Making the Case for Self-Care
Let’s face it. The holidays can be downright stressful. You’re running to school programs and sports nights. Holiday parties usher in a host of unhealthy (but downright delicious) options. Travel plans become a jigsaw of weather contingencies and scheduling headaches. But don’t forget – it’s also cold and flu season. Focusing on everything around you can make it hard to prioritize the person who should be at the top of the list – YOU.
Dr. Maureen Murphy, SSM Health family medicine physician in Lake Delton, says reorganizing that list is vitally important – especially if you’re a caregiver or work in a service profession.
“Without tending to our individual physical, spiritual and emotional needs, there will eventually be nothing left to give,” says Dr. Murphy. “This results in burnout, resentment and cynicism.”
What is self-care?
At its core, self-care is simply the intentional act of taking care of your mental, emotional and physical health. It seems like a simple concept, but many people still struggle to put it into practice. In a society where time is limited, it can be a hard sell to tell someone “No, I can’t do that right now because I need to focus on myself.” But that intentional focus on your own needs comes with impressive benefits that include lower stress levels, better mental wellness, a happier mood and better overall health.
Implementing self-care into your life
So how can you implement a better self-care plan? Dr. Murphy says you first have to plan.
“One does not need to spend much time to do this on a regular basis,” says Dr. Murphy. “However, it does require intentional care to one’s self.”
The intentional care is the most important piece. Self-care can be as simple as taking five minutes each day to breathe or go for a short walk. On a routine basis plan a longer self-care session like 30 minutes to take a class or relax doing something you love. Set the appointment with yourself – and don’t cancel!
As you look ahead to 2017, take time now to plan your first month of self-care. Psychology Today suggests following three rules for self-care:
- Stick to the basics. Don’t make your routine complicated. Find a time and an activity that work best for your life. For example, take five minutes after you wake up or before you go to bed to stretch and focus on your breathing.
- Make a plan. Because self-care must be intentional, give yourself the gift of a good plan. Add events and activities to your calendar so you are less likely to forget or postpone the care you need.
- Remember your why. Self-care is hard to maintain when you don’t really think about the importance of what you’re doing. If feeling less stressed isn’t what motivates you, think about the people you provide care for. You’ll be a better parent, friend, family member and co-worker if you take care of your own needs first.
When we’re in the midst of busy lives it can be hard to start new routines without suggestions from others. Dr. Murphy says her favorite self-care activities are ones that she can work into her routine.
“My favorite ways to practice self-care are taking a moment to raise my shoulders and breathe deeply a few times each day, taking a hot bath with essential oils or walk our farm fields with our cattle dogs,” says Dr. Murphy. “I also believe being outside when it’s not bitterly cold or oppressively hot is healing – just go out and breathe deep.”
As the busyness of 2016 comes to a close, take some time to focus on yourself. Make a plan and let 2017 guide you to better self-care by moving it closer to the top of the to-do list.