Do you find yourself striving to have it all, do it all and be everything to everyone? If so, you know that it comes at a cost: It’s easy to lose sight of yourself in the process. Worse yet, somewhere along the way, you were led to believe that taking care of yourself translated into being selfish.
Actually, the line between self-care and selfish isn’t as fine as it may seem. Whereas selfish implies that the world revolves around you, self-care acknowledges that it includes you. It means giving yourself the attention, compassion, time and energy that you deserve.
Self-care might be the last thing on your mind right now with the busyness of your life and the world, but it’s still essential to our health and well-being. Especially now that the news seems overwhelming at times, we need to take care of ourselves so we can continue caring for our families and friends.
The struggle to achieve and maintain work-life balance is an ongoing one for most people, especially with the lines between work and home increasingly blurred. But self-care is about more than juggling time and responsibilities. It’s also about being nicer, kinder and more compassionate to yourself.
Following are seven strategies to step up your self-care game:
1. Watch your language — Language can have a profound effect on your thoughts, moods and perspective. It’s not just what comes out of your mouth in conversations with others; the messages you tell yourself play an essential role in how you feel. Do you tend to beat yourself up for your perceived failures or shortcomings, or do you treat yourself with compassion? Even when you feel disheartened, try to focus on effort and progress more than results. Resist the urge to negatively label yourself as “incompetent,” “weak” — or worse. Instead, encourage yourself in the same way that you would a child or good friend. If you tell yourself “You’ve got this!” often enough, you will get it!
2. Slow down — There never seems to be enough time to do everything you want or need to do. Yet rushing through your daily activities often robs you of the experience. Do you gulp down your morning coffee while battling traffic on your way to work, or take quick swigs between clients? If so, you probably don’t even notice the taste or appreciate its warmth the way you would if you sat down and leisurely enjoyed it — even for 10 minutes. Slowing down offers physical benefits as well; people who eat slower tend to gain less weight (or lose weight faster), maintain lower blood pressure and experience less stress and anxiety.
3. Be wary of social media—Sure, it’s fun to catch up with old friends and stay in touch with new ones, but research conducted at the University of Michigan shows that social media — namely Facebook — can undermine your happiness. The study found that Facebook use had a negative impact not only on users’ moods, but on their overall reported satisfaction with their lives. By contrast, face-to-face social interactions did not have the same effect; in fact, personal interactions helped people feel better over time.
4. Make yourself a priority — Too often, we schedule things that promote our well-being after everything else is in place. Instead of squeezing in a yoga class, manicure or time to read, proactively schedule it. The people-pleasing habit is tough to break, but can ultimately provide you with the freedom to make more prudent choices that align with your own dreams, goals and values.
5. Don’t skimp on sleep — The benefits of a good night’s sleep extend far beyond feeling rested the next day. While the experts recommend that adults get between 7 and 8 hours of shut-eye per night, they also emphasize the importance of quality sleep.
Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness and mood.Dr. Merrill Mitler, Sleep Expert, Neuroscientist (National Institutes of Health, USA)
6. Treat yourself — You know the nice little gifts you so easily give others? Fresh flowers brighten up any room; why not treat yourself to a bouquet? Small indulgences, like a new cell phone case, can provide a welcome boost and serve as a reminder that you’re worth it. If you’re trying to curb impulse spending, create a wish list and reward yourself when the time is right.
7. Discover the authentic “you” — It’s easy to create identities around our roles and/or the other people in our lives, but what happens when parents become empty nesters — or executives retire? Who are you? If you strip away the external definitions of yourself, what do you come up with? Exploring your own identity and values will help you nurture the best version of yourself.
Being overextended, overscheduled and overtired probably means that all the things you know would be good for you are the very things that get pushed to the back burner. The problem is, if they stay on the back burner, the black hole into which ‘your best self’ disappears gets deeper.
There is a point of diminishing return when the amount of physical and emotional energy you expend surpasses your reserves. As your coping mechanisms weaken, the ripple effect becomes apparent; you feel even more stressed, further reducing your productivity and efficiency.
Tending to your own physical and psychological needs is one of the best gifts you can give — not only to yourself, but to everyone around you.
Unfortunately, in our fast-paced culture, relaxing can be viewed as laziness or underachievement. Silence your inner critic and anyone else whose opinion you don’t need. Taking a break is not only nice, it’s necessary.