The Complete Guide To Self-Care

Ah, self-care. Two of the most common words floating around in the mental health and wellness space. Such a simple concept, and yet a concept that is so often overlooked, ignored, or completely misunderstood.

This year I've been really diving into my own self-care, fine tuning the familiar ways I have of coping, and also exploring new ways of practicing looking out for myself.

Often times in my profession, and in my friendships, I will ask someone who is voicing their stress- "how is your self-care?" The two most common responses I get in return are: "I don't have time for self-care" or "what do you mean by self-care?"

With the a new year approaching, I thought this would be a great time to talk all things self-care, helping you to get familiar with the concept. That way, you can have some ideas to begin implementing at the start of 2019, to hopefully help make it the best year yet!

So let's start first with what exactly is self-care? It is defined in the dictionary as, "care for oneself." Personally, when I say self-care I always think coping skills. But really, self-care is anything that you want it to be. Any type of positive and healthy ways you have of feeling good, would be considered self-care.

Now notice that I said positive and HEALTHY. Anything that you might consider self-care but is done in excess or is against the law would not be self-care. Eating healthy is self-care. Measuring your food intake to the point of distress is not self-care. Sex can be self-care. Having sex on impulse and regretting it later, is not self-care. Catch my drift?

Okay, on to the next response I typically get. "I don't have time for self-care." The reason I get this response so often is because my friends I'm speaking with are mostly females, and the population I work with in my profession is women. And that statement mentioned above is true. As women, we wear a lot of hats. Mother, wife, sister, daughter, homemaker, cook, cleaning service, career woman, animal lover, volunteer, friend. We are designed to take care of others. It's the way our brains are wired. So we really just don't make time for ourselves.

But the truth is this- you are going to be a much better mother, sister, wife, friend...etc. when you take  care of yourself. Have you ever had those days that you got a good nights sleep, ate a healthy breakfast, had an easy day at work, and just felt good? 

If your answer is no, DM might need to make some changes. But most likely, everyone has had a least one day like this. And on days like this don't you feel so much more productive? Like maybe you can spend more time playing in the floor with your kid because you have the energy to do so. Or maybe you start a load of laundry when you get home because you don't feel mentally drained or exhausted. So imagine if you could feel this way the majority of the time. Imagine what kind of role you'd play then. It all comes down to your ability to care for yourself first. Because you just can't pour from an empty cup. Fact.

Alright let's talk now about some signs that you might need to step up your self-care game.

  • Physical exhaustion. If you just feel so tired that you don't want to move and do anything that is a sign. Unless you just did a triathlon or something. Common sense, people. 
  • Emotional exhaustion. Not being able to participate actively in conversations. Crying over basically nothing. Feeling as though you've "checked out" or are on autopilot.
  • Insomnia. The inability to sleep is linked to anxiety and stress.
  • Impaired memory. Doing/saying things and not retaining the information means your brain is overloaded.
  • Physical symptoms. Heart issues, high blood pressure, etc. I get rashes when I am super stressed. Always just below my eye too. It's fantastic.
  • Change in appetite. Overeating or inability to eat, either one. Upset stomach, also.
  • Illness. Getting sick often, even just a runny nose, is your body's way of saying, "slow down. I am tired!"
  • Depression and Anxiety. Feeling as though you just don't feel good and you can't pinpoint it. Feeling low. Feeling worried excessively. Feeling on edge. 
  • Absence of positive emotions. Maybe you don't have depression or anxiety, but you just can't find the good in anything. Everything is just a plain gray. 
  • Cynicism. This kind of goes with the above mentioned. When positive people annoy you. Or when something good happens and you still wait for the other shoe to drop.
  • Lack of patience. Getting irritated with people or situations that normally you can handle just fine. 
  • Lack of resilience. This is when everything feels as though it's a crisis. Your fight or flight mode is constantly active.
  • Relationships issues. Picking fights with those close to you, pushing those you care about away.
  • Substance Abuse. If you find yourself drinking more, or using drugs, this is your brain's attempt at self-care. Just an unhealthy one.
  • Forgoing personal activities. Just opting out of your life. Not feeling "well" enough to be an active participant. 
These are a few common signs that you need some de-stress time, but everyone is different. Getting to know your body and your signs are the most important thing to maintaining self-care.

So how did I get here? You may ask. How did you get to a place where your self-care is diminished?

There are a few different elements that play a role in depleting your energy.

  • working too much
  • having a career that is emotionally draining, even if the hours aren't bad
  • lack of support from those around you. including your boss
  • lack of resources
  • lack of positives in your life
  • feeling as though you have no control over your own life
  • feeling unclear or unstable in your life
  • suffering from severe consequences when you make mistakes
  • work/life imbalance
  • type A personalities get burnt out a lot. These are your perfectionists
  • being a pessimist. It's exhausting. I speak from being one
  • having a controlling nature. again...speaking from experience 
  • poor match to your career

So what to do? We've made it this far, we understand how we got here, now how do we improve our self-care? I am going to give you a SHIT TON of different ways you can practice self-care. It is entirely up to you to take what you need, and leave the rest. 

