With the recent emergence of COVID-19, social protest and unrest and political polarization, the need to improve our self-care skills may be more important than ever. Self-care is any activity that we do, on purpose, with the intention of taking care of our mental, emotional and physical health. We can think of it as habits we develop specifically that support or strength our mental emotional and physical health. The best self-care skills are consistent habits we build as a part of our lifestyle. It’s important to point out that self-care is not complicated, nor is it selfish. As a matter of fact, if you get better at it, you may become of greater service to others, which is not at all selfish. Self-care is important for everyone and each one of us may do it a little differently.
Your body and brain are in the same package. Mental health depends on good physical health and physical health depends on good mental health. Improving quality food, sleep and exercise are foundational for self-care. We all sleep, eat and move but keeping an eye on quality and quantity as appropriate to our needs can help us upgrade our habits in these areas.
As well, other self-care skills like creating social connections are beneficial. We are social creatures. Social connecting is part of our DNA. Finding the right type, quality and quantity of social connecting is going to be different for every person. Paying attention to how yours is working and whether it needs some tweaking is part of an ongoing process. Play and fun are also an important part of good self-care, which can be in the social connections area. My son and I play tennis two or three times a week and it is fun for us. Exploring what fun and playful for you may be part of the fun.
Another major area of self-care is setting aside "Time for Not Doing". Yes, you read that correctly. Our culture reinforces the concept of ‘busy, busy, busy’ and ‘doing, doing, doing’. Its good to let the mind off the leash regularly. Let it walk around and explore. Some examples are daydreaming, siting on the porch and rocking, being in nature, looking at the passing clouds. You probably get the idea. This brings to mind a quote from Jon Kabat Zinn, the meditation scholar, "We are human beings, not human doings."
The cultivation of self-compassion is also important on our self-care adventure. Many people are able to be compassionate with loved ones, friends and family, but when it comes to being compassionate with ourselves most of us miss the mark. We are typically critical of ourselves particularly when we are stressed. There is a growing body of scientific literature that addresses the benefits of self-compassion and how it may be a crucial part of good self-care practices. In a future Mental Health Matters, installment we will expound on how to cultivate and reap the benefits of self-compassion. Meanwhile, paying attention to the areas above, gradually improving in them, can pay a hefty reward to your physical and emotional well-being. You will, no doubt, be glad you did.
Bill Mory is licensed therapist in private practice, in Texoma, who is an active member of the local behavioral health network and a provider of workplace training on Mindfulness, Emotional Brain Training and other topics. Learn more at www.morytherapy.com.The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.