In February, it seems like love is everywhere.
From candy hearts to Valentine’s cards, there is no shortage of reminders that love is in the air. Some people really get into the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and we are all for showering those special people in our lives with a little extra affection. However, the most important relationship any of us will ever be in is the one with ourselves. How we show love to ourselves is something that often falls to the wayside, and unfortunately, self-care is often viewed as a luxury, rather than a critical component of wellness. This is why this month, we are talking about our favorite ways to share a little self-care and self-love, not as a luxury, but in everyday things that can improve our lives and how we feel.
What is self care and why is it important?
When you think of self care, if your mind immediately goes to bath bombs and fancy face masks, or a mani-pedi, you’re thinking of one facet of self care. While it’s true that a spa day can be a great way to show yourself some pampering, self care has a much more expansive definition. Self care is defined as “a multidimensional, multifaceted process of purposeful engagement in strategies that promote healthy functioning and enhance well-being.” (Dorociak, et. al. 2017) Self care actually encompasses many domains within our lives, and can be described as the conscious choices and actions that we take in order to promote our own mental, physical and emotional, social and spiritual health.
A self care routine that touches upon all of these areas has a host of benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, improved resilience, increased energy, and reduced feelings of burnout. (Scott, n.d.) Importantly, much like all things in the nutrition and wellness world, there is no cookie cutter approach that works best for self care. The best, most beneficial and effective self care routine is the one that is created by you, for you, that fits into your life, and meets your needs. Life is a constantly changing and evolving process, so what works now, may not always do the trick. So, frequently checking in with yourself to determine if your self care routine and habits are still fulfilling your needs is an important part of the process. Ultimately, the goal for your self care process is to create something that is customized to what is going on in your life at this point in time.
The beauty of there not being a single practice that is best for achieving the benefits of self care is that you can try lots of different methods to see what best serves you.
Our team’s personal self care practices
Many practices that we recommend for active people on a regular basis are in fact scientifically researched self care practices, such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing and time outdoors. (Davis, n.d.) This article discusses 6 self care practices that are backed by science to get you started on thinking about ways to engage in self care.
We wanted to share some of our personal self care practices with you to illustrate the point that by looking at the current stressors in your life as a means of identifying triggers for stress and overwhelm, and using those as a guidepost to develop a practice that provides some respite from those stressors is one way in which practicing self care can help create the sense of self-reliance and positive coping.
Natalie: I always liked yoga and have been trying to get into meditation more to calm my mind. But in January, I tried Yoga with Adriene 30 day program on YouTube and I fell in love. Taking 15-30 minutes at the end of my busy days has really helped me to re-center and calm my over-thinking mind. For me, adding in restorative, meditative or breath-focused yoga has been such a game-changer to lift my mood and helps me to declutter my brain after a busy day. Doing this has not only helped me to feel better mentally, but also better supports my mood and allows me to spend my time with people in my life more intentionally.
We wrote a whole blog around the concept of mindfulness practices and their many benefits, which you can catch up on here. The practices we discussed there dovetail beautifully with Natalie’s method for calming and boosting mood.
Emily: I hate cleaning. Hate it. The only way I can convince myself to do it is by pretending that I am cleaning someone else’s house! Recently, I have started setting a timer for 10 minutes before I start winding down for the night. I use the time dedicated to cleaning whatever surfaces need it or tidying what needs to be tidied because WOW it’s so much better to be in a clean and tidy space and I love myself and deserve that.
Emily’s strategy here is sound, and intuitively she is tapping into the correlation between a clean environment and positive mental and physical health. (Saxbe, D.E, Repetti, R., 2009) Furthermore, time blocking is a proven technique for helping to take control of your time, and overcome the resistance you may have to a dreaded task. In fact, time blocking is also a strategy that Natalie is utilizing in combination with her mindfulness and yoga practice in order to set aside a dedicated moment for herself and something that she enjoys as a part of her day.
Michelle: I wear many many hats in life, as we all do. I recently graduated from a very accelerated nursing program, which pushed me to the limits of my organizational and emotional capacity. I found myself stretched beyond thin, and things were very much falling through the cracks. One practice that I began to use to support myself and my mental health, as well as enable myself to be more present with those in my life when I wasn’t consumed with nursing school, work or commuting, was to use a paper planner. Now, I know, this doesn’t sound like much at first, but the act of writing down on paper my goals, my inspirations, my meal planning, my appointments, deadlines and schedule allows me to connect with my life in a way that gives me perspective. It synthesizes the most important aspects of each month, week and day in such a way that I can see where I need to direct my energy most urgently, and when I have overcommitted and need to step back and take a moment for myself. Others in my life have noticed I am much more available and present, and I feel a sense of pride and control over what was once a very hectic and stressful sense of “what am I forgetting?” that loomed over my head day in and day out. Plus, the act of sitting down to write it all out by hand is not only “me time” but also, helps cement the important dates and tasks in my mind.
As it turns out, routine setting can be very beneficial to alleviating stress and anxiety, and carving out time to write out your day in and day out obligations can help you to pinpoint where you need to focus your energy, and where you can create margin for creativity and joy. (Robins, n.d.)
Where and how can YOU practice some self-love?
Not saying we don’t love a spa day, but by sharing our personal favorite self-care practices, we hope that you see that there are many ways to cultivate self-love and resilience, without spending a dime.
Each of our self care methods fits a need in our particular lives, and maybe could also be of use to you. We offer them with love, and hope that you use the month of February to spend some time checking in with and nurturing yourself.
After all, as Miley said … you can buy yourself flowers!
Also, if you’re looking for a little inspiration to mix up your self care routine, and focus on slowing down and dropping out of hustle culture for a bit, our most recent Masterclass is for you!
Click here to check it out!
Davis, T. (n.d.). 6 research-based self-care tips. Psychology Today. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-for-happiness/202208/6-research-based-self-care-tips
Dorociak, K. E., Rupert, P. A., Bryant, F. B., & Zahniser, E. (2017). Development of a self-care assessment for psychologists. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64(3), 325–334. https://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000206
Gordon, S. (2020, December 8). How time chunking makes you more productive. Verywell Mind. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-use-time-blocking-to-manage-your-day-4797509
Robins, E. (n.d.). The secret benefit of routines. it won’t surprise you. Headspace. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://www.headspace.com/articles/the-secret-benefit-of-routines-it-wont-surprise-you
Saxbe, D. E., & Repetti, R. (2009). No place like home: Home tours correlate with daily patterns of mood and cortisol. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(1), 71–81. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167209352864
Scott, E. (n.d.). 5 self-care practices for every area of your life. Verywell Mind. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://www.verywellmind.com/self-care-strategies-overall-stress-reduction-3144729