Then, I will talk to you about how I am starting to implement self-care, and give some suggestions for newbies. Any other forms of self-care that you have and I don't mention, PLEASE leave in the comments. You can never have too many options for how to feel good. 

The way I always try to check my self-care is by thinking: mind, body, soul. I have read many different books/ articles, whatever, about self-care, that can kind of be overwhelming. I've seen material that goes over 7-9 different types of self-care, I've read books that talk about different levels of each type. That might be good for those type A personalities that I mentioned above, as they are very detail oriented. Me? I'm not type A. I'm actually very messy and disorganized and I see everything in big picture format. So for my self-care I always check mind, body, soul. If I'm covering each in some way, I'm good! That's actually how I got into blogging...I needed something more for my mind and soul...and here we are!

So I'm going to divide the self-care suggestions into those three categories. If you are someone who needs it broken down more, I'm sure you can do that or find a book that does it for you.

Self-Care Activities for Your Mind

  • setting SMART goals (if you're unsure how to do this, I wrote a post explaining it here.)
  • identifying positives in every day
  • journal
  • read
  • color
  • draw
  • write
  • check your perfectionistic tendencies 
  • check your negative thoughts
  • change your perspective 
  • practice making informed decisions
  • be assertive
  • identify your strengths
  • be flexible in your expectations
  • set boundaries
  • develop resiliency (more on this here.)
  • be self-aware
  • have optimism and hope
  • be grateful
  • take notice of what you can and cannot control
  • do something on your to-do list
  • laugh
  • leave your comfort zone
  • listen to music
  • listen to a podcast

Self-Care Activities for Your Body

  • eat healthy
  • exercise
  • spend time in nature
  • practice deep breathing
  • take a bubble bath
  • dance
  • stretch/yoga
  • drink a lot of water
  • surround yourself with comfortable clothes (I love a onesie and a cup of coffee. mmm)
  • comfort foods
  • warm drinks
  • go to bed early
  • light candles
  • have spa days
  • create a relaxing and soothing bedtime routine 
  • ask for what you need
  • explore
  • do body scans
  • get a massage
  • learn EFT tapping
  • pet animals

Self-Care Activities for Your Soul (my favorite!)

  • meditate
  • use visualization
  • practice manifesting
  • garden
  • practice mindfulness
  • limit your contact with negative people
  • admit your mistakes
  • celebrate your successes
  • travel
  • take yourself on a date
  • spend time alone
  • declutter your physical space
  • write yourself daily affirmations
  • set an intention for each day
  • have mantras that you love to refer to
  • no comparisons
  • always be searching to feel inspired
  • make it a point to see either the sunrise or sunset every. single. day. 
  • be present

Hopefully you were able to read the lists above and find some ways that you can implement some more self-care. The healthy habits post that I linked above has even more suggestions for you, and breaks down how to set goals, which applies to all self-care.

I've recently started expanding my self-care even more, and it started when I've found myself in a very stressful and disheartening chapter of my life. I don't want to get into the details, but I started struggling a couple years ago with a specific work situation, that has yet to be resolved. The good thing that has come from that, is that I have learned SO MUCH about myself, and grown SO MUCH MORE. I have learned that I am very resilient, and that my personality is the kind that will figure out how to be okay, no matter what.

So with that being said, although my self-care was pretty good, given the high stress environment I'm surrounded with every day, it's gotten that much better. I started blogging while I was trying to find an outlet, which has been amazing. I picked up reading again which I haven't done since before college. I journal almost every day now, which I haven't done since I was a kid. And obviously, I've learned how to look for the positives. You also learn who your REAL support systems are in high stress situations, which is awesome. 

One thing I have never had in my life is some type of "higher power." I'm not religious or spiritual in any way, so that's a journey I've recently been on. I started practicing yoga this year (again, something else I've gained positive in my life as a result of negatives), and it has led me down a spiritual journey. I had heard that it would, but being a realist I was just like pffft. But it really has.

Recently I've started exploring Hinduism, which has led me to learning about meditation. This led to learning about manifesting, chakras, crystals, the whole nine. So although I'm no expert at it, and actually don't even know if it's something I will relate to, it's sparked my curiosity.

From this curiosity I've been able to expand my mind and my soul, by being uncomfortable and unsure, and just exploring, which has been fun. It has also enabled me to set new goals for the upcoming year. I want to learn about manifesting and crystals and chakras. I want to learn about the phases of the moon, I want to go to different classes and ask questions and reach out in areas that I've previously laughed at.

Who knows, I may find at the end of my journey that I think it's all silly, and am uninterested, But at the very least it's sparked a curiosity and conversation for me, and that's self-care at its finest.

As an added bonus, I've created a 31 day self-care challenge for you, to start off the New Year with. I will insert the picture below, and also add it to my "templates" highlights on my instagram. Just click the picture at the end of this post to expand, and then right click to save!

If anyone reading this has any further suggestions or questions about self-care, please leave them in the comments! Also, if anyone has any good suggestions for me regarding my spiritual journey of chakras and manifesting, message me or leave a comment.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Take SELF-care!

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