This post is the final installment of our blog series on self-care for beginners. The series is designed to answer your initial questions, give you tips on how to get started and show you how you can learn to live with a self-caring approach. Find the first part here and the second part here. BONUS: A method suitable for coaches and therapists.
Now that you understand why self-care is important, why self-care matters and that self-care is self-love. And now that you’ve regularly listened to yourself, identified your needs and planned for how you’ll properly meet them, you’re finally ready to jumpstart your self-care journey. Implementing your self-care plan and assessing what self-care habits are good and what self-care to-do list works for you can be quite challenging. This is why we’ve listed some ideas for you to get started.
Acting on your self-care plan
Following through your self-care plan can be difficult especially if the self-care activities require you to get out of your comfort zone or do something you don’t particularly enjoy. For instance, making sure you get your body moving every day can be a self-care challenge if you’re not fond of physical activities. Finally confronting a co-worker about their toxic behaviour towards you when you don’t like confrontations can put you in an uncomfortable situation. However, enacting your self-care plan even when it’s a pain to do so will reward you with more freedom and less stress. In the long run, it’s definitely worth it. Here are some self-care tips and tricks that might be useful in implementing your self-care.
Prepare ahead of time
As you know your needs and priorities best, implementing your self-care might be easier when you prepare for the obstacles and hard parts of your day or week ahead of time. You usually encounter traffic on your morning commute? Perhaps listening to an interesting podcast, audiobook or music that puts you in a good mood will make your commute more tolerable. Meeting friends you haven’t seen in a long while this weekend? Maybe you can ensure you do all the things you need to do during the weekdays so you can spend quality time with your friends and have fun without worries come Saturday.
Have a morning or evening ritual
A personal ritual can be a good grounding activity that puts you in the right frame of mind to face the day or to process things, wind down and relax. Simple activities like brewing coffee or preparing tea, reading a book, eating a good breakfast, or doing yoga can get you going and motivated in the morning. Taking a hot bath, drinking your favorite tea, or simply sitting comfortably and concentrating on your breathing can help you relax after a full day of work or school. Whatever your rituals are, they can be dependable anchors for your daily self-care routine.
Set boundaries and honor them
The endless ways we are connected today – email, Facebook, Instagram, messengers, 24/7 WiFi or mobile connectivity – are blurring boundaries between personal and public spaces and it’s negatively impacting our psyche. Setting boundaries with technology – and how and when you are available for people to contact – is now an important consideration for your peace of mind. Protecting yourself from the negativity that social media can bring is also essential for taking care of your mental health.
One rule you can adopt is turning off your mobile phone’s WiFi or data for one hour or so before going to bed. This can help quiet your mind and calm yourself for you to have a good night’s sleep. Another rule you can adopt is setting a particular hour of the day for checking your social media. For instance, you can set a rule of not checking social media before 10 am or only checking social media after work or school. When having a family dinner or talking with friends, you can proactively focus your undivided attention on them by setting aside your phone or turning it off.
Always set aside a ‘time for myself’
Your family life and work or school life can eat up so much of your time and energy that you forget to see to your needs. But you can only give so much before the well dries up. To replenish your reservoirs and avoid from burning out, make sure to set aside time for yourself – a time that is your self-care haven. You can do anything you want in these little pockets of freedom you carve from your busy schedule. Do things that you enjoy – sing a song, watch a funny movie, take a walk outside, eat your favorite snack, take a nap, write or blog, read poetry, look at art, do nothing.
A good way to find out how you can meaningfully spend time with yourself is by asking insightful questions. The metaFox deep questions ‘Me Time’ card set is a selection of self-care questions to support your self-exploration and facilitate growth. Here are sample questions from the ‘Me Time’ card deck:
- What benefits do you see in spending time with yourself?
- What gives you joy?
- Where do you take new energy from?
These meaningful questions can guide you in answering how best you can do self-care activities during times you reserve for yourself. You can also use these questions as self-care journal prompts to keep a record of your self-care journey.
Assessing your self-care
After a month or two of regularly putting into practice your self-care plan, you can also do an assessment to learn from your past actions and to see how your current self-care is affecting various areas of your life.
Negative vs positive self-care behaviours
All self-care activities allow us to deal with stress and difficult situations and carry on with our lives, but not all self-care activities are uplifting and good for us in the long run. The ongoing pandemic has forced us to stay indoors for long periods of time and this kind of enforced isolation can lead to loneliness and depressive moods. To deal with these heavy emotions, it’s possible to ignore what you feel and numb yourself by binge-watching TV series after TV series on Netflix, for instance. But it’s also possible to use this loneliness to reconnect with friends you haven’t spoken much to recently or deal with your depressive moods by doing things that put you in a better mood, such as meditating and breathing exercises, eating healthy foods, or drinking green tea.
Understanding why you engage in both negative and positive self-care behaviours can be achieved through reflecting on your past experience and exploring your values, attitudes and beliefs. The metaFox deep questions ‘Me Time’ card deck has self-care questions that specifically address these needs in its categories Your life experience and Your inner world, such as:
- Why do you do what you do?
- What is one of your ways to deal with loss?
The third category, Engaging & action, contains questions that convert your self-knowledge into concrete self-care acts that contribute to your happiness and well-being. An example question from this category,
- In what situations could you be kinder to yourself?
It’s okay to make mistakes
What happens when after all the time, mind power and energy that you poured into your self-care you make a mistake and fail to meet your needs properly? It’s okay. Your self-care is an ongoing and evolving process. The things you need will likely change as you experience changes and make changes in your life. The most important thing is that you care enough to try and try to do better next time. It’s okay to make mistakes. And when you do, remember to pause, slow down, breathe and self-care again tomorrow.
Butler, L. D., & McClain-Meeder, K. (2015). Self-Care Starter Kit. Located at http://www.socialwork.buffalo.edu/students/self-care/index.asp
Smyth, N. J. (2014). Self Care in the Digital Age. Located at https://njsmyth.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/self-care-in-the-digital-age/