Taking Care of You: 3 Ways to Practice Self-Care Daily
Life is not easy. There are bills to pay, relationships to manage, children to raise, jobs to go to, loss, struggle, joy, happiness, and stress. We wear numerous hats in life and face different expectations depending on what we are doing at a given time. At times it feels like life is playing a game of tug-of-war, and instead of being on the left or right side of the rope, we begin to feel like we are the rope that is being pulled on.
If we let all of this weigh on us without taking any action, eventually we will begin to wear thin. Our emotions become explosive, we begin to think in more negative ways, our energy declines, and everything seems daunting. We might find that we do not enjoy the things that usually bring excitement and everything seems like a chore.
The hard part about getting into a rut like this is when we start to feel a disconnect in our relationships. Everything seems more dramatic and we feel like we have been asked to give everything we have and now there is nothing left, yet the demand remains. This only perpetuates the negative cycle we are in and life continues to take its toll on us.
There are numerous terms for this. Burnout. Compassion fatigue. The Burn. Maxed Out. Done. Stressed to the max. No matter what label you choose to go with, the fact is this is not a healthy place to be in, and the longer we remain the more damaging it will be to our lives. The thing is that burnout does not usually come from one or two large events; rather, it is from little things building up over time that finally takes its toll on us.
However, the fact that it is usually the accumulation of little things also means that there are things we can do about it to prevent burnout. The antidote to being stressed to the max is self-care, and it is something that we can do daily. It is important to find ways to incorporate self-care into your ritual to help increase its effectiveness. Just like you can’t get in shape by going to the gym once a month for three hours, you can’t practice self-care once in a while and expect it to be effective.
Taking time to care for yourself each day is critical to your life satisfaction. Practicing self-care is not selfish, it is essential to thriving in your life. Just like the negative stressors in life add up over time, doing small things for self-care add up that have positive effects on you. There is plenty of time in the day to make self-care part of your routine, you just have to commit to making it happen. If you feel like there is not enough time, that is a sign to check out your priorities and make some changes.
To help get the ball rolling on making self-care as common in your day as eating a meal, this post will focus on three simple strategies you can start right now to integrate self-care into your day. Each strategy is adaptable to your life and personality, so make it yours to own it and get it into your life truly. Doing self-care is a choice and one you must commit to making each day. Trust me, you will be happy that you did once the hard work starts paying off!
Remember, just like it takes a while to get into shape when you have not been to the gym consistently, there will be an adjustment period with these techniques. You need to practice daily and keep with it before you start to see and feel their full effect. Experiment with variations of the techniques and the time of day you use them. It will be up to you to find out how they will help you best. With that in mind, let’s dive in!
Strategy #1: Get Active
It will probably come as no surprise, but one of the best ways to care for yourself and to get your body to recover from stress is being physically active. This does not mean you need to spend 2 hours a day in the gym or start running marathons today. There are tons of ways to get active with varying levels of difficulty, such as taking the stairs, going for a walk, riding a bicycle, doing a workout program, or going to the gym. The key is to get moving to help your body rid itself of cortisol, the stress hormone, and release endorphins, which help you feel good.
Why is being physically active important to your self-care routine? The fact is when we are feeling burnt out, we are less likely to be taking care of ourselves physically. Adding a 10-minute walk into our day to give us a break from our burdens is enough to start countering the impacts of stress. Also, when we remain physically active, we tend to sleep better and make better food choices, which all combine to be even more powerful in combatting the impacts of burnout.
If you are finding it a challenge to go for a walk alone, see if you can find someone to join you. That way, you both keep each other accountable and the social aspect will have even more impact on the effectiveness of this self-care routine. Consistency is the key, and at times having someone join us helps make that happen.
Strategy #2: Start a Daily Journal
Journaling has been around for a long time, and for a good reason, it works! Journaling allows us to get things out of our head and down onto paper, or in today’s world, into a tablet. Regardless of the medium used, journaling helps us prioritize and process what we are experiencing. When we are stressed out to the max, our thoughts, emotions and everything vying for our attention molds into one giant ball that we end up carrying on our shoulders. The longer this goes, the more we do not even know what is in the ball, we just go on believing we have to hold it up.
To help break this up, journaling allows us to work through what we are experiencing. The beautiful thing is there are many different ways to journal to help fit your style. You can write out your exposition for the day, work on a gratitude journal, turn it into a planer, or have a thoughts and feelings journal. The key is that it means something to you and it is something you can work on that helps bring you comfort and relief.
Journaling does not have to be a time-consuming process that creates more stress as you try to fit it into your routine. Consistently journal and you will find even just 5 minutes a day is enough to start bringing relief to your life. It can be a challenge to start making journaling a part of your life, but keep it up and you will find that continually processing your experience allows you to better take care of yourself and look at your life objectively. If you struggle to know what to write about, you can check out our action journal that provides weekly topics and daily prompts for you, and it can be found here!
Strategy #3: Breathe
Breathing is a powerful mechanism that can slow down our minds and bodies. Stress likes to activate our sympathetic nervous systems, which gets our anxiety and heartbeat racing and puts our emotions into overdrive. When we run off this, life seems overwhelming and we start to lose objectivity in our lives. Doing something as simple as deep breathing slows this process down and allows us to stay grounded.
A lot of people do not think breathing will work for them and so they do not even give it a shot. Others will try it once or twice, decide it doesn’t work, and they stop. Remember though, that it takes consistent practice over time to truly feel its impact. You cannot train for a marathon in one day. You have to make this an active process in your day to help retrain your nervous system to not overreact to everything you face in life, which happens when you are stressed and burnt out.
There are tons of ways to add breathing into your life, so do some research and find out what works best for you. A common type of breathing that people I have worked with like is 8-4-8 breathing, and this can be done in under three minutes. It is simple, all you need to do is inhale for 8 seconds, hold for 4, and exhale for 8 seconds. If 8 seconds is a little much at the start, you can do 6-3-6. The key is to help your body relax and to bring a sense of calm over you.
The beautiful thing about breathing is you can do it anywhere. You can breathe in your office chair, the couch, the car, lying on the floor, in the shower, or even while out for a walk. This gives you the freedom to fit it into your daily routine. It also means you can use it whenever you need it regardless of where you are!
Self-care is an essential part of thriving in our lives. It is not selfish and it must move up on our list of priorities. If you often care for or serve others, you will find that self-care is essential to not burning out and having nothing left to give. We cannot give to others when there is nothing left in us. When self-care becomes a priority for us, we give up coming up with excuses for why we cannot use it in our lives. There is plenty of time in the day, you just have to make the choice to add it to your daily routine. Be patient with yourself and be consistent with your self-care and you will find you move from surviving to thriving in your life!