This is a term that has been used a lot for the last several years, an essential part of the MNSTR method that is easily forgotten due to the busyness of our lives, even more for those who experience mental health conditions such as depression and PTSD/C-PTSD. Having an effective self-care routine has been proven to have important health benefits. Some of the benefits include reducing anxiety, reducing stress, improving resilience, improving your perspective on life, increasing energy, and building stronger interpersonal relationships. It's vital for building resilience to take care of the stressors in life... when you've taken steps to care for your mind and body, you'll be better prepared for the inevitable ups and down that come with life. Self-care has been defined as "a multidimensional, multifaceted process of purposeful engagement in strategies that promote healthy functioning and enhance well-being." The term describes a conscious act a person takes in order to take care of themselves mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. In order to care for your well-being, it's important to find a balance that allows you to take care of each of these areas... check the different types of self-care below as found in Dr. Elizabeth Scott's article called 5 Self-Care Practices for Every Area of Your Life:
The way you think and the things that you fill your mind with greatly influence your mental well-being. Mental self-care includes doing things that keep your mind sharp like learning about a subject that fascinates you (seeking knowledge), and self-mastery practices. You might find reading books or watching movies that inspire you fuels your mind. Practicing self-compassion and acceptance (found in Mindfulness), for example, helps you maintain a healthier inner dialogue. Some questions to ask yourself:
Are you making enough time for activities that mentally stimulate you?
Are you doing proactive things to help you stay mentally healthy?
You have to take care of your body if you want to keep your mind right, when I'm unwell physically I've observed that my emotional, mental, and social behavior are affected significantly. Physical self-care consists of the quality of your sleep, what foods you're fueling your body with (nutrition), regular physical exertion/fitness, hydrating yourself and how well you're taking care of yourself overall (taking supplements, resting, going to medical appointments depending on your condition, etc. Some questions to ask yourself:
Are you getting enough sleep?
Are you feeding your body properly?
What is your level of fitness?
Are you in charge of your health?
It's important to develop healthy coping skills to deal with strong feelings such as sadness, anger, and anxiety. Emotional self-care may include practices that help you address and express your feelings daily and within a safe space. Before we talk to someone outside of ourselves, it'll be good to have some soothing practices to calm our minds. I find that music therapy works a treat as listening to your favorite track helps you tune in to your present and allows you to enjoy your favorite songs (more below on this and about making a grounding playlist for your ears only). Making time for leisurely activities that can help process your emotions like drawing or journaling are also great for addressing how you feel and creates sensory stimuli for you to focus on.
Do you have healthy ways to process your emotions?
Do you incorporate activities into your life that help you feel recharged?
Human connection is important to self-care, the technology that we have available today allows us to connect with people in the virtual world on different platforms, connecting with our friends, family, and people with whom we share the same interest(s) in with all give you a sense of belonging. This has been a strange one during the pandemic, especially at the beginning but we are fortunate to be able to still connect with each other when we weren't able to see our loved ones. Connecting in person is like no other though.
Are you making enough time to connect with your friends?
What are you doing to nurture your relationships with friends and family?
You've heard about nurturing the mind, body, and spirit before... nurturing your spirit doesn't have to involve religion, I don't feel like it has anything to do with organized religion. It should be something that is deeply personal for you and that only you can cultivate. It can involve anything that helps you develop a deeper sense of meaning, understanding, or connection with the universe. Whatever your faith, it's your personal relationship, and do whatever makes you feel more elevated and connected.
Do you have spiritual practices that you find fulfilling?
Do you have questions about life and its meaning?
DEVELOPING YOUR SELF-CARE PLAN
Creating a self-care plan that works has to be completely customized by you... what works in your schedule, the accessibility of your practices, and how much effort you are willing to put in your day to care for yourself. The self-care plan is there so that it helps prevent you from feeling overwhelmed in your day (also prevent decision fatigue), start with small habits that eventually make a big difference and build up on the repetition. You just need a notebook on a quiet evening for you to note down your self-care thoughts.
