The topic of self-care has become increasingly popular in the past year and a half. Done are the days when we can survive day by day, week by week because of sheer will without flinching as we pile more and more things to do on our already too long to-do-lists. The pandemic has forced many of us to slow way down, take time to reflect, and take time to take care of ourselves. Self-care isn’t selfish. It isn’t optional. It isn’t another to-do. However, it is essential to ensuring we can maintain a sense of well-being and support ourselves in being able to live a life we love. With self-care, we can maintain our physical and mental well-being and better manage daily stressors. The 1998 World Health Organization defines self-care as follows:
“Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc.), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication.”
From this definition, we see that self-care is more encompassing than physical and mental health. It includes nutrition, lifestyle and leisure activities, and environmental and social factors. It is the right mix of these factors that keeps you living your optimal life.
So, what does this mean for you and why are self-care routines difficult to establish and maintain? Well, the short answer is that we are all unique individuals who have different needs. The self-care routine that works for one person may or may not work for the next. To find a self-care practice that is right for you may take several steps. It will take an honest inventory of those above-mentioned factors and an assessment of where you can personally improve in each. To do so may require seeking help from friends, family, and health care professionals. It may require a trial and error process to find out what works for you and what does not. You may try a physical activity that you think you may like and benefit from, but that just doesn’t quite work for you. And that is perfectly ok. Keep trying new things until you find one or several activities that you can maintain. In searching for the right activities in all of the domains of self-care, the key is to not give up on finding the right self-care practice. There is a practice that will be uniquely right for you and sometimes it will take a little time to find it. Be persistent in your search process. The result is worth it.
Once you have found a practice that works for you, the next step is to be consistent with it. For instance, if you know fitting consistent daily movement into your schedule is necessary for your self-care routine, schedule in an activity that you enjoy and do it every day or every other day or on a cadence that works for you. There are so many ways to start fitting in some movement (i.e. walking, laundry, in-home online workouts for example). One of the ways that we can continue to heal and honor ourselves is to be consistent. It can be so easy to slip back into old patterns, but it is so much more rewarding and beneficial to make small changes that can be sustained in the long run. Focusing more on the process of changing and the positive results of those changes will help provide the motivation to continue. If you aren’t used to prioritizing self-care, this step may actually be the most difficult, but with time, it will get easier.
All in all, focusing on your nutrition, hygiene, lifestyle, environment, mental and physical health, and socio-economic factors will help you better align to live a better quality of life. Make your self-care practice enjoyable and unique to you, begin making small, sustainable steps, and have fun with the process.
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” – Aldous Huxley