There are plenty of people advocating on social media these days for followers to do more "self-care." However, the term is often oversimplified to mean splurging on a nice dinner or taking a hot bath. True self-care involves much more than an "every-once-and-a-while" pampering for yourself. While those moments of indulgence may feel nice, it's not really a sustainable practice for taking care of yourself on a wholistic level. That's why we are focusing this week's Wellness Wednesday on broadening our understanding of what self-care can mean!
The writer of this post, Kaitlyn (Downtown Knoxville), likes to envision her own self-care in terms of a bicycle wheel. (See the graphic for an example!)
Consider the structure of a bicycle wheel for a moment. It's a perfect circle; you need the spokes to all be even and properly placed. If one spoke is longer than another, the wheel becomes uneven and won't roll properly, rendering the bicycle useless. Self-care operates in much the same way. There are multiple elements of what self-care involves, and each of those elements needs equal effort and care put toward them to make a wholistic approach. The categories Kaitlyn works with for her own wheel are pictured in the graphic to the right. These are broad categories that can easily be adapted to fit your own lifestyle and needs, but below are some examples of what you might consider in those categories.
~Eating well-balanced meals.
~Keeping a good sleep schedule (check out last week's post for more on sleep hygiene!)
~Regular exercise (examples: taking walks, swimming, playing sports, etc.)
~Make sure to schedule and attend wellness checks at medical doctors, dentists, and optometrists offices.
~Take time to rest and recover when sick.
~Keep up with general hygiene by taking regular showers, brushing your teeth, etc.
~Take your medicine as prescribed. Ensure you call your doctors in enough time when you need refills so as to not have a gap in care.
~Stretch your muscles. Especially focus on areas that tend to tighten up when you are stressed.
~Wear clothes that make you feel confident in your appearance to help practice body positivity.
~Get outside and enjoy the sunshine to get that added vitamin D.
~Get appropriate mental health care, including psychiatry and medication management as well as outpatient therapy services.
~Know how to get in touch with National Hotlines as needed. (For the National Suicide Hotline, call 988 from any landline or cell)
~Build your circle of trusted friends and set your own personal boundaries about what is appropriate to share with people in your life.
~Take the time to evaluate and put a name to your emotions as they come up. It's okay to feel your emotions, but remember they are temporary. Even those uncomfortable moments of sadness or anger will pass, but you have to face them rather than avoid them.
~Find ways to express your full range of human emotion. (example: journaling, painting, talking to a friend, family member, therapist, or spiritual leader, etc.)
~Don't overwork yourself to the point of burnout. Time off to rest and rejuvenate is important to overall health.
~Find things that make you happy and protect the time you need to do those things. Hobbies easily fall by the wayside when we get overwhelmed, but those little activities that bring us joy help us to keep moving when life gets heavy.
~Know your comfort skills. (example: re-watch your favorite show, take a long bath, enjoy a favorite cup of coffee or tea, savor your favorite snack, etc.)
~Write down your own strengths and things that you are good at in life. Keep these affirmations and read them when you need a positive boost to your self-esteem.
~Find reasons to laugh. Watch a funny show or a comedy routine, play a board game with friends, or read the comics.
~Take a break from things that are distracting, such as your phone, email, or even social media.
~Build a circle of good friends whom you enjoy spending time with and plan times to be together.
~Write a letter or call a friend that lives far away.
~If you have a partner, plan a date. It doesn't have to be fancy! Just spend some time enjoying each other's company, even if that's just at home together with a favorite show.
~Know who you can go to for help, and push yourself to move past fears to ask for that help.
~If you have elders in your family, ask them to share stories or words of wisdom from what they've learned through the years. If you are the elder in your family, ask those younger than you about what they are learning about themselves in the phase of life they are in. Intergenerational dialogue can often provide insight for both parties!
~Take a walk in nature. Listen to the sounds around you and pay attention to the life around you whether it be in the form of plant or animal.
~Meditate. If you need guidance, there are many guided meditations uploaded to YouTube that can be streamed for free!
~Pray and/or reflect on the day and how you lived it.
~Make a list of the things in life that give your life meaning and purpose.
~Volunteer in a cause that is important to you.
~Take the time to make or enjoy art that is impactful to you. (example: film, literature, music, visual arts, etc.)
~Take a training to further your skills.
~Practice saying "no" and setting appropriate boundaries around a work/life balance.
~Take your allotted breaks.
~Make an effort toward building relationships with your colleagues.
~If you have an office space, make it comfortable for yourself as a workspace.
~Use your vacation time. Even if you just enjoy a "staycation," taking time away from work is important to maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
~Advocate for yourself as your needs arise. This can include fair pay, benefits, and time off.
Self-care can be tricky. It's often not viewed as a priority over taking care of the everyday tasks that fill up life. It is the foundation, however, that enables us to take care of those everyday tasks in a way that avoids burnout. Below you'll find two buttons, one linking to a Self-Care Assessment and another listing Self-Care Tips, both coming from the organization Therapist Aid. These resources are great starting points in beginning your own regimen of self-care.
As we close this week's Wellness Wednesday, I'd like to highlight one of the tips found on the Self-Care Tips worksheet below: "Make self-care a priority." In my own life, it wasn't until I began advocating for and looking after my own needs for self-care that I truly began to understand that I deserved health and happiness in that same way that I advocated for others to experience that. I want to take this moment to encourage you as you read along with us here at Valley Medical that you are no exception to the deserving nature of humanity that calls us toward health and wholeness. Your needs are important, and needing time for your own self-care does not make you weak or selfish. I encourage you to practice those boundaries on your time and resources so that you are enabled to make your own self-care a priority.