What if I say that you will get an extra hour today? What will you think to do first? Assignments or a self-care session?

The choice is a little hard but, don’t you think a little me time for our body is a much-needed dose. We have heard a lot of times, the way you behave with someone is the way they treat you back. Why not we turn the phrase a little?

What if I say, the way you treat yourself is the way people treat you back!

That means if we love ourselves the way we are, so will the society. Being comfortable in our own skin, not being scared about how people will react, treating our body with the adequate amount of love and care that it needs. Not to miss out the most important thing, i.e. giving time to our own self!

Most of us have heard about self-care. We know it’s important. We may even know a few things that we “should” do for self-care. But one of the things I hear over and over from women, especially, is “how do I fit self-care into my already packed day?”

This is such a valid question. Women often find themselves giving to others all day long, at work and at home, and wonder how they can possibly fit time for themselves into that full daily schedule.

You are not alone if you are asking yourself this same question. Many of us tend to prioritize our day to day duties in something similar to the following order: family, work, chores (cooking, shopping, laundry, etc), activities or other commitments, and last but not least self-care. Rinse and repeat. We consistently put self-care as our lowest priority. When it is last on the list, it is the one that can most easily be skipped entirely if we run out of time.  

So, what happens when we don’t fit in time for self-care into our daily schedule?

I don’t know about you, but I know when I am not making time or prioritizing self-care into my day, my patience level heads south. It is much easier to become snippy and less understanding when interacting with others.

What else happens when self-care isn’t a part of our daily life?

“There’s a tremendous amount of stress and pressure put on women: being parents, being daughters, mothers, wives, professionals. All of these roles combined leave many of us not taking adequate care of ourselves — which is what sustains us and gives us the energy to take care of all these other responsibilities that we have,” says Randy Kamen Gredinger, a Wayland, MA, psychologist and life coach specializing in women’s issues.

When it comes to staying healthy, people talk a lot about diet, exercise and sleep. But should me-time be part of the conversation as well? Emotional well-being is closely tied to physical well-being. If we aren’t taking time to rest, relax, re-energize and restore, bad things will happen eventually. Chronic stress increases the risk for a wide range of psychological and physical health conditions, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, digestive disorders and sleep problems.

Beyond that, when we don’t take time to nurture ourselves and indulge personal interests, it’s easy to lose touch with who we are in the world. We focus more on what we do in life rather than experiencing it.

What is self-care?

Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also keys to a good relationship with oneself and others.

Although self-care means different things to different people, there’s a basic checklist that can be followed by all of us:

  1. Create a “no” list, with things you know you don’t like or you no longer want to do. Examples might include: Not checking emails at night, not attending gatherings you don’t like, not answering your phone during lunch/dinner.
  2. Promote a nutritious, healthy diet.
  3. Get enough sleep. Adults usually need 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  4. Exercise. In contrast to what many people think, exercise is as good for our emotional health as it is for our physical health. It increases serotonin levels, leading to improved mood and energy. In line with the self-care conditions, what’s important is that you choose a form of exercise that you like!
  5. Follow-up with medical care. It is not unusual to put off check-ups or visits to the doctor.
  6. Use relaxation exercises and/or practice meditation. You can do these exercises at any time of the day.
  7. Spend enough time with your loved ones.
  8. Do at least one relaxing activity every day, whether it’s taking a walk or spending 30 minutes unwinding.
  9. Do at least one pleasurable activity every day; from going to the cinema, to cooking or meeting with friends.
  10. Look for opportunities to laugh!

Stick to the basics. Over time you will find your own rhythm and routine. You will be able to implement more and identify more particular forms of self-care that work for you.

Self-care needs to be something you actively plan, rather than something that just happens. It is an active choice and you must treat it as such. Add certain activities to your calendar, announce your plans to others in order to increase your commitment, and actively look for opportunities to practice self-care.

Keeping a conscious mind is what counts.

In other words, if you don’t see something as self-care or don’t do something in order to take care of yourself, it won’t work as such. Be aware of what you do, why you do it, how it feels, and what the outcomes are.

If you are feeling overwhelmed in thinking about how to make changes to better prioritise your own self-care, help is available.  Especially if we are struggling with mental health concerns, it can be really hard to find the energy or motivation to start making changes to better ourselves. Seeing a therapist can help one break down their goals into easier, achievable steps, and support them in this goal of making themselves their priority.