In today’s society, the discussion of mental health is at an all time high. People are now having open discussions and even debates about the state of mental health and how it impacts people from home to the workplace. There are even research studies that have been published in medical journals and found all over the interwebs that show these facts.
As someone who works in the space of mental and emotional wellness, this makes me very happy. Growing up, I was very fortunate having parents who sought help and took me to therapy when I was in a state of depression. However, when they were children, that help wasn’t accessible. During that time, it was common to “tough it out” when things got bad, regardless of the mental anguish it put on people. Not to mention, mental health services were usually reserved for those who were wealthy or lived in a particular part of town.
Thankfully, times have changed and are continually changing. Mental health accessibility is the highest it’s ever been with apps like TalkSpace, and Instagram channels people dedicate to conversations about mental health. People like kay_ska have dedicated her page to the discussion of mental health challenges and created a blog to share theirs. It’s a beautiful thing that I hope keeps growing.
One of the topics that has arose in today’s conversation of mental health is self-care. It’s definitely not a new conversation but is has begun to expand. When people first talked about self-care, it was about doing the things that made us feel really good. Usually it was something that brought on a physical feeling, such as getting nails and hair done. What we’ve seen now is that our mental health has just as much of an impact on our physical bodies as diet and exercise do. One of my friends posted this recently and I had to share it here.
What is self-care?
To understand self-care, we have to first go back to its origin which is self-love. My definition of self-love is the state of being where you are making yourself a priority, and self-care is the act of doing that. Without loving yourself first, you can’t give yourself what you need and you sure can’t give anything to anyone else either. You certainly won’t show up as the whole and complete person people need you to be.
There’s a common saying that you can’t give from an empty cup. It’s very true. However, people often forget that emptying your cup isn’t the problem. It’s totally ok to empty your cup, especially if you’re giving back and growing. Just make sure you take time to fill it back up. This is what self-care allows us to do.
The Practice of Self-Care
Recently one of my friends on social media posted about her “self-care list” and I was in love. She stated all of the ways in which she was going to incorporate self-care into her life. I LOVED it and enjoyed reading her list. It also inspired me to create my own list as well. Then I started thinking… If I was going to create a self-care list, what are the must-haves on my list? I took some time to connect deeply to this and I came up with this awesome list. So, without further do, here are my self-care musts in no particular order.
I don’t need to tell you how important this is. There is enough research out there to tell you how much sleep affects our overall well being from, lack of productivity to depriving the body systems of proper function. We need 8-9 hours of interrupted sleep. If you wake up multiple times during the night or wake still feeling tired, you have a problem (this could be a result of an overactive nervous system). The more sleep we get the better so, go to sleep.
This is becoming more important in our day as technology has contributed to more of a sedentary lifestyle (I’ll touch more on tech later) but it’s certainly not the only thing. Our life commitments have also increased which has led to less time for moving. We have to get more active in our daily lives.
From a scientific standpoint, physical activity brings oxygen to the brain which helps with mental clarity. From a spiritual standpoint, if your energy isn’t moving, you need to move. So get up and get active. Go for a walk, a run, hike, bike ride, swim, hit the gym, take up martial arts, whatever it takes. Make sure physical activity is one of the things you do.
Yes, fun. F-U-N, fun. Not recreational activity, FUN! Having fun is critical to your overall well being. This is one of the most important ones because most of us don’t feel good about having fun. Our society promotes busyness and glorifies productivity but what good is all of that if you’re not enjoying yourself?
Fun is something that must be incorporated into your life weekly. This is a perfect time to take up things you always wanted to try. Learn salsa dancing, go rock climbing, play paintball, go sing karaoke, whatever it is. Just have fun and feel good having fun. The way I see it, fun makes work have more value so, go play.
One of the most important things in our center of well being is our relationships. Sometimes, this involves us taking a step back to look at the type and quality of people in our lives. We have people who are contributing to our lives, those who take space, and those that rob us of our natural energy yield. We have to take stock of all of that to see who can to stay and who needs to go.
