Being a parent, professional, spouse, adult, and/or a combination of the these roles is challenging. In the chaos of life, work, and family, it can be all too easy to neglect your own needs.
In a busy life, self-care may seem like a non-priority. But in reality this is far from the truth. If every single day you live life from one task to the next, eventually, you very well may burn out. When that happens, those people and responsibilities that you love and care about will suffer. In addition, your physical and mental health will suffer.
Cortisol is the hormone in the human body that is released during times of stress. Stress is ambiguous. Without some stress, motivation or a sense of urgency to accomplish simple tasks, even enjoyable ones, is lacking. However, too much stress causes intense surges of cortisol throughout the body. High levels of cortisol over long periods of time have been linked to the onset of chronic diseases. Additionally, too much cortisol inhibits fat loss, sports performance, mood, productivity, immunity, and ability to address and deal with life’s twists and turns. The goal of integrating consistent self-care into your life is to reduce those cortisol levels, and help your body and mind rest and recharge so that you can continue to tackle life (and feel better doing so).
The great thing about self-care is that there is no “right” way to do it. When choosing how to spend that time, however, keep a few things in mind:
Minimize distractions and external stimuli.
Choose an activity (or in-activity) that requires little problem solving and challenging thought.
Eliminate the potential for stress to creep in.
Make sure you are doing something that you enjoy, purely for the sake of enjoyment. There should be no goal or standard to meet.
Keep in mind that this time spent is to benefit your mind, body, and soul. Imagine that you are recharging your battery. Let this metaphor help guide you to how you will spend your self-care time.
Self-care doesn’t have to be extravagant. It can be as simple as prioritizing getting an extra hour of sleep each night, drinking more water, eating an extra serving of vegetables, or taking a 15 minute walk alone each day. Start slow, just a 20 or 30 minutes set aside each week will do the trick. As you get more comfortable with practicing self-care and find what works for you, slowly increase the sessions over time. What works for one person may not work for another, so be patient. Here are some “self-care session” ideas to get started:
Go for a relaxing walk outdoors on a nice day. Listen to your favorite audiobook, podcast, music, or just enjoy the sounds of your environment.
Do an at-home stretch session before bed.
Relax in a warm bath with Epsom salts and lavender essential oil. Epsom salts can reduce muscle soreness and tension, and lavender is calming.
Attend a new exercise class that you’ve always wanted to try with a friend.
Spend some extra quality play, or cuddle time with your favorite furry companion.
Color in an adult coloring book.
Read one chapter in a non-work-related book.
Cook a new healthy recipe.
Get up a few minutes early in the morning to enjoy quiet time alone before the day begins.
Donate some of your time to a charity, non-profit, or cause that is meaningful to you.
These are just a few of the many possibilities to help get you started. Set aside one time this week for a self-care activity that you think you would enjoy, and see how it goes. If the experience is positive, maybe schedule another time the next week, or even two! If the experience is negative or neutral, consider trying a different activity the next time.
Finally, remember that you are important. Taking a little time for yourself is not selfish, lazy, or a waste of time. In fact, self-care is a critical aspect of a healthy and balanced lifestyle!
We would love to hear your experiences. In the comments below share how your experience with incorporating a “self-care session” went!