“Put on your own oxygen mask first, before helping others.”
To say there is a lot going on right now for everyone is an understatement, but you deserve to feel good despite all of it—and taking care of yourself should always remain a priority. Whatever it may be that is weighing on you, take a minute to acknowledge your feelings, and then ask yourself what you need to recharge your batteries.
After you finish this article, take a moment just for you!
There are a lot of metaphors about self-care—like the one above about the oxygen mask or how you can’t pour from an empty glass—but what exactly does this mean?
Self-care has become a hot topic in a world where we are starting to prioritize our health and well-being, but what is it exactly and how does one practice it?
Self-care is a conscious and purposeful tool we use to look after our physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health. Self-care has been shown to improve your immune system, cognitive functioning, sleep quality, self-confidence, productivity, and more.
Woah, all that?! Yup!
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes self-care as a broad concept which “encompasses hygiene (general and personal); nutrition (type and quality of food eaten); lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure, etc.); environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.); socioeconomic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.); and self-medication.”
There are 5 Main Types of Self-Care:
- Physical – taking care of your physical needs like sleep, physical activity, how you're fueling your body, etc.
- Mental – the things that you're filling your mind with like practicing self-compassion, what you consume on social media, what you read, etc.
- Emotional – healthy ways to help you acknowledge and express your feelings regularly and safely like journaling.
- Social – cultivating and maintaining close relationships based on your individual social needs and schedule.
- Spiritual – anything that helps you develop a deeper sense of meaning, understanding, or connection like meditation or religion.
Please understand: self-care isn't a one size fits all strategy.
So, you should take steps each day to make sure that you are getting what you need. Everyone will have different needs for each type of self-care and different strategies that work for them.
Also, don't wait until you've reached your breaking point!
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight—it’s a sliding scale that gets worse the more we continue to neglect ourselves. Self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity for building resilience toward those stressors in life that you can't eliminate, so you should practice it daily.
When the pandemic hit in March of 2020 and everything was shut down and cancelled, I had so many negative emotions running through me: anxiety, frustration over the inability to plan, and sadness over missing my loved ones. But I combatted those negative emotions by shifting my goals. I made three goals for myself that I had to hit every single day:
- Do one thing that makes me feel good. This can be something that makes your body feel good like a workout, or just something that makes your mind happy like a TV episode.
- Do one thing every day to give me a sense of accomplishment. Again, this could be a workout of some kind, finishing a work task, or even just doing a chore around the house.
- Do one thing every day to give me a sense of connectedness and/or community. This one would fall under social self-care and could be as simple as a phone call with a friend or a virtual workout class.
It’s now almost two years later I am still making a conscious and purposeful effort to do these three things every day to take care of myself.
How? Because it’s really really easy!
So, what are some activities you can do to practice self-care in these areas?
- Take a social media break
- Enjoy a cup of tea—like really sit there and enjoy it!
- Take a hot shower
- Go for a walk
- Declutter your space
- Make your favourite meal
- Write five things you’re grateful for
- Call a friend
- Curl up with a good book or your favourite movie
This is a short list, there are so many more things you could do, but it is important to note that these activities are to take care of yourself and make you feel better. It is never selfish to take care of yourself!
Self-care doesn’t have to be time consuming, but it does require regular and ongoing attention. If we want to have more to give to helping others, we need to take care of ourselves first.
Cheers to our health!