Perhaps it is because I am a life coach that I am very focused on self-care. I preach it to all of my clients and I practice it religiously. Or perhaps it is because of my inherent tendency to do soothing and restorative activities for myself that I became a life coach. Either way, what I know for certain is that taking bubble baths, taking mental health days, taking time outs, taking time for self-care of any kind is critical to being successful in work and in life. As a human being, you have unlimited potential and yet you have limited resources if you do not recharge and replenish yourself.
I love the expression running on empty. It conveys a lot of information about the need to replenish. You could be running on empty physically, emotionally, intellectually or creatively. And when you are running on empty you need to refuel. Refueling is what self-care is all about. You might need to re-fuel with food, music, silence, sleep, meditation or anything that is taking care of your mind, body and soul. Self-care is treating yourself with love.
How often should you include self-care in your life? I am all for finding ways to include self-care absolutely every single day! Daily habits are a wonderful way to create lasting change. Perhaps it is simply closing your bathroom door each night for an hour with the understanding that you are not to be bothered during that time. When you have a family and responsibilities you need to set boundaries for yourself. Ultimately everyone in your family will benefit from you replenishing your resources so that you can help to take care of them. And I encourage you to share and expand this way of living with your family. Discuss the idea of everyone creating his or her own self-care habit to refuel and replenish. Oh, what an improvement that will be for your family life!
Here’s my approach to daily self-care. I have a reminder to nourish myself set on my electronic calendar for everyday at 4PM. And by nourish I mean anything including healthy snack, meditation, bubble bath, reading, stretching, walking in nature—you get the idea. Granted I work from home so I can do this at 4PM but you can do the same thing at whatever time works best for you. My energy flags at 4PM so that works really well for me. It helps to stick with the same time every day for your self-care in order to make it a habit.
If you choose to give yourself self-care and nourishment every day, you are much more likely to keep your body and mind at its best. Of course, even with excellent self-care, you can become ill. I have been sick for the past couple of weeks and I am reminded that when your body is out of sorts, so much shuts down around you. I wasn’t able to work, my holiday plans were impacted and I just couldn’t do much more than rest and occasionally read. Extreme self-care and time is what got me through the healing process. And although my 4PM routine was disrupted by my illness, I am getting back into my usual self-care routine as quickly as possible.
Beyond the daily self-care mandate, I find that blocking off time in your calendar on a weekly and monthly basis for longer stretches of time will do wonders for your productivity, mental clarity and joy. I plan days off in advance that aren’t highly scheduled with activities. You might call them free days or personal days or comfort days. I like to call them spa days even though I rarely go to a spa (though that is also a wonderful way to pamper and take care of yourself). If you can’t do an entire day, periodically set aside a Saturday or Sunday morning from 8-12 just for your self-care.
There are so many things that you can do on your free full- or half-day that will serve as your much needed self-care. Massage, or a mani-pedi or hot tub is a way to stick with the spa-theme even if it is in your home. A tea ritual or reading or visiting a museum alone might fit the bill. The main ingredient is something that you find calming and restorative and just for you. You usually can’t do this activity with someone else, unless they are of the same mind and doing the activity with them in no way cause stress to you. I like to have my self-care all by myself otherwise I am too concerned with how the other person is doing.
The other thing that is important about your free full- or half-day is that you must clear the decks to allow you to concentrate only on your self-care. Take care of anything that is usually done during that day or time in advance. And by taking care of stuff, I don’t endorse your trying to squeeze everything into the day before. That will leave you exhausted and beyond needing some simple self-care. If there are some things that must be done on the day in question, you are going to have to delegate those activities to someone who you trust will get them done. Otherwise your relaxing day will not be calm while you worry that something is being handled. You can also Just Say No to an activity or chore or obligation every once and awhile in order to take your own much needed time off. The world will continue to run smoothly even while you are absent for a little while. Ultimately you will get so much more done and will enjoy life more when you replenish yourself with regular self-care. It is not selfish. It is essential!