What is Self-Care?
We often refer to self care as creating time to relax, get a massage, or treat ourselves with food and fun shopping sprees. All of this can definitely be incorporated into self-care, but the real heart of self-care is taking care of ourselves.
Taking care of ourselves often relieves a number of the root causes of anxiety, feeling reactive to stress or feeling overwhelmed and improves our energy.
Most people realize that self-care involves taking care of our health by exercising, creating time to cook real food, meal plan, and have snacks with us throughout our day, and to create a little time for ourselves like taking a relaxing bath with a good book every now and then. But it also means looking deeply at what causes stress in our lives and coming up with strategies to reduce that stress.
Finances are one of the biggest stressors in our modern lives. It is shocking how financial worries can weave tendrils of worry, anxiety, and stress into many facet of our lives. I find people develop insomnia over financial concerns without even realizing why the insomnia developed. Creating time put on some music, sip some hot tea, and develop a monthly budget can be an unbelievably invaluable tool for relieving your mind of tension. Up front, it takes some time to really delve into your monthly income, plus your monthly expenses, plan how to eradicate debts like student loans or car payments, and to plan ahead for the future. Part of feeling financial security, and relieving yourself of financial stressors, is being able to set money aside each month for your savings, and for retirement. Then have at least a monthly date to settle up your expenses, track how you kept to the budget, (or didn’t) that month, and how to keep on target for the next month. This regular check in, makes the entire process so much easier. If you have a partner, it is ideal to do this process together, and discuss how you plan to save together, and keep each other accountable for planning for not just the monthly expenses, but for the future years of retirement.
I find it’s also helpful to have a few trusted financial buddies that you can talk about the realities of financial planning, budgeting, and financial security with. It helps to know how other friends that are also working towards financial security are doing it. It can help give great ideas and new strategies to your monthly budget plans. For instance, a good friend and I meet annually to discuss our financial goals, how we divide expenses into absolute needs (rent or mortgage, electricity, internet, etc), and wants (a nice new sweater, a moderately expensive trip versus an inexpensive camping trip, outdoor gear), and long-term needs like a retirement plan, and savings. The idea of needs versus wants and how we save or prioritize them came out of our first financial meeting, and has been a great resource ever since.
If you need more help, consider looking for a financial planner or a money coach to help you get on track with minimizing and paying off debts, developing and maintaining savings, etc.
Meal planning is one of the best ways to start eating well on a regular basis. Much of this is about creating the habit of sitting down once a week to plan the meals for 4-6 days before going grocery shopping. Its worth looking not just at the meals and leftovers you may be taking for lunches, but also plan out snacks. From here, you can create a great shopping list and only have to worry about shopping 1x a week. You will feel so much better when eating 3 meals a day plus snacks, and will end up eating better in general when your meals are mapped out for you. For more ideas on meal planning, check out our previous blog on the subject; Meal Planning Saved Our Busy Nights.
Note: eating regularly with a good balance of protein, vegetables, fruit, and complex carbohydrates will avoid blood sugar crashes and peaks throughout the day. This will lead to a better mood, feeling less stressed and less reactive to stress, and can help reduce mild anxiety. It will also keep your energy more even throughout the day.
Self-reflection again means looking at what is causing unrest in your life. Are you over committing yourself? Are you saying yes to too many events, things, people? Are you overgiving of your time, energy, and money? Are you worried about letting people down and thus overcommit? Or are you surrounding yourself with toxic relationships?
We all have done one or many of the above in our lives. The reasons why are as unique as each of us. Self-reflection is about creating time, monthly, weekly, quarterly to assess why we overextend, or why we stay in some of these toxic relationships, or learn how to identify the red flags of a toxic relationship. When we start to know the why and how we end up in these situations, we can start to strategize how to break the pattern and work towards a healthier quality of life. Self-reflection is often challenging, but the more you do it, the easier and less uncomfortable it becomes. It also offers very high rewards for quality of life.
Preventative health care is worth its weight in gold. It does just that, it prevents illness. Taking time for massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, and annual exams with blood work, helps you avoid more expensive medical bills down the road. If you have a high stress career that is not likely to change any time soon, or other external stressors, these are now seen as some of the leading causes of long term health complaints. Chronic stress changes our biochemistry in ways that can influence are endocrine, cardiovascular, and nervous system. If you cannot reduce your stress (and many of us cannot due to various situations), regular acupuncture and massage can help your body be less impacted by the stress. Annual blood work will help you make sure that all of your systems are staying in working order and will help you catch anything before it becomes a significant problem. I highly recommend assessing with our primary care physician, naturopath, or functional medicine doctor just what to include in your annual blood work.
Creating a little bit of weekly or daily downtime is super helpful for helping your body get back into the rest and relax nervous system. This can be the classic bath with epsom salts and a good book, or taking a walk during your lunch break, or getting some great time to read a good book. Again, downtime will be unique to you.
30+ minutes a day, five days a week. Find your passion, find a way to move your body, and it will do wonders for your health, your quality of life and helping you age well.