Calvalyn Day, MsEd,
Longer work hours, bumper to bumper commutes, less sleep and more stress. The average adult has anything but a leisurely lifestyle. The day to day grind of our lives is something that naturally depletes even a happy and content person. Self-care is one of the ways we refill our tanks.
But for many of us, particularly parents, we treat self-care as if it is a luxury. Something that should only be engaged in when time allows. We place the need to relax and unwind at the bottom of the to-do list and when was the last time your to-do list was done?
As easy as it is to push off the “selfish” part of the quest for self-care, the truth is, self-care is anything but selfish. The increase in stress levels not only affects you, but the trickle-down effect hits relationships, employers and even kids, hard. While most of us can keep up a feverish pace for a brief period of time, we weren’t designed to burn the candle at both ends the way we are typically doing now. Self-care is an essential component of living a healthy life.
Just like a car without good maintenance, without good self-care, we can experience things as simple as feeling a little run down, or scattered in our thoughts to physical ailments like high blood pressure or chronic headaches. For many, though, a lack of self-care is a trigger for increased mental health concerns or a shorter temper which can then cause secondary stresses like interpersonal conflicts. While quitting your job and going on a yearlong trek across the globe to recharge may seem very appealing, most of us can’t, or won’t do that.
But rest assured, throwing caution to the wind and abandoning civilization is not necessary to practice good self-care. With a few simple changes you can combat the natural stresses of our everyday lives and be ready for those occasional big bumps in the road. Good self-care simply requires that you are aware of your own personal needs and interests and that you recognize the value in meeting those needs consistently.
So what represents good self-care? Well, that depends. For some it’s as easy as a brisk walk or watching your favorite movie. For others, it’s unplugging from our electronic surroundings or heading to bed a little early. The point is less about exactly what you do and more that you do it.
Take our quick quiz below and see how you are doing on your self-care. For each question give yourself an answer of 1-5. One meaning you rarely or never do it and 5 meaning you always do.
- I take time for myself every day.
- I have a spiritual, religious or mindfulness practice that fuels me.
- I am active for at least 30 minutes each day and watch less than 30 minutes of television daily.
- I have a healthy lifestyle consisting of 7 or more hours of sleep and a diet with fruits and vegetables and plenty of water.
- I regularly get together with friends and family and feel recharged by our time together.
- I am aware of my feelings and I have healthy mechanisms of managing my emotions.
- My work and home lives are organized and balanced.
- I have at least one passion or hobby that excites me.
- I am happy about my appearance and invest in “keeping myself up”.
- I limit my social media and electronic activity.
So, how did you do? A score of 50 means you’re either a monk or not being honest with yourself, but 40 or more means you do a pretty good job of keeping yourself on your own priority list. 25-39 means you know what to do, but don’t do it consistently so try scheduling out the next few weeks of self-care then putting reminders in your phone or calendar. If you’re below 24 that typically means you’re putting everyone’s needs above your own and you are approaching the danger zone.
Now, many ladies justify not needing self-care by saying that they feel fine or even that they feel guilty taking time for themselves. I’ve heard men say they don’t have time or even that it’s not necessary, but remember you wouldn’t drive your car without an oil change or tire rotation, so don’t do that to yourself.
Need a little more help putting yourself back on the list? The clinicians at The Well would be happy to coach you right back to wellness.