Self-care has always been important, and the idea behind it is nothing new. However, it’s grown in popularity in recent years, turning it into somewhat of a “buzzword” for many people. Unfortunately, that has also created some misconceptions surrounding what self-care looks like and how to implement it into your life.
Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be lavish or luxurious or take hours of your day. You can also make it a more routine part of your life, rather than just using it to take breaks from work or school.
By practicing self-care the right way, you’ll experience greater benefits, including more relaxation, reduced stress, and lower risks of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
So, what can you do aside from taking more frequent breaks and stepping away from work? How can you implement acts of self-care into every aspect of your life?
Pay Attention to “The Big Three”
One of the easiest ways to implement acts of self-care into your daily routine is to focus on three major components of your overall well-being:
- Eating a nutritious diet
- Getting enough sleep
- Staying physically active
All three of these factors can play a big part in how you feel each day, and making small changes to each one will make a big difference in reducing stress, improving your mental health, and benefiting your physical health, too!
Start by taking a look at what you eat each day. Certain foods can improve your mood, including oily fish, whole grains, foods with probiotics (yogurt, buttermilk, kimchi), and even dark chocolate. If you typically rely on fast food or convenience meals, you could be putting harmful preservatives into your body that will leave you feeling sluggish and depressed. Treat yourself to something healthy by cooking more meals at home, packing healthy snacks when you’re on the go, and finding healthy alternatives for traditional ingredients.
Getting enough sleep can sometimes feel easier said than done. According to the National Sleep Foundation, healthy adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If that’s difficult for you to do, consider establishing a healthier sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Shut off electronics at least an hour before bed, and make sure you have the ideal bedroom environment for healthy sleep.
Exercise is an incredibly important form of self-care, and not something you need to spend hours doing each day. Some of the mental and physical benefits you’ll experience from regular physical activity include:
- Boosted mood
- More energy
- Better focus
- Reduced risk of certain illnesses
- Better cardiovascular health
You don’t have to go to the gym each day to fit in a good workout. Make the act of self-care work for you by finding ways to stay active that are fun and enjoyable. Join a dance class or start playing a sport! Or, enjoy morning walks around the neighborhood with your dog.
Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance
While self-care is needed beyond the workplace, you probably spend quite a bit of your time at your job. So, it’s essential to make the most of “small ways” to care for yourself while you’re working. Taking frequent breaks, stepping away from your desk for a while, and even practicing mindfulness or meditation in the office are all great ways to implement self-care into your workday.
However, it’s just as essential to take longer breaks away from work – not just five minutes here and there.
Establishing a healthy work-life balance is one of the ultimate forms of self-care. While your job is important, it shouldn’t take up every aspect of your life. Consider talking to your employer about things like
- Flexible scheduling
- Working from home
- A modified break schedule
- Extra time off
- Quiet rooms/recovery rooms
Good employers should always take the mental and physical needs of their employees into consideration and foster environments where it’s encouraged to take care of yourself. If you’re not able to work self-care into your day at work and you can’t find the flexibility to enjoy your life away from the office, it might be time to consider a different career path.
Let Your Creativity Shine
Self-care isn’t just about finding little moments of relaxation. If you want to implement it into your everyday life, consider looking for new hobbies or picking up old ones that you used to enjoy. Doing things that allow you to be creative or even things that make you step outside your comfort zone can benefit your mental health and help to reduce stress.
You don’t have to be an artistic person to be creative. Try something like photography. Depending on what you want to take pictures of, it could be a wonderful opportunity to spend time in nature, appreciate small details, and feel more connected to the planet. It forces you to “slow down” and appreciate the world around you, which can improve your mood almost instantly.
If you want to continue to learn and grow (both great forms of self-care), consider taking a class that allows your creativity to come forward. Painting, drawing, sculpting, and even cooking are all fantastic ways to show your creativity. Plus, no matter what you choose to do, you’ll develop a strong sense of accomplishment when you finish an art piece or the perfect meal. That can boost your confidence and self-esteem, motivating you to continue daily acts of care.
Self-care is for everyone. It also looks different for everyone. You don’t need to block out a lot of time to do something grand for yourself every day. Rather, focus on the little things and how you can make them a part of your routine.
By implementing acts of self-care into every aspect of your life, you’ll have a greater sense of self-compassion, as well as more inner strength. When it comes to managing stress levels and fighting back against feelings of sadness or anxiety, self-care can be your first line of defense.
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.