Self-Care is Important to Our Health and Well-Being
Let’s clear up one common misconception from the get-go: Self-care is not synonymous with self-indulgence or being selfish. Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others, and you can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day. Many people can be compassionate and kind towards others but have a hard time being compassionate towards themselves. Self-compassion is one of the most important things we can do for our own mental health and well-being. It is essential that we love ourselves no matter what faults we think we have. No one is perfect!
Paula Gill Lopez, PhD, an associate professor and chair of the department of psychological and educational consultation at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, says the need for self-care is obvious. “We have an epidemic of anxiety and depression,” she says. “Everybody feels it.”
This is where self-care or self-compassion comes in to help us really see our own self-worth. Many of us get dragged down by circumstances or people around us. These can be people that we have trusted or love. The bottom line is it is up to us to love ourselves. When we practice self-care, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This allows us to relax and counteract the effects of long-term stress.
According to Kristin Neff, an expert in the field of self-compassion, Self-care or compassion can be made up of 3 main parts. They are:
Self Kindness. Being kind to ourselves in moments when we feel “not good enough.” This is part of the process.
Commonality: Everyone has moments of feeling they are insufficient, anguished or unsuccessful. No one has a stress-free life. Even though you may feel alone in these states, there is always someone going through something similar. You are not alone.
Mindfulness: Notice Thoughts that make you feel like you are “not good enough.” Don’t ignore them, but don’t dwell on them either. Recognise and acknowledge them and then move on.
Here are 5 ways that you can practice self-compassion: 1. Change your state of mind. Whenever you start thinking negatively about yourself. Reframe the thought. This could involve thinking about a benefit or upside to a negative situation that you had not considered. Alternatively, it can involve identifying a lesson to be learned from a difficult situation. One example of reframing is redefining a problem as a challenge. Such a redefinition activates a different way of being. Problem has a heavy quality to it, while the notion of a challenge is enlivening. 2. Use only Kind Words. Stop yourself when you hear that self-critical voice, calling you lazy, unattractive or insufficient or anything else that is negative. Find a positive word that describes you instead. When you do this, think about how you would describe a good friend. You would never treat your friends as badly as you do yourself! Start with something small. “I have nice eyes or a kind smile.” 3. Everyone makes mistakes. It is how we learn. Forgive yourself and move on. If an apology is in order, apologise to yourself or others, make it, and keep progressing forward. It is common humanity. 4. Follow your passion. Everyone deserves joy, happiness and excitement. Don’t feel that if things aren’t going well that you aren’t worthy of these favourable feelings. Make sure that you do things that you are passionate about and spark joy in your life. 5. Connect with others. Find other people who share your passions. They may need the connection as much as you do. Finding someone who shares some of your passions, can help you get through feelings of loneliness. It is definitely a step towards self-kindness and perhaps new friendships.
Some self-care activities that can help. Do not limit yourself to these suggestions. Write down any ideas that help you be kinder to yourself. Add them to your own self-care calendar. Include any activities that can increase your connection to yourself. Here are some examples.
- Do something altruistic. Be kind for the sake of being kind and let go of the need for recognition. This lifts those happy hormones! You don’t need constant validation for you to be okay.
- Show your body some love. Take time every day for a week or more and do some stretching, go for a walk, do some yoga…Your body does so much for you. Take time to replenish it.
- Be present. After you wake up, simply sit comfortably, and try to focus on your breath for two minutes. When (not if) your mind wanders, just notice it and label it “thinking.” And gently return to the breath, without harshness. Set a timer, and when the timer goes off, you’re done!
- What makes you smile? Take a few minutes to think about things that make you smile. Then smile and enjoy the experience.
- Get — or give — a hug. Physical affection reduces our stress levels and makes us feel more connected.
- Get a massage and revel in the beauty of touch and take time for yourself!
Have fun with this and know you deserve love, kindness and self-compassion. The trick to creating a self-care practice that you’ll stick with is self-awareness and creating a routine that works for you. You don’t need huge, uninterrupted blocks of “me-time” in your schedule to cultivate self-care. Don’t let being “busy” stop you from making time for yourself!
Contributed by: Michelle “Mickie” Ball, Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method Posture Teacher – 0428 223 271