An Introduction to Self-Care

by Melissa Chichester

Your mind is tired and your body is tired, but you just can’t get to sleep.

Every stressor in life hits your thoughts at the same time: I should have completed that work task; My mom is alone in the nursing home; I didn’t walk the dog; I didn’t do the laundry again; I don’t have time to bake 32 cupcakes for the entire second grade. All of these thoughts have one thing in common: They elevate the needs of others while putting your own needs on the back burner, with results that can be harmful to you.

Many people, especially women, put the care of others before their own needs. This may include caring for children, a spouse, a parent, or even pets. Professional caregivers such as doctors, nurses, teachers, veterinarians, and social workers may find themselves at an even greater risk, as their careers put them in the position of always attending to the needs of others.

I know what you’re thinking: that’s selfish. The same thought creeps into my head at times; however, I’ve learned that by being my healthiest, happiest self, I can dote on my loved ones with the attention they deserve.

Self-care isn’t a luxury. It is a necessity.

The purpose of self-care:

  • Reduces stress
  • Improving and maintaining physical and mental health
  • Recognizing and nurturing emotional needs
  • Maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family
  • Achieving a positive balance between work and personal life

Impossible, you say? It isn’t easy at first, but the benefits may surprise you.

Benefits of self-care:

  • Enhanced self-esteem
  • A positive outlook
  • The feeling of control
  • Better rest and relaxation
  • Improved time management
  • An increase in well-being

Are you saying “sign me up” yet? If you are, there’s more good news: you don’t have to smash up your piggy bank to practice self-care.

Here are some ways to get started:

  • Go to bed early and get a solid night of sleep
  • Write in a journal to clear your mind
  • Take a bike ride and explore a new trail
  • Light candles and take a bubble bath
  • Take a class to learn something new: a language, painting, a musical instrument
  • Join a group with a common interest (bird watching, running, knitting)
  • Yoga (there are many free yoga videos on YouTube)
  • Make and keep a coffee date with a friend
  • Go for a walk in your neighborhood or favorite park
  • Take 15 minutes out of your day to stretch and practice relaxed breathing
  • Read a new book or an old favorite
  • Build a puzzle with your family
  • Visit a museum and learn about a new culture
  • Get a massage and schedule the next one
  • Dance! Who cares if people see you?
  • Pray or meditate at home or in a place of worship
  • Go to the movies, with or without a date
  • Make a list of goals and create a path to achieving them
  • Have a date night with your significant other
  • Listen to your favorite song and sing it loudly
  • Take a vacation or “staycation”

Some of my favorite self-care activities include running at my favorite park, reading a good book at the beach, going to the movies by myself, and crocheting. I crochet every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes.

Neglecting yourself can lead to unhappiness, feelings of resentment, and burnout. Don’t succumb to these dangers, but instead take a little bit of time to care about YOU.