Self-Care Should Not Be Optional
Mental Health Awareness Week is October 1-7 and one of the best ways to keep our bodies in shape and minds sharp is by keeping a regular self-care routine. One of the first questions I ask a new client is, “Tell me about your self-care routine.” My question is often followed by an awkward silence before my client jokes, “What’s that?”
They call the daily routines of life The Grind for a reason. These necessary chores can grind you down and turn an otherwise happy, healthy person into a grump. The list of daily responsibilities that must be done can, at times, feel infinite. Showing up for work and doing a good job. Shopping for groceries and cooking a meal. Washing and folding clothes. Mowing the yard. Renewing your driver’s license. Helping kids with homework. Cleaning the house. Taking the kids to and from practice, baseball games, football games, soccer games. The list goes on and on.
When is there even a few minutes for a little personal time? This “free” time usually comes at night when you are exhausted and have little left to give. This needs to change. Repeat after me: self-care is not selfish. It is vital to healthy living.
When you take care of yourself, you are giving an incredible gift to those you care about the most. When you take care of yourself, you are filling up your tank. When your tank is full (or mostly full), you are giving out of your abundance. When you are giving from a nearly empty tank, you are stressed, overwhelmed and irritable. In other words, you’re headed for a burnout/breakdown. Herophilos was a Greek physician who lived around 300 B.C. He observed, “when health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot become manifest, strength cannot be exerted, wealth is useless, and reason is powerless.”
Here’s the good news: Self-care should make you happy! Yes, you heard right. Self-care should be fun, enjoyable, relaxing, rejuvenating and done on a regular basis just like all the other “necessary chores” of The Grind.
One important element to self-care is to first understand where your time goes in a day. An average person will sleep 8 hours, work 8 hours, eat for 1 hour, groom for half an hour and drive to/from work for half an hour. This comes to 18 hours each day that is spoken for which leaves 6 hours of “free time”. If you plan well, you can get most of the duties of The Grind done in 3-4 hours which leaves you 2-3 hours to scan Facebook, watch the news and binge TV shows . . . and/or do something valuable for yourself that will enrich your life.
Here are four ways you can include self-care in your daily routine.
CREATE: Creating can mean a lot of different things. You can draw, paint or sketch. But you can also write in your journal, take videos of your family and edit them on your computer or cook something you have never made before. If you feel really inspired, you could create something that you can later sell that you enjoy doing like jewelry or desserts.
LEARN: With advances in technology, there are literally thousands of ways to educate yourself. There are books, ebooks, and auidobooks. There are podcasts, online courses and local colleges that offer continuing education.
You could also learn how to meditate.
MOVE: Another vital component of self-care is exercise. Like learning, exercise can take any form that fits your lifestyle. If running on a treadmill sounds like torture to you, then find a $15 bike at a garage sale and spin around your neighborhood or park.
PLAY: One expert defined play as meaningless action. Kids have this down to an art. Adults . . . not so much. It is as if we have forgotten how to play. I had a client once tell me she went to the beach for a weekend but never went to the ocean because it rained. My suggestion was the next time she goes to the beach and it rains to play. Run on the beach in the rain!
Play can be whatever you want it to be: humming a song, putting together a puzzle, buying yourself a toy you always wanted as a child but were never given. If you have young children, sit on the floor and ask if you can join. Then watch as their face lights up. They are fantastic play teachers. Find time to incorporate meaningless action into your self-care.
If you plan accordingly you can accomplish two or more of these activities at once. Put on your headphones, head out for a run and listen to a book or podcast while exercising. Bingo!
Here are a few final tips to shape up your mind:
- Watch less news
- Spend less time on social media
- If you have an iPhone, go to Settings and scroll down to “Battery”. Look at how much time you spend on what applications for the past day or past week. Be ready for a shocker.
- Google “self-care activities”. Just FYI, there are about 14.6 million results.
- Breathe. That’s right. Take a deep breath right now. Do it. Now go take better care of yourself. No one is going to do it for you!
– Reb Buxton
Psychotherapist | Email Reb