Earlier this week I presented at a conference on self-care for those in the human services field, and it’s an important enough topic that it deserves its own blog post. Why is self-care so important? Because if we don’t take care of ourselves, than we can’t take care of others. It doesn’t matter how well-meaning, loving, caring, enthusiastic or energetic an individual you are, if you don’t make (notice I said “make”, not “find”) time for yourself on a regular basis, than you will burn out. Those deadlines, those patients, those meetings and presentations, the kids’ busy schedules, the long commute, the bills, the car repairs… it’s called life. And it weighs on all of us. You simply cannot live the life you want to live if you do not make time for yourself on a regular basis.
Self-Care is defined as “personal health maintenance.” And the word “health” should be understood in a holistic sense: physical health, mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, nutritional health. We may all have different roles and responsibilities in our daily lives, but – deep down inside – we are all incredibly unique individuals with unique ideas, goals, and needs – and if we don’t take care of those things that make us who we are? No one else will.
So, whether you’re a nurse, an executive, a stay-at-home-parent, a teacher, or retiree… make time to take care of yourself. It’s not selfish. It’s anything but, because it’s an investment that then allows you to turn around and give your best to the world around you. Here are a few tips:
MAKE THE TIME: It’s that simple. “Free Time” is NEVER going to magically pop up on your Outlook calendar. Not gonna happen. Make time. Squeeze in a walk at lunch. Stop at the library on your way home from work and grab that book you wanted to read. Take a cooking class this Saturday to learn a culinary approach you wish you knew. Ask your spouse to watch the kids that one evening/week you really wish you were in yoga class. But don’t just think about it. Do it. Act.
GET OUT IN NATURE: Medical research is now showing what many of us have experienced for ourselves already: time in nature is medicinal. It lowers blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, increases cardiovascular health, decreases stress and anxiety, and even fights cancer… I could’ve told you that. There’s not a stressful situation I’ve encountered yet that a 2 hour trail run hasn’t been able to put into perspective, but to understand the research behind the medicine you should definitely read Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning from last fall’s issue of Outside
SILENCE IS GOLDEN: And… when you’re on your hike/walk/run/fishing/kayak, etc. in the great outdoors? Turn the phone off. No iTunes. Leave the headphones at home. Silence is increasingly hard-to-come-by in this hyper-speed world of ours. It’s amazing how much brain clutter can work itself out with some simple silence. The first few minutes might feel awkward because we’re all so used to having our attention diverted by something, but trust me – that sense of perspective and lowered anxiety that you long for? It’ll come if you embrace some silence now and then.
TRY SOMETHING NEW: It’s amazing how rejuvenating it can be to get outside of your comfort zone. So go wild, audition for a community musical or try something out-of-the-ordinary like Stand-Up Paddleboarding, but every once in awhile try something that is out of your comfort zone. In fact, make a habit of it.
Image by: Ben Murphy, Instagram. Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved.