I was introduced to the concept of self-care when I was a senior in high school. I had heard the term thrown around a good bit, but I mostly wrote it off as something that was selfish and unnecessary. Boy was I wrong.
When I began struggling with depression and anxiety, I sought out any and every avenue of treatment that I thought might alleviate my suffering. Initially, I was very hesitant to learn more about self-care and resisted incorporating it into my daily routine. My strict religious upbringing had conditioned me to avoid anything that had the word “self” in it.
The truth is, if you neglect yourself, you’ll have nothing to give to others. I was passionate about serving other people and this concept really hit home for me.
I remember someone provided me with the analogy of airplane safety. In the event of a decrease in oxygen supply, the airline encourages passengers to always put their own mask on before assisting others. If you help someone else with their mask before putting yours on, you might faint because you have gone too long without sufficient oxygen supply. Let that sink in.
I’ve learned that life is very similar. We give and we give and we rarely, if ever, take time for ourselves. We get caught up in our routines and before we know it, we are entirely depleted. This is when our mental and emotional health begins to suffer. Even our physical health can take a hit.
So what can we do about it? I used to think self-care was way too time consuming and therefore, would never work for me. I work two jobs, am a full-time college student, and volunteer for several charities. I didn’t have the time or money to “treat myself” to a mani/pedi or take a long nature hike. So I’m going to share with you some inexpensive, time-efficient ways to take care of yourself.
- Hydrate and Nourish Your Body – In all of the craziness of our busy schedules we often forget our most basic needs. This is the first thing I do if I’m noticing that I’m feeling run-down. Without proper hydration and nourishment, our brain functions at a lesser capacity (brain fog), we can feel anxious, depressed, or irritable, and we have significantly less energy.
- Practice Deep Breathing – A lot of people don’t take the power of deep breathing very seriously. It definitely takes patience and requires focus, but the results are SO worth it. Research has shown that deep breathing can drastically reduce your stress levels and has a positive impact on your blood pressure.
- Sleep In – While this isn’t always possible, even getting 10 extra minutes of sleep can improve your mood and overall health. Health benefits include a stronger immune system, mental clarity, and even a reduced risk of diabetes and heart problems.
- Meditate – I’m not talking about making the “Ohhm” sound in criss-cross applesauce position. Meditation is actually defined as “focusing on one’s thoughts.” This practice can be as short as a few minutes or can last up to thirty. It is simply focusing or non-judgmentally observing your thoughts for a brief period of time.
- Participate in an Activity You Enjoy – This one may or may not be more time consuming. I included it because having fun is actually an important component of your overall health. I typically try to incorporate an activity I enjoy into my routine at least once a week. For me it’s writing, ice skating, watching a funny movie or TV show, or spending time with friends and family. Find out what you love to do and then make time for it.
Whether you are a workaholic with little spare time or a free spirit with time to kill, these are some research based, proven methods to help you take care of yourself. Remember it is NEVER selfish to put yourself first for a little while. In fact, it is absolutely necessary. Take care!