DO YOU PRACTICE SELF CARE?
One of the things I find myself talking to clients about more and more is the idea of practicing Self Care. It sounds easy enough. Just try to eat right, get some exercise, take care of our families, and squeeze in an indulgence like a massage now and then, right? They will talk about the latest app they downloaded to enhance their lives, the new trendy items they should buy for self improvement, places they should go for enlightenment, and so on in order to add things to help them achieve good Self Care. But what can be most beneficial is not adding in more but actually doing less.
Our world is full of stimulation, information, options, and we can access almost anything, anywhere, at any time. Seems like we should have no problem. But when is it all too much? Here are 5 things to consider for improving your Self Care practice:
The 8 R’s of Practicing Self Care:
Sleep. We all need it. We all love it. But the issue of Sleep Deprivation is becoming a common problem. Many people I see in my work report going to bed no earlier than midnight and getting up by 6am. When they go to bed they check their phone once or twice more, take another few minutes to respond to a text, read a few social media posts, and watch “just one more" You Tube video. Then their phone is lit up while charging next to their pillow with notification sounds going off through the night, the streetlight casts a glow through their window, and the TV is on because they can’t fall asleep without some noise. Silence is foreign to them and they can’t sleep with all the thoughts going on in their head. And they are exhausted much of the day after.
Tackling sleep issues takes discipline but you will notice the benefits if you make the effort. First set a schedule that allows for an average of 8 hours of sleep each night. Next take inventory of anything that causes noise, light, and distraction in your bedroom or designated sleeping area. Keep as many electronics out of your sleeping area as possible. If you need your phone close to the bed for potential emergencies be sure to dim any lit features and silence notifications you don’t need during the night. If sound helps you fall asleep experiment with white noise like a fan, sound machine, etc. Avoid stimulating foods and beverages like caffeinated drinks or sugary snacks too close to bedtime. Be mindful about decreasing fluid intake as you get closer to bedtime to prevent waking to use the restroom. And work within your budget to create a sleeping space you love with soothing colors and fabrics. Declutter the area for good flow of energy and a feeling of ease. Keep in mind that developing a routine that works for you will take time so don’t give up after a night or two.
Unplug and reconnect. Yes this sounds like an oxymoron at face value but it means to literally unplug the electronics and reconnect with your community and the people in it. Like sleep deprivation isolation is another factor being identified as cause for mental health issues like depression. We feel connected to the world at the click of a button yet we are actually isolating ourselves in our own small world as we sit behind the screens of our phones and laptops. We need real human interaction and a sense of community to enrich our lives. Of course we have come to rely on our phones, tablets, and laptops and often we must use them for work so the key is balance. Set hours that coincide with when you actually are on the job. More and more people are working non-traditional jobs outside of the 9-5 office routine so setting boundaries for making and accepting calls and texts is crucial. Send and respond to emails only during your set working hours. Make it clear to co-workers and associates what hours they can reach you and that you will return calls and texts the following day. Make the rest of the time for family, connecting virtually with friends, getting out in nature, or simply relaxing at home quieting your mind. If you are in a situation either because of physical health, mobility, or living in a very remote area that creates barriers and limitations then seek virtual community resources and services that can help you access support and opportunities to avoid isolation.
By this I mean to align yourself with people, things, and places that add benefit to your life. This takes deciding on and making very clear boundaries about what kind of energy you allow into your life. We are all so busy whether we are single, in a relationship, work outside of the home, have children, or run a home business and there are only so many hours in a day so decide how to use them wisely. Those who respect and support your choices will understand and will naturally fit into your realignment plan. Learn what to say No to and what to say Yes to. We worry about hurting others feelings if we turn down an invitation or don’t take sides in their current relationship problems but to practice Self Care we must choose what is best for us or else we are dividing ourselves up in a million little pieces trying to do it all and please everyone. And then we feel frustrated for not having enough time to plan healthy meals or make it to yoga class or the gym even though we know how important those things are. When you feel like you are filling other’s cups while yours is being drained realignment is crucial for balance.
Take A Bath. I can’t leave this out because it is my personal favorite. I take a daily bath and am surprised by how many people find it strange. Many tend to think of it as something they had to do as a child but now as adults just need a quick shower for their busy life and stressful morning routine. But it’s like a spa right in your own home so take advantage of it regardless of whether you have an average sized tub or a large one. Add in some Bath Salts or Essential Oils like Lavender in the evening for calming and relaxing or try Lemon Verbena or Peppermint in the morning to invigorate and wake up the senses for the day ahead. Light a candle. Play calming music in the background or create silence. Close your eyes and relax even if just for 5-10 minutes. Use this time also to reflect, meditate, or pray while including focused breathing.
Seek joy, it’s there often in the little things. I recently moved back to Southern California and I remind myself to look up often and notice the sky, the birds, and nature all around. When I am in my car making my way through traffic I remind myself to look past the cars and notice the mountains in the distant and the ocean along the highway and have gratitude for the beauty I am fortunate to be surrounded by. These seem like obvious things to do but we can easily take for granted the simple pleasures that at the end of the day are the priceless ones, the ones we can’t duplicate as humans with our worldly knowledge and our technology. Notice and appreciate the kindness when a stranger smiles at us amongst the many who wouldn’t even make eye contact, the waiter who went above and beyond, the neighbor who waves as you pass by. We see and hear the bad news, the tragedies, the storms, and the sorrows and we need to pay attention to those too but always take a moment to find the joy and Rejoice.
Sometimes taking a beat is important, to reassess our lives, and choosing a conscious reset. We get to edit our lives, relationships, and take a moment to regroup again. Honor yourself and give yourself the gift of slowing down and tuning in. You have the power to reset at any given time. Pause & Reset.
Everyday we are constantly being bombarded with outside noises, take time for yourself to ground. It is so important to recharge our own batteries. If you are someone who is constantly giving to others, take some time to give back to yourself, take a bath, take a walk, take a break.
Bring yourself back to the innocent child within, and reimagine. What else can you co-create in your life? What is something you've always wanted to do? How can you bring more joy into your life?
Article written by Karin Barragato, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working with clients in a clinical healthcare setting providing Counseling and Support from a Strengths Based Perspective with a Holistic Systems Theory approach. Originally from New York she earned her Master's Degree at The University of Kansas and obtained her clinical licensure in California where she now resides.