Think about what value people have. It’s good to have that person who tells it like it is even when you don’t like it. It’s good to have the people who know how to hold space. It’s good to have those who you can have fun with and teach you what that’s like. It’s also good to know when certain people need to have their friendship completed. It’s knowing who’s involved in your inner circle, those you can love at a distance, those who you’ll see when you see them, and then those who have to go.
Don’t feel bad about letting people go. They’ve served their purpose and that’s enough. It’s time you make space for other people who can serve you where you’re going.
This is one of the hardest things we can do for ourselves. While our modern world has so many great things, it’s ripe with stimulation. The amount of stimulation in our world has doubled if not tripled over the past 10 years. This means that everything is competing for your attention from social media, to conversations at the coffee house, to your phone, TV, radio, you name it.
To unplug is a way to give your mind a rest and allow you to center yourself back into your body and return to the present moment, therefore, reconnecting to you. There are many ways to do this from a simple walk to meditation. One of my favorite things to do is to go hiking in nature. Nature has this amazing ability to slow us down.
Try doing a social media detox, going days or a week off social media. Try meditating in silence instead of with music. Cook a meal without your phone or journal in your room without any electronics. Give your mind a break and you’ll be rewarded with a real connection with yourself.
As much as I said unplugging is hard, self-reflection is even more difficult. This involves us taking a step back from our daily lives to look at our whole being and asking some serious in-depth questions. This is a time for personal evaluation of what we’re doing, what we’ve done, who we may have harmed, what we really believe, and much more.
For most people, this scares them because they have to look in the mirror and may see something they don’t want to see. But without seeing what’s going on in your life, you can’t make changes that will improve your life in the future. This requires you to be honest with what’s going on and that’s ok. The more honesty you have, the better overall well being you’ll have. Besides, what’s worse than something that’s eating you up that you continue to allow in your life? Gain the courage to start looking at your life and you’ll see what you can change to make your life better.
For as many thing that are going on in the world today that are bad, there are so many things in this world to be grateful for. It’s very easy to complain about what you don’t have, but in that complaining we overlook the things we do have in our lives.
Start by writing down 3 things you’re grateful for right now. Go ahead! Stop reading this and do it. You might find yourself wanting to continue writing about more things. This is an easy practice to overlook with the state of the world but that doesn’t mean you still can’t be grateful. Make time for this practice.
Without a healing practice, there is no self care. This allows us to truly go deep within ourselves and look at the things that are truly running us and healing our old stress and trauma patterns A healing practice is critical to the improvement and continuation of your well being and it has to go beyond meditation and mindfulness, although, you can definitely start there.
There are many tools you can use to begin a healing practice. Things like Yoga, Qi Gong, Reiki, journaling, and more have been used to help people heal from old patterns. The most important thing is to be open to the process of healing. In my case, I use ThetaHealing® but I’ve also utilized flotation therapy, neurofeedback, a Magnesphere, and other tools along the way. This is very important to me because without a healing practice, I may not be here today. I take this seriously and I feel you need to as well.
BONUS: Ask For Help
I was recently on a podcast where the host said if there was something on her self care list, it would be this. None of us can do it all alone. If we could, we’d be the only ones here. It’s ok to ask for help. Everyone needs help at some point. Even the most successful people in the world had help from mentors to coaches. You’re not weak because you ask for help, you’re admitting there are things you can’t do well, and that’s ok. The sooner you ask for help, the better.
Where do I start?
Ah, the famous question… The first thing you have to understand is that self-care, like healing, is a process. It takes time to fall in love with yourself. Start with something simple. Go for the mani-pedi day. Spend a day at the spa. Put some music on your phone and dance around in the kitchen. Go crazy… one time! And then do it again.
It doesn’t need to be this fancy process that some may describe or even the things on the list necessarily, at least not right away. Get into the practice of self-care and then incorporate the things on the list. Don’t wait too long but it’s important that you don’t overwhelm yourself with too much activity right away. Give this time and with consistent practice, you’ll see your overall health begin to shift.