In our go-go-go society, it’s easy to let self-care fall to the wayside. But self-care is important. I define self-care as any activity that connects you to yourself and vitality. This could be a creative hobby like painting, singing or dancing, exercising, meditation, intentional breathing, time in nature, eating more vegetables — the list goes on and on.
What might change if we think of self-care as a practice? Like learning to ride a bike or play a musical instrument, self-care requires commitment and repetition. Plus, calling it practice takes the emphasis off of being perfect. Can you recall how you first had to ride a tricycle and then a bike with training wheels before you graduated to a two-wheeled bike without assistance? Once you got the hang of riding a bike, suddenly it was easy.
To help you develop a successful practice of self-care, consider the following the following ideas.
- Pick an activity that restores and re-energizes you. Think of a time in your life when you were most vital and connected to yourself and others. Recall what activities or practices you had at that time.
- Plan ahead. How might you build such an activity in your life on a daily basis? Envision what time of day and setting would allow you to practice. What might be some barriers to your practice and how can you avoid such pitfalls?
- Early on, set goals you can achieve. Then gradually move to more challenging goals. For example, if your self-care practice is to spend time outdoors, start with just 15 minutes 5 times a week. Setting achievable goals will make you more likely to accomplish them. That promotes continued success.
- Record a journal or keep a calendar of your self-care practice. On days you practice, note what felt different. On days you miss, write down why you skipped. Keeping a journal will promote accountability and help reinforce the benefits of your self-care practice.
With practice, self-care will become a habit. Over time, your practice of self-care will affect other facets of your life. And instead of getting crowded out, self-care will become second nature.
— By Jessica Hancock, naturopathic doctor and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health