It’s much more than self-care

Self-care is one of those terms that always seem to be the “hot topic”; a term that we sometimes throw around loosely. However, let’s explore what the term really means and why it’s so important that we have a self-made, self-care routine.I used “self” a lot there because I really want to stress that this routine or series of activities (or even a single activity repeated multiple times) is about taking care of yourself and must be tailored for you by you. 

In the fast-paced world that we live in, self-care has become more than necessary.  We work ourselves to the bone; burning the candle at both ends; grinding day and night in order to achieve whatever goals or dreams we have. We’re moving so fast, that we don’t even have time to read a full-length newspaper article anymore (they’ve been publishing shorter pieces online to catch the eye of millennial readers).

I’ve found myself sleeping less and staying up more (word to Drake lol), staring at the laptop screen – sometimes working, sometimes idling.. either way, burning the candle at both ends. Is it something that we feel is necessary in order to achieve success… or do we just feel like we need to be maximizing our work time because of the lightning speed pace of the world?

But, if we stop for a moment… what will happen? Maybe nothing… maybe everything. 

Self-care, as defined by Segall and Goldstein (1998), is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. It is a  DELIBERATE action. Being in tune with your mental wellness will directly affect your self-care routine. 
When I was preparing for GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test – for those who are not from Jamaica, it is a test we take at the end of elementary school to matriculate into high school) many moons ago… my teacher at the time – Ms. Dyer (bless her)  – told us not to stress because we already knew the information. The week before we were told to literally do nothing and our parents were encouraged to “spoil us”. At the end of high school, when we were preparing for the Caribbean Secondary Examinations Council set of assessments my father ensured that I didn’t stay up too late – matter of fact, I was instructed to go to bed earlier than I ever did and surprisingly my grades were pretty good  (I was even in the paper, click HERE if you want a trip down memory lane).

That was a turning point – resting, not working excessively on ZERO hours of sleep, actually led to a better performance. 

It’s easy to get swept in with the wave, and to believe that if you don’t move as fast as everything else around you, then you will be left behind…but you need to recharge…we’re going to plan a routine !


Learning to say no

You may be one of those people who think you don’t  need a routine because you can run on fumes (less than 5 hours sleep)…trust me that’s a slippery slope. I used to be one of those people and now if I don’t unwind somehow, I can’t function… literally. I am not fully focused and don’t deliver my best work. I’m going to share some tips and habits that Forbes outlined as being essential to a self-care routine, however before I do that I want to encourage you to do the following:

1.  Listen to your body – we have to be in tune with ourselves to care for ourselves adequately. You need to be mindful of when you need rest (sleep); a mental break; a stress reliever; or even to drink more water. Connect with your body and it will tell you what it needs,

2. Remember self-care takes many different paths – we are as unique as snow flakes, and life is dynamic so there’s no “one size fits all” approach that can be taken to create a self-care routine. What I need and what you need may be completely different; heck, what you need this week may not be what you need to recover from next week. Self-care is really on a continuum and on that continuum we sometimes need help. For example, I see a counsellor/therapist once every three months just to ensure that I’ve reset my mind and I’m back on track. Self-Care is anything that is within the individual’s control, that is deliberate to maintain health/equilibrium. Sometimes you will need professional help, sometimes you may need medication, sometimes you may just need a good book and a beach, or just a good night’s rest. There’s no shame in the self-care game.

3. Do things that make you happy – don’t deny yourself happiness. You deserve it. 

4. It’s okay to not feel your best everyday – there will always be obstacles in our path that affects our mood, our level of success, or maybe even our happiness… and that’s okay. We are social beings and we feed off of/react to our environment based on stimuli. It’s okay to not be okay. I recently had a talk with a colleague about postpartum depression and her struggle because nobody could understand why you’re depressed after giving birth to a “healthy, happy, beautiful” baby. But, if we could understand everything then we’d be perfect now wouldn’t we? I just want to let you know that your feelings are valid and it’s okay to not be okay even when people expect you to be. However, the connection you have with yourself will let you discern whether you can overcome these obstacles on your own, whether you need help, and whether that help needs to come from a medical professional.


Episode 76: Nurturing self, baby and your relationship with Catherine O’Brien

5. Structuring time meaningfully – take charge of your schedule, don’t let it take charge of you. I met Ray on Twitter the other day. I had posted one of my #MotivateMe quotes and he replied that it was helpful for his fitness journey. I ended up reading one of his blog posts (click HERE to read it) and he was stating how helpful it was for him to try to break up the hours in a day. So, 8 hours for work; 6 hours for sleep – which leaves 10 hours for him to focus on his personal tasks, he has a family so he subtracts 5 hours of family time; then he’s left with 5 hours and then he slots in what he’ll do for each hour of the remaining time. I’ve tried it this week and it has been tremendously helpful.
I had an amazing boss who told me that if you need more than 8 hours to complete your work tasks each day then there was an issue with how you were using your time. In the same way that we are conscious of our deliverables at work we need to be conscious of the time we are taking to heal our bodies and minds to be productive citizens of the world. 

Here are the five reasons we should not neglect our physical, emotional and mental well-being, as outlined by Forbes Magazine:

  • Know your worth: Self-care is important to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself as it produces positive feelings and boosts your confidence and self-esteem. Also, self-care is necessary to remind yourself and others that you and your needs are important too.
  • A healthy work-life balance: Contrary to common belief, workaholism is not a virtue. Overwork, and the accompanying stress and exhaustion can make you less productive, disorganized and emotionally depleted. It can also lead to all sorts of health problems, from anxiety and depression to insomnia and heart diseases. Professional self-care habits like taking intermittent breaks (for lunch, calling your mom, or taking a stroll), setting professional boundaries, avoiding overextending, etc. ensures that you stay sharp, motivated and healthy.
  • Stress management: While a little dose of stress is a healthy way to give us a nudge that we need to meet the deadlines or finish that overdue task, constant stress and anxiety can have an adverse effect on your mental and physical health. Smart self-care habits like eating healthy, connecting with a loved one or, practicing meditation cuts down the toxic effects of stress by improving your mood and boosting your energy and confidence levels.
  • Start living, stop existing: Life is a precious gift. So why waste it when we have the choice to have a more meaningful existence? Yes, you have a lot of responsibilities— fixing the dryer, mowing the lawn, paying bills. But it’s important to remember that taking care of yourself is also your responsibility. Little things like sipping tea while looking at the raindrops racing down the window glass, enjoying a bubble bath, or reading a book are essential for your daily happiness. While things like taking up a new hobby or learning a new language can make your life more purposeful by giving you a new reason to get up in the morning.
  • Better physical health: Self-care is not just about your mental health. It’s also about caring for your physical self, by eating healthy, taking adequate sleep, caring about your hygiene, exercising regularly, etc.

They also outlined 10 easy tasks you can incorporate into a self-care routine, sometimes it’s as simple as lighting your favourite candle or watching your favourite TV show but sometimes you need more.

  1. Go for a run or a light jog
  2. Meditate or do deep breathing for five minutes
  3. Take a break when you need it
  4. Choose who you spend time with
  5. Laugh heartily at least once a day
  6. Eat green daily
  7. Avoid emotional eating
  8. Start a journal
  9. Learn to say ‘No.’
  10. Stop overthinking.

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