ARTICLES, HEALTHY LIVING & WELL BEING. EATING DISORDERS
7 Forms of Self-Care That Save Me from Life
Ever been stressed out? Felt overwhelmed?Wondered how you were going to survive a Monday? Yeah, me too! I have yet to meet a person in my personal or professional life that is immune to Life and the stressors She throws at us. What I have learned is those who seem to have it together usually have one thing in common: they manage their stressor with some form of self-care.
Self-care is any deliberate action a person takes to lower their stress levels and take care of their personal health. My personal theory is that everyone has subconscious forms of self-care – coping skills you are already using that you aren’t even aware of. Being aware of what activities work best for you AND utilizing them can mean all the difference in lowering your stress levels and bettering your physical and mental health.
Below are 7 forms of self-care I have found work for me!
Hands down, one of the best forms of self-care I have ever made a point to focus on was my physical health. For me, physical health is so integral to your mental health that it is impossible to ignore one and expect the other not to suffer. Easier said than done, I am afraid. All throughout my graduate studies, I was guilty of Excuses A to Z why I couldn’t prioritize my physical health: “I don’t have time,” “It’s too expensive,” “I don’t know where to get started,” etc, etc. Seriously, if there is an excuse, I thought of it.
What I have learned is whenever I ignore this critical aspect of my life, I am only doing myself a disservice. When I monitor my diet and exercise, I feel better. I have more energy, more confidence, and better overall sense of self. For me, the question isn’t “Why do you focus on your fitness so much?” It is, “Why wouldn’t I?”
I am pretty sure if you conduct a Google search on self-care habits, baths are one of the number one forms mental health practitioners suggest. I considered leaving it off the list in exchange for something more unique and interesting, but the truth is, baths are one of my life-changing habits. Nothing makes a bad day better faster than a long soak in a hot bath! Customize it to your likings – bath bombs, candles, bubbles – anything that makes you feel more like you.
Here is the unique factor I mentioned before: travel is one my absolute favorite things to do in life. The experience of going new places and experiencing new phenomena is gratifying for me. I am constantly looking for opportunities, whether it be professional development or personal vacation. Visiting different places and experiencing the people, culture, food, etc. allows a new sense of perspective to help you grow as a person, while also recharging during a break from day to day activities. I try to travel to a conference in a new place every year, and I always make a point to use my hard-earned vacation time every year.
Really, that is what self-care is all about. You find what you enjoy and works for you AND you use that!
The ability to be assertive and say no is difficult for many clients I see. This skill was learned for me and has become a new form of self-care. Knowing your limits can be lifesaving. People overextend themselves day after day and I am no different. I have many roles in my life (mom, wife, case manager, etc.) and can quickly find myself agreeing to various tasks without realizing I have bitten off more than I can chew. I have learned to assess what is most important in my life and to always analyze what will bring me the most joy. I cannot say yes to every opportunity so I choose those that are most aligned with my goals and ideals and I give myself a break for those I cannot take on. Learning that you are a human and can only do so much is a hard lesson, but it is very relieving!
Another cliché, like taking bubble baths, but one I truly enjoy – reading. Being able to pause your life for a moment and become engrossed into a story that the author has carefully selected for you is something I have always found to be relaxing. I do not make enough time for pleasure reading, but when I do I never regret it!
KNOWING WHEN TO ACCEPT HELP
Sometimes self-care isn’t about yourself at all. Most of the time my coping skills are activities that I can do individually. I most closely identify as an introvert, though I label myself a “learned extrovert.” I know how to entertain a crowd, but to recharge my batteries I like my peace and quiet. However, one very important form of self-care I have discovered is that is okay to ask for help. It is okay to tell your boss you are overwhelmed. It is okay to tell your friends that you would like to talk. It is okay to ask for a hug. Even if you want to be alone 90% of the time, it is okay to reach out the other 10%.
“MASCARA” ON THE BAD DAYS
Lastly, I have learned that Life can be a mean girl. She will not give you lemons. She will throw them at you while you drive by with a flat tire. Life is hard. There will be bad days.
Wear “mascara” on the bad days.
I say “mascara” because it doesn’t necessarily have to mean makeup. Your “mascara” can be anything that makes you feel like a confident and strong you.
Basically, this form of self-care is to motivate yourself to show up. Keep trying. Fight through it.
Because the bad days are just that. Days. And days pass. Days are just moments in a big beautiful life. A bad day is not a bad life.
So when I do have a bad day, I put on my prettiest face and I tell Life I am ready because I know better days are coming.
These seven self-care activities keep me sane on a daily basis.
Try to incorporate a few into your routine and see how it affects your stress levels.
Remember that no matter what you choose to do with your time, the most important task is to choose something you enjoy. Take time to invest in what is most important today – YOU!
About the Author
Tana Yager, M.S. has her Masters degree in counseling and currently works as a clinical case worker for offenders with mental illness. In her personal time, Tana enjoys game nights with family, listening to music, and binge-watching TV. Tana’s personal philosophy is that there is nothing that cannot be solved by going to the beach.