Assess which areas of your life need some more attention and self-care. And reassess your life often. As your situation changes, your self-care needs are likely to shift too. As you are building your self-care plan, the following points may be helpful:
ASSESS YOUR NEEDS
Make a list of the different parts of your life and major activities that you engage in each day. Work, school, relationships, and family are some of you might list.
CONSIDER YOUR STRESSORS
Think about the aspects of these areas that cause stress and consider some ways you might address that stress.
DEVISE SELF-CARE STRATEGIES
Think about some activities that you can do that will help you feel better in each of these areas of your life. Spending time with friends or developing boundaries, for example, can be a way to build healthier social connections.
PLAN FOR CHALLENGES
When you discover that you're neglecting a certain aspect of your life, create a plan for change. Having a backup plan also can be called a coping plan for when you're unable to do the self-care practice for when you planned it.
TAKE SMALL STEPS
You don't have to tackle everything all at once. Identify one small step you can take to begin caring for yourself better.
SCHEDULE TIME TO FOCUS ON YOUR NEEDS
Even when you feel like you don't have time to do one more thing, do make self-care a priority. When you're caring for all aspects of yourself, you'll find that you are able to operate more effectively and efficiently.
The self-care practices that I'd like to mention are more about putting yourself first during specific times in your day as part of a daily routine, whatever works best in your schedule. I have a self-care routine for the mornings and evenings which are the quietest times of my day. Will go further into what consists of self-care, maybe some things that you are already doing or something new you could try out:
EATING WELL + ACCORDING TO YOUR BODY
It's about mindful eating, eating to nourish your body, and being aware of how certain foods make you feel. I don't follow a strict diet or anything but I do enjoy eating nutritionally dense foods and I do intermittent fasting every other day where I fast for at least 14 hours from my last meal. Since I eat generally healthy foods that are filling, my body doesn't crave snacks outside the eating window. I eat whole foods, less processed food, less sugar, and minimal dairy, and cook most of my meals, nourishing myself from the inside out. That is just what I'm doing, your version of eating well depends on how food makes you feel, observing closely how certain foods make you feel mentally and physically, it may help to have a food diary to learn more about yourself (I just used the notes app on my phone). It's not something that you have to do all the time, just until you get familiar with how certain foods affect you and your digestion.
MAKING SLEEP A PRIORITY
This is when your body and mind have a chance to have a proper rest and your evening routine prepares you for quality sleep. Making sure you have an empty stomach before bed is pretty key to a good night's rest for your body to heal overnight. My bedtime routine is about 2 hours where I journal then unplug from all screens, wash up, stretch and get into bed to do some light reading and with a guided sleep meditation from my Declutter the Mind app (details on Meditation page).
TAKING DIGITAL BREAKS
Spend less time on your phone and be more present in your environment, I leave my phone charging in my studio for when I have to be present for a task or to be with someone. Getting caught up with the virtual world only fills your head with what other people are doing more than what YOU are doing taking you away from your present. Scrolling continuously can be harmful to your mental health. The addictive quality can lead to obsessive-compulsive behaviors, anxiety, and even depression. The constant bombardment of stories and images creates the illusion of endless possibilities, leading to a sense of urgency and FOMO. Article about doomsday scrolling. Limiting the number of notifications you get on your phone also helps, or using a Do Not Disturb function for certain times of your day.
