My week-long vacation included six full days on the beach. I read four books cover to cover (and the fifth one started), a beautiful dinner with my honey each night, time in the bathtub to soak and chat, followed by ten-plus hours of sleep each night. Less than an hour each day working or even thinking about work. A butler to bring me all the fruity concoctions I could imagine and silence. I took the time to process the challenges thrown my way. And more than once, I cried to help my grief.
That is what self-care looks like to me. It may not be your definition of self-care, and that’s okay. We all have our definitions.
We speak about self-care but don’t often fully understand or consciously practice it.
Self-care is taking action to preserve or improve one’s health. It can be anything from getting a good night’s sleep to taking a relaxing bath. The goal of self-care is to promote physical and mental health and well-being.
But we can’t always get such a large dose of self-care in one shot. It’s not given that everyone can just hop on an airplane and get to the beach and release all the day-to-day stresses so easily. When it’s busy at work with multiple deadlines and extra work volume, the concept of a week away is worth laughing at. You may have young kids, family responsibilities, a tight budget, or a lifestyle that doesn’t allow you to do whatever you want to do to take care of yourself.
We need to find little ways to build self-care into our daily lives so we don’t get into a position where we need major intervention to get back “on the right track.”
Warren and I had this vacation planned for the past six months. The timing couldn’t have been better as I needed time to process my dad’s death, especially so quickly on the heels of my mom and mother-in-law. The timing was lucky as my need for self-care compounded exponentially at the beginning of March when Dad got sick.
There are many benefits to incorporating self-care into your daily routine. We know it can help reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. If we are healthy, physically and mentally, we are in a better state to be more efficient and productive at work.
But knowing and doing are two different things. We know we need to practice self-care; we just never find the time or find excuses why we don’t do it.
However, we can build it into our daily routine. Here are many quick ways to add self-care to your life, and they can be easy and build resilience for when you need it. Practice your self-care tips before you need them!
- Get enough sleep. While on vacation, we never once turned on the television. We were in bed no later than 9 pm (I know, feel free to make all kinds of “old people” jokes) and asleep long before 10 pm. This is much too early for us during our regular routine, but we decided we both liked this routine. We were up before 7 am, fully rested and ready to go. While traveling this week, I have no intention of turning on the television, and I will continue to get an extra dose of sleep each day. I decided I like it.
That may be too much sleep or insanely early, given your lifestyle. Instead, challenge yourself to shut off the television, not watch tv in bed, or call “lights-out” 15 minutes earlier than normal to see if you feel any impact.
Aim to get just a bit more sleep each day in the name of physical and mental health. It is pretty easy to do.
- Keep your body moving. Warren and I each count steps (not literally, we use our phones). We have daily minimums that work for us, and some days we are a bit competitive with each other. We take the stairs (never the elevator) and often take the long way to where we are going so that we can walk a little more. Park a little further away from the door, and make a point to go for an after-dinner walk (instead of straight to the television) or a walk at lunch.
I know that mobility isn’t a given for everyone, so how can you get more movement that works for you? There are many free apps you can use. You can build breathing apps, too, to move your lungs. Move your arms, neck, and torso if you can’t do walking.
It was easy to walk on the beach, but now that we are back in “the real world,” we have committed to continuing the progress outside our regular gym activities. My latest app is called FitOn (free), and I’ll do a minimum of 15 minutes daily to exercise other body parts.
- Take a long hot bath. I have always loved a hot bath. When we renovated our bathroom, my bathtub was an extravagant spend. I don’t use it every night, though (sometimes not even weekly), but I do take a shower each day! And when I’m in the tub or standing in the shower in the morning, I remind myself how much showering or bathing is relaxing. I take an extra moment or two (or 15!) to just stand with the water running over my body. I acknowledge how much I love the shower/bath, and even though I need to shower each morning, I am practicing self-care while doing something I need to do anyway.
- Read a good book. I love a book that grabs my attention. And at times, sleep and my book battle as I want to read past when I need to shut off the light.
Reading before I sleep allows my mind to relax and not focus on negativity. In the past, we would watch the nightly news in bed before sleep, and I realized that the news was the information my brain ruminated on when I fell asleep. Instead, I am choosing to relax to easy fiction reading, where I can escape, my mind can let go, and I can be relaxed.
Find what relaxes you. Maybe it’s romance, comedy, or the Bible. Feel your time is well-spent when you are reading as you are rejuvenating your brain and your body by spending time in your creative brain, which provides natural stress relief vs. spending time in your logical brain.
- Focus on the positive. I was so grateful that our vacation coincided when I needed to practice self-care. I reflected on losing my parents and focused on the positives of my life with them instead of focusing on the fact that I won’t see them anymore moving forward.
It’s easy to be positive in your perfect environment (vacation on the beach), but how can you focus on the positives in more stressful environments? Look around you now and find five good things about your current environment. Maybe it is the smell of spring, the sound of kids playing outside, or even the ding of an email arriving, reminding you that you have a job. Do that every day, at least once, to remind yourself of all that is good in your world instead of the focus on all you need to do or what is wrong with your current situation.
There are many more techniques, such as listening to music, learning a new hobby, keeping a journal, having a massage or facial, spending time with loved ones or pets, having time to play, eating healthy, drinking water, cradling a sleeping baby, talking on the phone with friends, going out to dinner/lunch, art, or even meditative breathing. There are so many ways we can practice self-care.
What works for you, and how can you incorporate it into your daily life?