With everything going on in the world right now, we may be neglecting to care for ourselves. As if a global pandemic and all of the added anxieties and safety measures that come with it aren't enough, we still have to do everything we were doing before. You may be even busier now with at-home schooling, working from home, caring for the family, and more. So, how are you supposed to care for yourself?
First, we have to change our perceptions and recognize that taking time for ourselves is not selfish. On the contrary, it's what keeps us balanced and gives us the ability to care for others.
But what is self-care anyway? Self-care is any action that we plan and deliberately engage in that helps nurture our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. According to Michelle Peña, B.A. (Hons), BSW, RSW, CH, Registered Social Worker & Women's Empowerment Coach, self-care is "honoring where you are in the moment and responding in a way that supports your overall well-being, on all levels."
Women often feel the extra burden to do it all and to be everything to everyone. But, the key to living a balanced life is finding ways to relieve stress and anxiety. By incorporating self-care habits in our daily routine, we are equipping ourselves with the tools to handle future trauma. Peña explains, "Not only is self-care helping us every day, but when in crisis we've built up a foundation that we can use to navigate unexpected events that happen in life; be they COVID-19, the death of a friend, or the loss of a job."
So what are some self-care habits that women can embrace today, practice regularly, and keep in their arsenal for tomorrow? Peña, who has been counseling women for over 15 years on how to put themselves first, considers the following recommendations to be her top three.
1. Tune into yourself
Your day should start with you. Spend time with yourself, even if you only have 5 minutes. Use that time to connect with your heart. Once you get busy with the distractions of life (your kids, your partner, your phone, etc.), you may never find another moment to yourself during a hectic day. Making a connection with your inner self looks different for each person. Find what works for you and make it a habit. Here are just a few examples of things you can try in your designated "me" time:
- Journal writing
- Reading or listening to books
- Spending a few extra minutes in bed
2. Move your body
The mind-body connection is real. Peña is a strong advocate of adding movement to our daily lives "to help clear our minds of stagnant and debilitating feelings." Moving our bodies helps decrease depression and anxiety. It also increases energy and positive emotions. Peña insists moving your body doesn't have to mean intense cardio or heavy weight-lifting sessions if you don't have the time, ability, or interest. Anything that makes you feel carefree and gets those endorphins going will do. Some ideas to consider are:
- Running or walking
- Cardio or strength training
3. Embrace fun
Make time for fun in your day, and do something that brings you joy. Often our days are so busy or stress-filled that we forget to enjoy being alive or being present. When we choose to make time for fun, we can bring some happiness back to our day, which, in turn, increases our overall well-being. Joy is a powerful emotion. It can trigger the release of chemicals that boost your immune system, increase positive emotions, fight pain and stress, and support mood and longevity. Happiness will do you a world of good. Here are a few suggestions for you to try:
- Listen to music and have a dance party
- Enjoy playtime with your kids
- Play board games/card games
- Have a stay-at-home date night with your significant other
- Playfight with your kids or your partner
It's essential to make a deliberate effort to engage in simple activities that promote overall physical, mental, and emotional wellness so that you can draw from your reserves through tough times. Peña reminds us that we need to, "Be kind and patient with ourselves. The simple fact that you're willing to take time to introduce a self-care activity is enough. Don't put pressure on yourself that it has to be perfect or fall into a rigid plan. If you fall off, start back again without judgment. That in itself is enough."
Think about how you will start your self-care routine, and put it into practice today.