I am constantly ridiculed for being “too nice.” What’s the big deal? How is putting others first a bad thing? I’ve pondered these questions time and time again, but I just recently found my answer: it’s not a bad thing… as long as I don’t neglect my own needs. I realized that I need to find the proper balance. Sure, it’s important I’m there for my friend when she’s upset, and it’s a priority to help a family member who’s in need—but I need not forget about myself. This realization has driven me to adapt a new attitude about self-care, as well as employ a few self-care techniques each day. And I challenge you to do the same!
Self-Care: Both Essential and Beneficial
Have no shame in taking time to pamper or simply focus on yourself. Doing so is not only essential to your mental health, but incredibly beneficial to your overall wellbeing. “Individuals who make a point to engage in at least one self-care activity per day will be more resilient and happier, despite whatever obstacles may come their way,” Licensed Clinical Social Worker Jessica Tappana explains “This may include calling a friend to catch up, taking a bubble bath, reading a book, or going for a run. Some days you may have only 5 minutes to devote to self-care, and that is okay. The simple act of purposefully focusing on yourself for any period of time on a daily basis will help you feel refreshed, learn to value yourself, and feel centered.
It may take some getting used to, but it’s important you treat yourself with the same respect and kindness that you give others. Remember: you are important and so is your wellbeing. Tappana explains how your wellbeing can affect those around you as well: “I often hear people say that they feel like engaging in self-care is selfish, especially if they are parents. Recall the instructions you are given on an airplane. Why does a flight attendant tell adults to put on their oxygen mask before putting on a child’s? The airlines understand that a passed-out adult is of no use to a child. Similarly, if you don’t regularly take care of yourself, you will go through periods of time where you feel depleted and are less useful to those you care about. On the other hand, if you make it a habit to engage in self-care and continue to feel refreshed, you will have the energy and positivity to enrich the lives of everyone around you.”
8 Tips for Taking Care of Yourself
Now that you understand the need for self-care, work on implementing some self-care strategies. Rob Cole, LMHC, Clinical Director of Mental Health Services at Banyan Treatment Center, is here to help you get started—just follow his 8 simple, yet effective tips:
1) Prioritize your sleep. First, make sure that you’re getting enough sleep, as most people aren’t. “Most adults need an average of 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Listen to your body to establish how much you need,” Cole explains. “It’s best to get your body into a rhythm by getting up and going to bed at the same time every day—no matter if it’s during the week or on the weekend. Your body will adjust and will develop its own internal alarm clock, naturally!”
2) Start the day with gratitude. Once you’ve gotten a proper night’s rest, kick the day off with your best foot forward. Think gratitude: “As you are stretching and getting out of bed, identify five things you are grateful for. This exercise will prime your brain for positivity,” Cole says.
3) Fuel your body properly. Cole says it’s also important you enjoy a proper diet. “A healthy body is a body better able to combat stress. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables with the proper combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods with a lot of artificial ingredients and preservatives. Limit your intake of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Drink at least eight glasses of water daily! A dehydrated body is a low-energy body.”
4) Practice effective communication. Another technique certainly worth employing is, “developing effective time management and communication skills. Prioritize your daily tasks and avoid overcommitting yourself,” Cole advises. “Learn when to say no in a polite, but assertive manner. Develop the skills needed to clearly communicate your needs and ask for help! Delegate tasks to others when appropriate.”
5) Keep a “Positivity Journal.” Cole says it is also beneficial to keep a “Positivity Journal,” whereas you, “write out five positive things that happened during the day and rejoice in your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem!” This is a small, yet valuable tool for taking care of yourself.
6) Take up a hobby. You can also find a lot of value in taking up a hobby, as explained by Cole: “Reading, writing, painting, playing a musical instrument, woodwork, photography, knitting—the options are endless. Find your passion, and find the time to do it! Hobbies are a great distraction from the stress of life, but they also strengthen your brain and keep it healthy. Become a life-long learner!”
7) Spend time with your pet. Another of Cole’s tips—which you’ll likely get behind—is to spend time with your pet. “Owning pets has beneficial effects on our health and well-being. Research has found that spending time with our pets increases the level of oxytocin. This hormone is often referred to as “The Love Hormone,” and it lowers heart rate and blood pressure, quiets the fears in the mind, and suppresses the production of stress hormones. So, looking into your dog’s soulful eyes or listening to your cats soothing purrs really does create a calm and positive mood.”
8) Call on your support system. And lastly, don’t hesitate to ask for help or support when you need it—which we all do from time-to-time. “Having a strong social support network has been found to decrease stress. Your support system includes family, friends, coworkers, and mentors. Join a club, church, or group, and use it!”