What comes to mind when you think about what self care means? Do you think about your physical health or do you think about your emotional health? Or, do you think about prioritizing your own needs?
Well, either way, you’re right!
There are so many different definitions of this popular phrase. But, when I think about what it means, I usually go back to this definition: taking intentional actions to tend to your emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental health.
The goal of self-care is to do more of the things that help you put yourself first and prioritize your wellness needs. Let me also add that it includes doing these things regularly so that you experience less stress and see positive changes in your overall well-being.
It is a way for you to prioritize your own health.
There are many self-care definitions. The World Health Organization defines it as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
In order to put yourself first more often, you need to spend enough time creating a routine that includes the practices that will help improve your physical health and your emotional health.
Now that we’ve covered the definition, let’s talk more about what it really means and how we can make small changes to our current routine in order to practice self-care regularly.
Why should we put our own needs first?
So many people find it challenging to prioritize their own needs? I’ve heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” more times than a few. I’ve always thought it was somewhat cliche until one day, I realized my cup was nearly……empty. It became very apparent to me why we should put our own needs first.
As women, we tend to give of ourselves to our family members and friends until we are completely.worn.out. Then, we figure out a way to give a little more. We allow ourselves to be guilted into things that we really don’t want to do all for the sake of keeping everyone happy. Everyone, that is, except ourselves.
I’ll admit that I can be a little bit of a people pleaser from time to time. But, in the past few months, that has changed. I wish that I could take the credit for that change, but it’s primarily due to the loss of my parents (I lost both of my parents within a three-month timespan) and COVID-19. Both of these things really helped me to put things into perspective. I realized that being intentional about prioritizing self-care was a great way for me to deal with grief and other things that I had been facing in my life.
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We can sometimes be our own worst enemy when it comes to taking care of ourselves. It’s almost like there’s some type of prize for the woman that can be the best in her career, the biggest champion for her community, the best homemaker, friend, sibling, church member, etc. We appear to survive as our weariness is masked by the best concealers, the strongest cups of coffee, and the best shapewear that money can buy! It’s time to take off the masks, ladies, and truly take care of ourselves. You know, so that we can keep on taking care of everybody else!
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, here are some other benefits:
- Improved immune system.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Decreased risk of chronic disease.
- Reduced chance of mental health issues.
- Better stress management.
- Improved emotional state.
- Better brain function.
- Reduced chance of heart disease.
Everyday Health lists several other health benefits of self-care.
A recent article by Healthcare Finance states that 9 in 10 healthcare providers agree that self-care should be considered a part of overall health.
What are the different types of self-care?
Simply knowing how to put yourself first is not enough. We must go a step further and talk about the different aspects of prioritizing your needs.
Here are some different types of self-care:
If you search the internet, you’ll find anywhere from 6-10 different types of self-care. And while I do think it’s very important to consider the different types, you don’t need to stress yourself out digging into the specific details of each type. The important thing is that you’re intentional about focusing on your well being.
Here, we’ll discuss four very basic types of self-care: physical, emotional, spiritual, and social.
These are activities that help you improve your physical health.
Examples of physical self-care: staying hydrated, exercising, getting enough rest, doing physical activity, sticking to a healthy diet.
These activities help you reflect on your emotions.
Examples of emotional self-care: speaking with a counselor, journaling, listening to music, taking a social media break.
Activities that nurture your spirit.
Examples of spiritual self-care: meditation, reading, taking a walk in nature.
These are activities that help you improve relationships with people in your life.
Examples of social self-care: spending time with family, hanging out with friends, having dinner with a close friend.
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What is the importance of self-care?
It is your personal responsibility to practice self-care regularly. You are in charge of taking care of yourself. There are multiple studies that reveal several positive benefits of self-care.
Not only is self-care beneficial for you, but it also helps to improve your relationships with the people around you. It’s important for you to practice self-care so that you can be the best you that you can be. Ultimately, everyone benefits when you practice self-care.
Having your own self-care plan important to your overall health and well-being.
How do you focus on yourself more?
When you are trying to determine a plan to prioritize yourself more often, the first thing to remember is that everyone is different. You have to take the time to figure out how to best take care of your body and your emotional needs. Different people have different ways of practicing self-care and it might take a bit of trial and error for you to determine the most effective ways for you to feel like you are taking care of your own needs.
What are my favorite ways to take care of myself, you asked? Well, here they are:
- Reading the Bible daily. Each morning when my alarm sounds, I grab my phone and turn it off. Then, I navigate to The Bible App by YouVersion. (Might I suggest you start with the three-day plan, Godly Self-Care?)
- Writing handwritten notes to friends monthly. I know that it doesn’t sound like self-care, but hear me out. Usually, when I send notes to friends that I haven’t spoken to in a while, they will either call or text me with thanks and we share a pleasant phone call, which usually makes me feel good.
- Therapy. So, I have heard of therapy and heard the gossip about people who actually go to therapy, but it wasn’t until I decided to go to therapy myself that I realized the healing that results from it. I honestly don’t know if I could have coped with my son moving away to college, losing both my parents, a worldwide pandemic and nationwide civil unrest without my therapist. There’s no shame in tending to your mental health.
- Exercise. In March of 2020, I purchased a NordicTrack bike. It was kind of an impulse purchase and everyone in my house gave me grief about it because I’ve been known to get really excited about something and then lose interest in it almost as quickly. I vowed that it would be different this time, and surprisingly, it has been! Since the bike was delivered nine weeks ago, I’ve ridden it at least four times per week!
- Self-Care Trips. There is nothing in this world that I love more than my husband and kids….except an overnight stay in a hotel–alone! I love ordering my favorite junk foods (usually wings and cheese fries) and sitting up in the middle of the bed watching my favorite trash TV shows, uninterrupted.
Other activities that encourage overall well-being
- Get a massage.
- Go for a walk.
- Organize your closet.
- Volunteer in your community.
- Call a family member that you haven’t spoken to in a while just to say hi.
- Go see a movie.
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Strategies to help you focus on yourself more, even with a busy schedule
This all sounds great, right? But how in the world can you fit yourself and your wellness needs into your already booked and busy schedule? Here are some strategies to help you find ways to incorporate some activities into your busy schedule.
- Find small windows of time in your schedule so that you can do a quick 15-minute activity that allows you to focus on yourself. See my list of 15 self-care activities that take 15 minutes or less for some ideas.
- Wake up a little bit earlier than usual or stay up a few minutes past your regular bedtime.
- Ask for help if you need it. And don’t turn help away when it’s offered to you.
- Use your lunch break at work.
- Find small ways to practice focus on yourself on a daily basis.
These are just a few of my favorite ways to prioritize myself. What works for me may not necessarily work for you. Just make sure that you are consciously taking some time for yourself. Taking small steps to incorporate more self-care into your life will yield big results.
Additional resources to help you take care of yourself
Very Well Mind. 5 Self-Care Practices for Every Area of Your Life
Everyday Health. What is Self-Care and Why is it so Important for Your Health
Active Minds. Self-Care
Mental Health America. Taking Good Care of Yourself