Despite its well-documented importance, self-care remains a misunderstood term by many people who associate it with luxury or self-indulgence. Generations of Americans have grown up with the notion that hard work and self-sacrifice are the most important virtues a person can exhibit. In recent years, the physical and mental fallout of that mindset has revealed some deep cracks in the old Protestant work ethic. Self-care is a far-reaching idea that doesn’t stop with your daily jog around the neighborhood. It’s a commitment to caring for your mental and emotional needs and taking time to do things that energize you, activities you start thinking about when that 3:30 meeting at work makes your eyes go glassy.
A good relationship with yourself
Self-care is how you feel when you’re feeling relaxed reading a book or watching your favorite movie. It’s anything that makes you feel good about yourself and positive about your life. Self-care is something everyone needs, and if you don’t have it in your life, you feel its absence even though you may not be able to put your finger on it. Observing self-care is a way of recognizing that your needs are just as important as anyone else’s. The benefits are self-confidence and a general sense of well-being.
Self-care is how we alleviate the stress that comes from working every day and dealing with situations and crises that arise every now and then. This may be the most important benefit of self-care. It’s how we separate ourselves from everyday pressures so that they don’t define us. It’s why we should always work to live and not live to work, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Spending time in nature is an excellent way to reduce stress and recalibrate your priorities. People who spend time hiking in the woods or going for a jog on the beach put themselves in an environment where contemplation and personal reflection come much easier. Interacting with nature reminds us what’s important in our lives and why there’s real value to all that pressure we deal with every day of the week. If you’re having trouble maintaining a sense of perspective, take an afternoon to walk through the woods and just let your thoughts wander free.
Sign off social media
Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are good ways to stay in touch, but they can easily become an unhealthy obsession. If you don’t believe it, consider the fact that 67 percent of smartphone owners check for messages even when their device doesn’t prompt them. Self-care sometimes means separating from the chaos of the world and focusing on yourself. Doing so means shutting off the endless stream of stimuli that comes from social media and using the time to concentrate on your thoughts and feelings. So do yourself a favor and put the mobile devices away for a few hours every week and just enjoy the contentment and satisfaction of living in the moment.
Self-care is especially important if you’re in addiction recovery. You need time to yourself, to make sense of your life and concentrate on maintaining your sobriety. Many people in recovery find it helpful to learn meditation or take a yoga class, activities that force you to focus on your thoughts and work toward achieving inner peace.
There are many aspects of daily life that challenge our ability to cope. Some people ignore the need to seek solace in individual pursuits, and suffer for ignoring the need for self-care. It’s a pleasurable way to work off stress by focusing on yourself and on what gives you joy.
Written by author Brad Krause