What is self-care? Self-care involves valuing your emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual well-being. It means taking an active role in bettering your life through activities that make you happy. Any healthy activity that when done results in you feeling better, can be defined as self-care.
Why do we need self-care?
Take hold of your mental health: Self-care helps improve our mental health baseline. When we’re making cognizant use of activities that make us happy, our mental health baseline is being raised. As we learn to increase our baseline, suddenly the lows don’t seem as low. We’re more able to sit with discomfort when we’re happier, and we’re happier when we are taking care of ourselves.
It’s the perfect supplement: Regardless of other methods used for fostering sound mental health, be it attending therapy, medication management, or working a 12-Step program, self-care is a readily available, tangible tactic that will unquestionably increase your well-being and can easily be added to any existing practice. Take hold of your mental health!
Start practicing the skill of self-care while you’re feeling good: The times when we’re in the most need of self-care, also tend to be the times when planning pleasurable, nourishing activities are the least likely. When we’re triggered, it’s easy to forget that beneficial options for coping and making ourselves feel better are available. Start finding time to incorporate life-enhancing activities into your daily schedule, so that when the rough days roll around and you’re in need of inner strength, you already have a healthy schedule in place.
The importance of a realistic routine
Keep it simple: Devise realistic, free, daily pursuits, so that your inner dialogue cannot nix your idea before you even start.
Be kind to yourself: Be careful not to let the idea of taking care of yourself morph into something that seems unattainable or stresses you out. If the idea of joining a gym is resulting in negative self-talk and feelings of guilt, is it really self-care? Break down your goal into smaller, more attainable steps. You might try going on a ten minute walk after dinner instead. Figure out what’s realistic that day.
Listen to your body: Often times, our bodies send signals that we need a break, long before our brains pick up on the ques. Take a break when you’re feeling tired or stressed. And truly convince yourself that it’s okay to take a break. After listening to your body’s request for momentary relief, you’ll find that your productivity levels flourish when you’re centered and feeling your best. Working yourself to and through exhaustion can work, but it is not a long-term solution.
What does self-care look like for you? Chances are, you are already incorporating self-care into your routine without even noticing. Whether it’s taking a three minute break at work to walk around the building, booking an appointment for a massage, or deciding to eat lunch outside instead of at your desk, options for self-care are endless. If you need some ideas for figuring out your personalized self-care routine, ask yourself the following questions:
What activities do you do that result in you feeling better after than before you started?
After a conversation with friends or family, from whom do you walk away from the interaction feeling lighter and more energetic?
What activities result in feelings of appreciation and gratitude?
What have you always wanted to try, but never had to courage to do?
Which of the five senses do you relish in the most, and what can you do to integrate more of that sense into your routine?
Are there specific times during the day or week where you feel more drained and exhausted than others? Plan ahead to make time for vitality by increasing activities during those specific periods.
What do you look forward to each day? Each week? Each month? Make certain to not miss or skimp on those gems of enjoyment.
Written by Emily Keefer, LCSW, ADS
Emily earned her Master of Science in Social Work from The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to receiving her MSSW, Emily gained experience working in the chemical dependency field with individuals experiencing homelessness at an Austin-based non-profit agency. This work helped solidify Emily’s passion for working in the chemical dependency and mental health field and to pursue a master’s degree in clinical social work. Upon graduation, she continued her work in the homeless service sector, focusing on mental health and substance use issues. Emily has received extensive training in Motivational Interviewing, and finds the clinical framework invaluable in her work with clients.
Emily works under the assumption that all individuals have the capacity to self-heal, and that a supportive and respectful therapeutic alliance can be the perfect catalyst for emotional healing and self-growth. Through guided conversation and a personalized and collaborative approach, one can discover why he or she repeatedly falls into the same behavioral, cognitive and emotional patterns and then begin developing practical strategies for choosing to live life differently and become “unstuck”. Emily believes that therapeutic process is an exciting, creative method for self-discovery and building increased satisfaction with life, through the realistic application of self-care and behavioral health coping strategies.
Emily Keefer is an LCSW and ADS, working as a lead therapist at Sage Recovery & Wellness Center in Austin, TX. She is continually working to fine-tune her own self-care routine, so that she can live a more mindful, fun-loving life and better serve her clients and profession.