What Have You Done For You Lately?
By Stephanie Prince Ling, MFT
Do you find yourself wondering what you’ll be pouring yourself tonight once you get home? (whatever time that will be). Do you question why you feel older than your actual chronological age? Are you concerned that at times you feel depressed; defeated; easily annoyed and frustrated with others? Work is hard. Life is hard and if you are not treating yourself well in the process, you may start to find that what was once your passion now feels like a nuisance and “just a job.”
It’s inevitable and happens quite frequently. When these “symptoms” occur, they simply cannot be cured by a trip to the doctor. The core problem most often tends to be poor self-care. Self-care refers to actions and attitudes which contribute to the maintenance of well-being and personal health and promote human development (Thank you Wikipedia). We have stopped tending to our personal needs and overlook basic necessities because other things have become a priority. We are so on the go and set in a routine, that when the going gets tough, we just get tougher. We have stopped smelling the roses. We are attached to phones, emails and gadgets that remind us that we need to pick up milk at some point the next time we have time to grocery shop. Negating self-care has been the impetus for reasons people experience things like addiction, poor work performance, depression and broken relationships. We have become consumed by deadlines, projects and pleasing others, that the sense of self is an afterthought. Let it be known that I am not on a path to promote narcissism and impulsive online shopping; I am simply reminding you that caring for yourself is just as important as breathing air.
So what truly is Self-care? Some people think of it as a trip to the salon for a mani/pedi. Some believe its an extra glass of wine at night because it was an exceptionally “hard day at the office.” While these things may promote temporary happiness (and/or drunkenness) it’s not true to the concept of authentic self-care. In essence, self-care is truly caring for yourself. This cannot be purchased, nor is it about self-indulgence. Self-care in fact is a lifestyle. It’s about creating balance and choosing behaviors to combat emotional and physical stress. Examples of these good behaviors are: healthy eating; exercise; getting enough sleep; yoga; mediation, etc. Also, essential to self-care is establishing ways to self-sooth or calm our physical and emotional distress. Creating effective ways to respond to stress is key to sustaining lower levels of stress and preserving joy.
In order to begin or in some cases, reconnect with caring for yourself, it’s imperative to have one major key concept: AWARENESS. Begin with asking yourself if you are happy. Then ask yourself the following questions: Are you content and pleased with yourself, your attitude, your body - mind -and soul? How are you responding to daily demands? What’s your cure at the end of a stressful day? How do you reward yourself? How is your sleep? How is your health? And lastly, how are your relationships with others? If you are concerned about any of your internal responses, thoughts and feelings to the questions above- it’s time to take action. While maintaining homeostasis can be a challenge, it’s not impossible.
Here are my top 5 Self-care tips to get you started:
1. Slow down. This is a hard one especially for you Type A folks. This is critical so the mind and body can connect.
2. Laugh until it hurts.
3. “Actively” Listen to yourself. Be mindful of your needs. If you are tired, stop, rest, nap if possible. If you are hungry, eat. You get it.
4. Engage with others – reach out to friends and family; socialize.
5. Create Joyful rituals – perhaps with family or even just solo.