"We spend so much of our time taking care of others and focusing on all the things that need to get done. In the midst of it all, it's easy to forget about ourselves or to let self-care tumble to the bottom of our priority list. You know how that turns out. One day we realize that not only are we busy, but now we're also tired, cranky, eating too much, and more than a bit frustrated with the whole state of affairs."
~ Dr. Mellissa Mc Creery, Too Much On My Plate.com
Last week's blog was about The Toxic Effects Of Stress. In it I shared that I have been experiencing a lot of stress lately and also touched briefly on the role of self-care. I have worked primarily as a massage therapist for the past 30 years, so trust me when I say that I KNOW how important self-care is, and the fact that I am still working is a testimony to that I take excellent care of myself!
However, the years of strenuous physical work along with an increasing number of hours spent at my computer (and okay probably age has something to do with it too) has resulted in a persistent back "challenge" that has been my constant companion for several years - and which was exacerbated by my fall in late January. In addition, this year I have stepped in as my 96 year old mother's primary caregiver. So, perhaps you can understand why the above quote resonated with me in a BIG way.
I love it when I am going through "stuff" and the Universe starts supporting me with just what I need in the situation. I call them God "winks". In this case, I have been receiving a lot of information on the importance of self-care in both my email inbox and social media feeds. This has been helpful in not only recognizing and appreciating how well I do take care of myself, but also seeing where I need to improve. And, of course, I get to share it with you!
"Self-care is the act of maintaining, nourishing, and protecting your mind, body, and spirit for the purpose of maximizing your effectiveness, happiness, and productivity in life."
~ Valorie Burton, how did i get so busy?
The 5 Dimensions of Self-Care
Catherine at TheBlissfulMind.com says that self-care is activities and practices we engage in to reduce stress and enhance our well-being. She emphasizes that these practices need to be scheduled into our days regularly and often, rather than once in a while. She lists the following 5 dimensions of self-care:
- Physical - activities for physical well-being increase energy and self-esteem. (ex. healthy nutrition, movement, physical touch, quality sleep, sexual needs, etc.)
- Intellectual - finding the balance between stimulating your mind and giving it a break can increase creativity, innovation, and learning. (ex. reading, take a class, listen to music, detox from media, etc.)
- Social - social connection helps create a sense of belonging and acceptance and allows us to bond with others. (ex. going to a workout class, walking with friends, join a book club, organize a dinner with family or friends, etc.)
- Spiritual - a personal practice that helps you find meaning in life, develop a sense of belonging, and a connection to something greater than oneself. (ex. nature walks, attending a religious service, yoga, volunteering, meditation, etc.)
- Emotional - helps us understand ourselves, cope with challenges, and develop and nourish healthy relationships with ourselves and others. (ex. journaling, affirmations, using essential oils, saying no, connecting with a close friend, seeing a therapist, etc.)
"When it comes to self-care most of us think there's (considerable) room for improvement. When asked why we don't take better care of ourselves, we cite lack of time and money as the main reasons, but those are really just excuses, because better self-care doesn't have to take a lot a time and it certainly doesn't have to cost a lot of money."
~ Michelle Doetsche, Your Doable Guide to Better Self-Care
So, after reading all of this, I made the following list of what I am currently doing for self-care. This list includes a number of recent additions (noted in bold):
- Physical: Healthy nutrition (most of the time), adequate sleep (most of the time), 2 hours of daily stretching, walk 2 miles 4-5x per week, hiking 2x per month, chiropractic 1x per month, and bodywork 2x per month (stretching and bodywork have doubled right now to continue healing of my back).
- Intellectual: "Unplug" in the evenings, read romance novels, watch only uplifting movies or TV shows, listen to music, schedule regular vacations to REST, RELAX & PLAY - and most importantly to have something to look forward to.
- Social: I'm an introvert! My goal is to get together with family or friends 1-2x per week. How well I do with this one directly depends on how well I'm doing in all of the other categories on this list - and I definitely have to schedule these in! Hiking group 1-2x per month, prayer circle 1x per month, sound healing group 1x per month, "date night" with my son 2x per month, and regular get-togethers with my mom and family.
- Spiritual: Spend time daily in nature walking, gardening, hiking or sitting on my deck or at the beach, prayer circle 1x per month, sound healing group 1x per month.
- Emotional: LOTS of essential oils (in my massage practice and personally), saying NO, connecting with supportive friends, daily check-ins/visits with my "wise woman" mom.
It's suggested that, while each category is important for balance, that you check-in with yourself to see where you currently need the most self-care. For example, right now my physical well-being is a high priority so that's getting the most attention these days. And, just recently, I realized that it has already been 5 months since I returned to work with no break. I REALLY need to schedule time vacation time regularly to give my body, mind, and spirit a break - which I'm doing this month!
I encourage you to make your own list, and commit to making small sustainable steps toward better self-care a priority!
Happy, Healthy Living!
JoAnn Newton is a Holistic Nutrition Educator and Master Massage Therapist with a private practice in Graton, CA.
Passionate about helping people transform their health through holistic nutrition, she facilitates the 23 day online Nutritional E-Cleanse Program with coaching, compassion, and humor.