overthinking. You don’t need the answers to everything. Sometimes you just have to accept things as they are and acknowledge that you can’t change or control everything.
You may also have to physically make yourself be still. Stop moving, rushing and overstimulating yourself. Find a place— your kitchen table, a park, in the woods, anywhere you can simply sit and breathe.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone has their own journey; enjoy yours. Let your journey lead you to take actions that advance your goals.
Create rituals that you enjoy. Rituals ground us and provide routine and familiarity. Simple things like sharing morning coffee with a co-worker can set a good tone for the day. Make time for something you can count on, no matter what else the day throws at you.
Make time for exercise. Yes, it’s a struggle to make daily time for it, but time for exercise will give time back to you.
Self-care is an important life component that takes effort to cultivate. It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It is taking the time to do the activities that nurture you. Self-care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.
Don’t allow yourself to live on social media. Technology has delivered everyone’s sparkly, happy, well-crafted lives into our universe almost without us realizing it. It’s like watching an advertising campaign for what we wish we had but don’t. This can lead to negativity, jealousy and drama. Remember, life isn’t a contest. Give yourself social media breaks; life is far bigger than your screen.
So what does self-care look like on a day-to-day basis? Get in the habit of checking in with yourself, physically and mentally, every morning. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Just sit still with eyes closed for a few minutes. Notice if your mind is racing or slow, if your breath is shallow or deep or if your body feels tense or relaxed. Try not to judge how you’re feeling, just observe. If you’re feeling anxious, think about how you might make the day more calm. If you’re relaxed, maybe today’s a good day to take on something challenging. Take each day as it comes.
Be compassionate with yourself.
The world can feel like a harsh place sometimes, and we can feel helpless to change it. The best cure for that feeling starts with you. If you think the world should be more loving (don’t we all?), then get out there and make the difference. A smile or a compliment can make someone’s day. And that’s going to make you feel better, too.
Anne Nesbit is a volunteer battalion chief and Prevention Public Information Officer for the Key Peninsula Fire Department. She lives in Lakebay.
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