As a counselors (or perhaps just as a caring person) you might tend to put others first and focus on their needs above your own. This pattern in life might be sustainable for a short time, perhaps during a crisis, but if that becomes a lifestyle the ability to support diminishes. If you are not well, you cannot help others become well. Therefore, it is critical that you take time for your own well being and growth apart from caring for others.
Does that sound selfish to you? If so you’re in good company. A lot of people struggle with self-care because they believe that to practice self-care is to stop caring for others. After all, if we are taking time to care for ourselves then we are taking time away from caring for others. However, if we understand self-care correctly it is accurate to understand that the better we are practicing self-care the healthier we will be and the more effectively we will be able to care for others.
Taking care of yourself so that you’re better able to care for others can take many different forms. There are some basic practices common to everyone attempting to practice good self-care such as healthy sleep patterns, a healthy diet and regular exercise. However, a fourth element that is just as important is the ability to find personal adaptations for self-care.
What does healthy self-care look like?
When life gets crazy for yourself or others you are attempting to help sleep is often the first thing to go. Not only are you unable to schedule your time adequately because of the unpredictable nature of life but even things that are scheduled get interrupted.
When you’re not sleeping well you will not have the energy to care for yourself in other areas. You are not able to function as well as you should. Your reactions are slower, and you cannot think as clearly and you much more likely to become frustrated by simple task.
Putting up good safe guards around your sleep schedule is a great first step. Understand your need for 6-8 hours of sleep daily so that you’re better able to face the challenges of day to day life.
During periods of extreme stress or even in the average workday it can be hard to find time to schedule quality balanced meals into your daily routine. Perhaps, it’s because during the time of stress there is rarely a routine to life. You cannot find time to cook or to find quality food because of the limited nature of time. The nearest drive-thru is your only option when you need a quick meal so that you can move on to your next task.
When we fail to take time to monitor our diet we are unable to tell how our body is reacting to other outside influences such as stress. An unhealthy diet causes us to function at a lower capacity both intellectually and emotionally.
As someone struggles to set a routine schedule to sleep or eat well it is unlikely that they will be able to find adequate time to exercise. However, routine physical activity can be a great way to relieve the stress of everyday life. Those who are practicing a regular habit of exercise tend to have a more proactive approach to life.
As the body engages in exercise it releases numerous chemicals into the body that promote happiness and feelings of relaxation. In addition to chemicals released exercise promotes better circulation which brings nutrients and oxygen to the different organs and tissues in the body. As this happens the body is more energetic and able to operate more efficiently.
In addition to those three major categories, as well as others not included, everyone must learn how to uniquely care for themselves. What brings you joy? Do any of the follow resonate with you?
- Reading a book alone in a quiet room or in a rocking chair relax you.
- Perhaps you being able to sit on a couch and watch reruns of your favorite show on Netflix rejuvenates you.
- A conversation with a friend.
- Reaching out to spend time with family.
- Listening to music that you enjoy.
- Taking time to learn about a new subject that interest you.
If none of those things interest you, try new things! Find what brings you joy and pursue those things. Whatever you enjoy you must make time for those things. In a world that gets overly busy even when you are not caring for others it becomes easy to neglect yourself. Start by taking even five minutes out of your day to relax, reflect, and do something for you.
Are you practicing good self-care?