Self-care is a basic need, one neglected by most of us – particularly when caring for others. In many cases, the perception that we lack time and that it is an indulgence prevents us from taking necessary action. We need to shift away from thinking of self-care as the occasional treat. Rather, everyday we should practice self-care. Don’t panic, this does not mean we have to cut away a part of our already hectic lives for some “me time”.
Personally, the thought of self-care often brought about feelings of anxiety and guilt.
- Why do we feel anxiety about taking care of ourselves? It’s the “where to start?”. Just another task to incorporate into our already chaotic day.
- Why do we feel guilty? In part, the illusion that self-care is a ‘treat’ or ‘reward’ opposed to a requirement for survival.
I realized that I approached self-care all wrong. We cannot just schedule in ‘me-time’ and believe we have met our self-care objectives. Sustainable self-care comes from first establishing a strong foundation that provides daily care without effort. Once we form a foundation, we can customize how to care for ourselves meeting specific needs without the guilt.
What is Self-Care?
The concept of self-care is rather simple “you taking care of you.” Self-care: the act of ensuring you are addressing your physical and mental needs to be the healthiest you can be.
- Eating right
- Getting enough restful sleep
- Being physically active to the best of your ability
- Finding balance & nurturing your mind
- Learning new things and personal growth through positive experiences
What it is not:
Why is Self-Care Important?
Primarily, as a parent or other caregiver, we need to take care of ourselves to be able to take care of another. If we are not taking the time to care for ourselves, it can lead to physical and mental stress. Stress can then lead to increases in depression, heart health, and infectious diseases. When we are at our best not only are we better at parenting, but we also enjoy it more.
Secondly, we need to be role models for our children. Children learn all the time from our behavior. We want them to learn to care for others while maintaining their health.
Lastly, and most importantly, we need to enjoy our relatively short lives.
Balanced Dimensions & Hierarchy Prioritization for Self-Care
When addressing individual self-care needs, it is helpful to think of both the groups of needs that ought to be met (dimensions) and how to prioritize the meeting those needs (hierarchy). I first struggled with self-care when it felt like a small bandage on a gaping wound. After simplifying both the “self-care wheel for life balance¹” along with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs I had a framework to structure my care approach. One that seems a lot easier to implement.
Body & Mind: While body and mind could be two different categories the interplay between them makes it easier to manage as a unit. Again, we want to simplify implementing self-care into our day-to-day.
Professional: Whether you work in a corporate office, small retail store, or from home our professional life impacts our overall well being. Alternatively, our well being affects our profession.
Consider just the amount of time spent working, the dependency for our financial well being, and the level of human interaction experienced during work hours over our lifetime. The impact of the work on well-being is significant.
Home: “Home is where the heart is,” “home sweet home,” or “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” They may be cliches, but there is a lot of pressure to maintain our home as an oasis and place of emotional refuge from the rest of the world. If that refuge is not safe or does not nurture us, we lack one of the primary needs for our existence. To be clear, a “home” does not refer mega-mansion or even a simple house. A home is where you go to rest, recharge, and feel safe. It can be a tent in an open field, a trailer on wheels,…whatever provides you safe-haven.
Physical & Safety: This is the foundation level of self-care. Not only do we need to be physically well and safe just for our well-being, it is also a requirement to be able to fully enjoy the social and esteem needs.
Social: Mutually beneficial and positive interactions with others. For some, this is easy, for others (like myself) it is equivalent to a root canal. While difficult at times it is part of our make-up to interact with others.
Esteem/Self-Actualization: Building a “happy” you. Feeling good about yourself and engaging in activities that enrich your life and mind.
How to Meet Your Self-Care Needs
It is surprising how much anxiety taking care of ourselves can induce. We feel pressed for the time and guilty when we prioritize ourselves.
While we can compare our care to the “air masks on a plane” analogy, it is a little less easy or obvious to put into practice in our day-to-day lives. Nor, can we implement a self-care practice if there are flaws in the foundation of “us.”
Picture a face mask. It sounds nice? Not very time consuming, relatively inexpensive, and could be whipped up with kitchen ingredients. However, you have not had a chance to see a doctor about the continuous neck pain or a persistent cough. How beneficial is the face mask when your body is in pain?
For this reason, incorporating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides the framework for achieving a more rewarding and permanent self-care routine.
Address the Foundational Needs First
Our foundational need is our physical well-being and safety. Just think about it, if you are in pain do you feel like being social or going dancing?
Each of the three dimensions of care (Professional Care, Home Care, & Body/Mind Care) have their challenges in tackling your physical needs. Some may be easier than others. The weight of each dimension may change as your life circumstances change.
Examples of physical/safety needs:
- Smoke & carbon monoxide detectors with good batteries/power supply.
- Remove toxins from the home.
- Reduce clutter and eliminate hoarding.
- Germs and lingering microbes.
- Ergonomic work environment
- Toxin exposure / Healthy work environment
- Workplace harassment
- Up-to-date doctor, optometrist, dentist visits
- Stop searching online every symptom you feel and working yourself into a panic (guilty!)
- Eating well and in moderation
- Movement and exercise
- Proper sleep
Incorporate the Social
Social seems somewhat self-explanatory…just be social. Easier said than done! Not all of our social interactions are positive, in fact, some are toxic. Sociability does not require friendship it can be a reassuring look from someone in the same check out line. In today’s electronic age a positive social experience could be at a great distance. The interaction needs to be genuine.
Examples of Social needs:
- Recognize that physical isolation may require additional creativity for sociability
- Recognize obstacles that prevent social interactions at home (accessibility, invitation…)
- Avoiding the allure of toxic colleagues
- Foster positive colleague relationships
- Enjoy social time with your family
- Turn off the screens
- Read to your children
- Connect with partner and friends
- Reduce contact or eliminate “one-way friends.”
Cherish Yourself: Esteem & Self Actualization
If you have addressed a good chunk of your physical and social needs you are now in a good position to enjoy the ‘esteem’ and ‘self-actualization’ requirements. These are the activities that enhance your life, make you feel good, and appreciate moments.
Examples of Esteem & Self Actualization needs:
- Get the pictures off your phone and camera on onto the wall
- Decorate a corner or room that inspires you.
- Spring lean no matter what the season. I always feel better after purging a room.
- Define your work-life-balance boundaries
- Take a course or learn a new skill
- Recognize your high and lows
- Read, for pleasure or enlightenment. Read what you enjoy
- Accept yourself, love yourself
- Color, doodle, or craft
- Meditate or just pause for a moment
It is time to start taking care of yourself and I would like to help you on that path. Initially, it may feel a little difficult but once the foundation is in place it gets a lot easier to maintain. To help you, I created a FREE self-care challenge workbook that follows the “prioritize” and “balance” approach. The workbook starts with a focus on physical and safety care and then covers social and esteem needs. Learn all about it here and download your FREE copy. I would love to know your care struggles and progress, please leave a comment below.