What the Heck is Self-Care?!
The term "self-care" actually makes me laugh, as it's so darn vague!! In therapist circles, it's thrown around constantly: "make sure to do your self-care!" and "remember the importance of self-care!" but if you don't know what it means FOR YOU, it's useless.
I'm the kind of person who KNOWS what things are good for me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, but I need constant reminders TO DO THE THINGS! I do them for a while, then stop, then start to feel horrible until I remember that in order to function at my best, I really do NEED to do the things that bring me balance in the key areas of my life. I guess that would be my definition of self-care:
making your BEST EFFORT to keep balance in your life
Let's be real though - adulting is HARD, and at least a few areas are likely to be a bit (or a LOT) out of balance at all times. It's not about being perfect (IMPOSSIBLE!) or even close to it! It's about bringing awareness to your life and knowing that when you are able to keep at least 3 of these in good balance, it will make a big difference in all aspects of your life and have a big impact on how you feel!
Here are three self-care practices that I've recently discovered that are working for me! I don't expect them to be everyone's cup of tea! But when I discover something that works, I really like to share it. I'd love to hear about what you've found that works for you!
Exercise (I mean duh, but.....for your BRAIN!!)
Emotional Literacy Personal Practice
I'm an art therapist who FORGETS TO MAKE ART!! I'm not great at being self-motivated to make art on my own - I really enjoy the energy that I feel when creating in a group (which is why I co-founded an art hive!) But when I do sit with my solitude and make a small, quick piece of art in the mornings, I feel spiritually and emotionally more balanced!
I learned about this personal practice you can do to get more in-touch with your emotions (hence the literacy part) from Hoto Art Therapy, a new friend of mine! It's simple: you take an emotion and make a small piece of art about that emotion inside a circle, and you journal about some questions about that emotion. You do this on the same emotion for 5 days in a week. Here's what came out for me when exploring Sadness, Joy, and Trust:
If you check out my Instagram, you can see how differently each of these emotions came out in my art over the five days I explored them!
Obviously, right? But as I get older (pushing 40 over here!) I have observed more and more how much getting even a 10 minute workout in improves my mood, focus, and sleep! I do art therapy with people with dementia, and I recently learned how much exercise helps to keep dementia and Alzheimer's at bay!! This short TED talk will hopefully serve to motivate you to get more exercise as much as it did for me!
Daydreaming (remember boredom??)
This video about boredom recently CHANGED MY LIFE. No joke. It has literally made me put down my smart phone on the bus, while eating,and while waiting. It has made me value my bike rides home from work even more than I already do. Now, when I wake up and have my first cup of coffee, I just sit there and let my mind wander. I allow myself to be "bored". In other words, I allow myself to daydream! To let my mind wander and meander where it wants to go, and put together ideas that I would NOT have put together if I were scrolling. You see, when you allow yourself to just be in the moment, doing one task at a time, or even sit and stare out the window on the bus, you are allowing your brain to connect dots that need connecting, to process all of the information you've been taking in, to connect your brain, emotions, gut, and body!! Our culture of multitasking has not helped us - it's hindered our creativity! So now I'm allowing myself to "be bored" and am finding that it's really enlightening and that I come up with great ideas!
Again, these are things that are currently helping me to do a bit of my own self-care, and I don't expect them to work for you. But if you're feeling really unsettled, stressed, unhappy, or confused, why not take a minute and figure out one area of your life that needs more balance that you can MAKE TIME FOR - even if it's just for 10 minutes, a few days a week?
Self-care is not about perfection - it's about awareness and doing your best.