The Basics of Self-Care

“Stop what you are doing. Go outside and breathe. The world will not end if you take ten minutes for yourself.” ― Fawn Germer

You may have heard the term “self-care” before and wondered what exactly that is. In the coaching and self-help world, self-care has long been a term used to describe the act of simply taking care of one’s self. It’s about deliberately treating yourself well and doing what needs to be done to ensure your own peace of mind. Self-care is a simple idea in theory but one that can be more challenging to practice when real life is constantly knocking at your door. While most people agree that they’re interested in doing right by themselves and taking care of themselves, in reality, few take the time to actually do it.

Self-care falls firmly in the domain of “important but not urgent.” This means that you’ll have to go out of your way to practice self-care because no one else will make it a priority for you. Setting up a regular self-care practice or routine is beneficial because you’re making it a priority by integrating it into your life. Like exercise and spiritual practices, you must be intentional about carving time for it because if not, it’ll likely not get done. I recommend regularly scheduling self-care time. If it’s on your schedule, it’s more likely to remain a priority. Make a date with yourself every week or leave a couple of hours open each week for doing something (or nothing at all) for yourself.

Last week I wrote about the importance of downtime and the positive role it plays in peoples’ lives. Self-care is much the same way. When you take time for you, you ensure that you’re refilling your cup and will in turn have more to give to others. If you’re depleted and rundown, how can you effectively serve and be there for the important people in your life? Don’t try to pull the old “I don’t have time” excuse, though. If you think you don’t have time for self-care then you’re not being honest with yourself about how you’re spending your time. In reality, you have time for things that are priorities. I guarantee that making the time for and practicing good self-care will actually increase the energy and enthusiasm you have for the people around you. But you must be willing to take the first step. It’s funny how doing something for you ends up serving so many other people in return. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s not.

Further, there’s no right or wrong with self-care as long as you’re doing something from which you receive positive benefits. That’s the only real rule here: you must benefit from your self-care. Going to the gym is a great example of self-care for some people, myself included. Each weekday morning I head to the gym and do some type of workout. I feel good knowing I’m exercising my body and keeping my mind sharp. I take the time to listen to enriching podcasts. I relish the time I have to myself. I take my time and am deliberate in my movements and my exercises. It seems indulgent to go to the gym five days a week, but that’s exactly why I do it. I make myself and my health a priority. Sometimes it’s at the expense of other things, but I make that choice willingly and consciously.

For others, working out seems like a punishment. If that’s your case, then find something that feels like a break, a reward, or a small treat for yourself. Maybe it’s laying on your bed and reading a novel. Perhaps you enjoy a warm bath with scented candles and soft music. You need to bathe on the regular anyway so why not make it more enjoyable? The point is that you take time to genuinely reconnect with yourself. It’s important to regularly unplug from the demands of life, work, family, and whatever else you have on your plate. No one can go on and on indefinitely. If you don’t proactively stop and take time to care for yourself, you’ll one day find yourself ragged, tired, or maybe even sick from a weakened immune system.

Practicing self-care is vital to your overall success as a human being. Taking time to reconnect with yourself is a great way to instill a sense of peace and calm in your life. It’s an effective way to recenter your energy and your attention. While it might seem self-indulgent at first, try it anyway. Be intentional about what you’re doing for self-care. Pay attention to the effects it has on your life. Be mindful of how that impacts your interactions with others. By making your peace of mind and mental health a priority, you can increase your quality of life and your effectiveness the lives of others.

Do you have a self-care routine in place that you find particularly helpful? Share it in the comments so that we can see what’s working for others.