By: Jenny Weissman, M.A.
With stressors seemingly everywhere, self-care practices are more important now than ever. Self-care is the way you show yourself love and appreciation. This is the “me-time” that some view as selfish or create feelings of guilt. However, the time spent on yourself actually increases your wellbeing, promotes mental health and productivity, and decreases stress.
The concept of self-care is much more flexible than several of us believe. In fact, I bet that you unknowingly engage in self-care practices every day. The idea is to meaningfully engage in these practices by being present and mindful. When engaging in these behaviors, bring your attention to the here-and-now and notice what the experience is like for you. Some questions you can ask yourself are: Is this activity relaxing? If so, where do I notice the feelings of relaxation in my body?
First, sleep is a form of self-care. Yes, sleep—something that you do every night. Creating a sleep-schedule can be part of your self-care practices. Falling asleep and waking up at the same time can facilitate a sense of routine in a challenging or unpredictable environment. Additionally, many people integrate meditation and soothing background noises (i.e. whale or rain sounds) as part of their calming bedtime ritual.
Eating is also a form of self-care. Think about eating your most enjoyed foods—the powdered donut from your local donut shop, the baked mac and cheese from your favorite diner. Food provides comfort and satisfaction, which is rooted in its need for survival. When stressed, it can be useful to moderately enjoy your favorite foods. It is important to not use these foods as a way to cope with uncomfortable emotions and sensations, but rather as a way to honor your body and its cravings. Let’s say you notice you are craving a piece of cheesy pizza and you decide to listen to your body. Try to mindfully eat this slice by asking yourself: What is its temperature and texture? Does this pizza’s smell remind me of any past memories? When I start eating, where do I notice the sensations in my body? Mindfully eating is a great method to be present in the here-and-now and tune into your mind and body connection. However, if you do find yourself over-eating, try and approach these behaviors with self-compassion and curiosity rather than self-criticism.
Lastly, doing nothing can be a form of self-care. This one sounds like a nightmare to several people who value productivity. Further, with social media as a cultural norm, we are constantly distracted from our thoughts and emotions. Taken together, these make it seem impossible to spend time truly alone with oneself. When you engage in “doing nothing,” first remove yourself from social media and obligations at work for some time. This will facilitate a type of meditative space where you can face your thoughts and emotions. Even more so, this creates the room for your authentic curiosities and desires to emerge. Tap into what your mind and body are telling you. Does it tell you to read your favorite book, watch a Netflix show, or bake something sweet? Observe these requests and honor them. The main idea is to listen to what your soul needs, not to what culture or social media are telling you what you need.