There is a lot of discussion about self-care these days. It seems everyone is preaching it from healthcare professionals to celebrities. So why is taking care of ourselves- our bodies and our mental health so tricky?
As someone who has been working in the mental health field for almost 13 years, I have seen a lot of pseudo-psychology fads. One thing has always remained pivotal to good mental health, and that is making sure you take care of your body and mind. And what does that even mean?
What qualifies as Self-care?
- Eight to ten hours of sleep, and not pretending like sleep is a luxury. Sleep is a basic need.
- Spending quality time with people who are supportive of you and setting boundaries with those people in your life who drain your energy.
- Hydrating and incorporating movement into your daily routine.
- Checking in with your Dr. and taking your medication as prescribed.
- Having downtime— like the time you don’t have anything scheduled and want to chill.
That seems simple enough, right? Well then, why is it so hard?
All the noise. We live in a world with endless distractions, and we don’t make taking care of ourselves a priority.
Whether you want to believe it or not, you are constantly inundated with information that is shaping the way you think. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie–robots putting thoughts in our heads, but this is our reality. Your smartphone also knows how to keep your attention–your most precious commodity! Whatever we focus our attention on then becomes the priority. So when you see Kylie Jenner’s new makeup palette pop up on your Insta feed for the 3rd time. Maybe you cave this time. Perhaps you start scrolling through Kylie’s page and wondering why you don’t have hair like that. Then an hour goes by, and you’ve bought a lip gloss and come up with four things you need to fix about your physical appearance.
Another note about social media. We see our “friends” posting the highlights from their life—usually not the boring parts. So when you see Karen posting about her new dream job or Susie getting into the college of her dreams, there is a natural drive to feel like we are not doing enough. We see others posting more, doing more, and achieving more in their lives. So we compare. We set goals, we get ideas, and we schedule activities. All these things to fill a void. Thinking that somehow our self worth will increase if we can make our lives look a certain way. So we end up tired and overbooked. And who has time for 8 hours of sleep?
That brings us to the next reason we slack on self-care, false beliefs. The number one thing I hear from clients when I suggest scheduling a yoga class or push for an extra two hours of sleep is “I don’t have time.” The truth is, you make time for what is essential. We all prioritize what we think is most important. If you think getting an A on an exam is the priority, then you will sacrifice sleep. More responses I often hear are, “I don’t deserve it,” “I don’t deserve to take a break,” “I am getting a C in math,” “I am not in my dream career,” “Other people work harder than me.”
Here are some tips to improve your self-care routine today!
- Sleep hygiene- go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day. Make sure that the schedule allows for 8-10 hours of SLEEP. If you have trouble with sleep, try to resist that second cup of coffee midday. I wrote more about sleep tips in a previous blog: Get more sleep.
- Schedule face to face time with a supportive friend once a week. You might feel like you know what your friends are up to because you see their posts online, but that is not the same as having an honest face to face conversation with another human being. We are wired for connection. Research has proven that loneliness is a risk factor for depression, suicide, cardiovascular disease, immune system problems, substance abuse, and cognitive issues.
- Schedule no internet time during the day. You could choose to give yourself an hour or two after school or work to do something else that does not involve looking at your device.
- Commit yourself to move your body more. The movement could be stretching each morning or taking the stairs when you have the option. You could dance to your favorite songs in the morning before you leave the house. By the way, this has nothing to do with weight loss. Healthy movement is about giving love to your body and connecting with what is going on inside.
- Schedule your chill time. Rest is important! We are so overbooked. I talk to people who are so busy they claim they have no time to relax. The truth is, it’s just not seen as a priority. So make it one. Schedule it like you would anything else.