REST + RESET YOUR MIND
Take a 10-15 minute time out if you're having a busy morning/afternoon/evening/day... I remove myself from the environment by either taking a short walk, doing a 10-minute guided meditation, or simply changing my environment by going to another room or outside and being present noticing the sensory details of my environment, it's sort of a meditation without closing my eyes. Intentional breathing for a few minutes helps as well. Giving yourself a timeout especially when stress levels rise or whatever work you're doing doesn't seem to make any sense anymore, it's a cue to give yourself this rest and come back to it. As a creative professional managing my schedule, time management is a skill that took a long while to hone, and making sure I have some rest during my day is really important
Listening to your favorite music whether you are doing your morning/evening routine or it's a focused session of listening to music that you love. I encourage you to make a playlist of your fave tracks on whatever streaming platform you use. I have one that I've made especially for when I don't feel my best and it's all my feel-good tracks that hit an emotional point. If you collect records, the activity of listening to records is pretty soothing from a sensory aspect of selecting the album, handling the record with your hands, and the task of getting the record player to play the vinyl. That alone puts you in a certain focus of being present with what you're doing. Check out the article Music as therapy.
Do whatever you like with this one, it can be something low-key like walking by yourself or with your pets, yoga, trekking in the forest, body weight exercises at home, skipping.. whatever you'd be keen to try and may enjoy enough to keep you doing it. The benefits of just doing 20-30min of exercise in your day are endorphins that make you feel good, and physical exertion especially done first thing in the morning energizes you for the rest of your day. It's also a mental challenge to get yourself ready for it if you're not a morning or exercise person but it lifts your mood up without the need for medications. Exercise is also found in the self-mastery section for different reasons.
Research has shown that walking daily can help lessen symptoms associated with chronic mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Walking is free and you can walk everywhere without any additional equipment. You'll notice that the more you do it, the more good benefits you'll notice. In a study, nature walks were shown to reduce “rumination” (thinking repeatedly about negative aspects of yourself) “We should take wandering outdoor walks so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing.” - Seneca
MAKE TIME FOR YOUR INTERESTS
In other words your hobbies. Spending quality focused time on things that you love is excellent for your mental health by boosting your mood, you tend to learn more about your interests... I don't think I have to state all the benefits of doing this. This is part of self-care that allows you to immerse yourself in what you're interested in undisturbed ideally. Whether it's skating, carpentry, drawing, playing an instrument, cooking... anything you have a special interest in, just create that dedicated time in the day for it. For me, skating is a huge interest outside the actual skating, I love building setups, watching skate parts /tutorials, and training my body with skate-specific workouts. Also in Seeking Knowledge
PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION + GRATITUDE
This is not an activity but it's more of a way of thinking to apply it to your daily life. You can read more about self-compassion which can be found on the Mindfulness page. Practicing gratitude can be done in a few ways, I recommend doing that in your journal practice which you can mention what you are thankful for at the beginning of your practice, or you can do this practice with your family/partner/friend when you are together with them. There is a nice gratitude meditation on the Declutter the Mind app as well. There are different ways to practice gratitude, see which ones work for you.
SPENDING TIME ALONE
To recharge, have a quiet reflection, to do quiet activities to calm your mind. Whether you are an extrovert or introvert, this is an important part of self-care, you need downtime to reflect on your day perhaps it can be part of your evening routine towards bedtime. As a parent, my quiet times are in the early mornings, and from the evening onwards, it's a time that I do some journaling or go for an evening walk or read a book, it's whatever I'd like to do by myself to wind down from a busy day.
These are some self-care thoughts that I've implemented in my day, it took some time to test out how I could fit them but once I did them every day for a week until it felt weird to not do them in my day. The self-care concept is something that I needed consciously focus on and practice especially for someone who has C-PTSD, caring for myself was not a priority, and the environment I grew up in didn't allow me to think much about my well-being. It was challenging to think about basic self-care especially when depression sets in at certain times in my life. I now have a plan and am more prepared than before. If you have any thoughts or questions about this page, please CONTACT me with the subject line: Self-care
Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D., 23 May 2022, Verywell mind website<https://www.verywellmind.com/self-care-strategies-overall-stress-reduction-3144729>
National Institute of Mental Health website, <https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health>
Allaya Cooks-Campbell, 28 Oct 2022, 7 Self-care tips for mental health, Better Health website <https://www.betterup.com/blog/self-care-tips-for-mental-health>