by Emma Carpenter
So many of us view self care as a luxury. A day at the spa, a day playing hookie from work or school, a vacation away from responsibilities. While these are some ways to practice self care, they are not a sustainable practice for most people.
Self Care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one own’s health. Self care encompasses physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Many people also consider good financial practices to be part of self care.
Lets break it down.
Physical self care is not just working out, although that is part of it. Physical self care is anything you do to take care of you physical body and that regulates your body’s natural systems. This can mean giving or receiving a 20 second hug, stretching, going for a walk, playing with your pet or kid, taking a bath, eating healthy foods, getting 8 hours of sleep, drinking water, or taking deep breaths.
Taking care of yourself is a balancing act that takes practice. Probably the most common area I hear clients say they feel unbalanced is in their mental self care. Mental self care is about taking care of and nurturing your mind. This can be done by learning so that you’re exercising your mind, or by de-cluttering so that your mind can take a break. To practice exercising your mind read a book, listen to a TED talk, teach yourself a new skill, or do some kind of puzzle. If you feel you need to de-clutter your mind try journaling, turning off technology, meditating, setting goals, or even going to therapy!
As for Emotional self care, this is the process of recognizing, acknowledging, accepting and regulating our emotions. Emotions are what make us human, so we do ourselves a great disservice when we ignore or suppress them.
Recognizing emotions is about building emotional intelligence. This means knowing what exactly you’re feeling and putting it into words. When you’re feeling a primary emotion, being able to identify the underlying secondary emotion. Acknowledging your emotions means just that: acknowledging that you’re feeling something and not suppressing or denying them. Accepting your emotions can be hard and scary at times. Accepting positive emotions requires us to accept that we are worthy of feeling something good, and accepting negative emotions means reminding ourselves that this too shall pass and it’s okay not to be okay all the time. It’s about removing any shame or guilt we have surrounding our emotions. Regulating emotions is the practice of self soothing (deep breaths, meditating, mantras), taking time away, using healthy distractions until you’re ready to face the problem, or talking to someone you trust.
“Spirituality is less about doing and more about being our truest, most authentic self everywhere we go”. Spiritual self care is about finding your center, a sense of inner peace, and having a set of beliefs from which to live your life. It can but does not have to include religion. I (try to) practice spiritual self care, but I’m not religious. Find what you believe and use that as a compass to guide you towards being your best self. Find what makes your soul and spirit happy and at peace. This can include, but s not limited to meditating, using mantras, volunteering, practicing self love, self reflection, connecting with nature, praying, or just being inspired by something.
Financial self care may not seem all that important, but did you know that financial stress is linked to increased risk of heart attack, depression, anxiety, and divorce? Think about it. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, buried in loan debt, or living without as emergency/savings/retirement fund how often do you worry about money??
To practice Financial self care assess your current spending habits and find places to cut back. Are you eating out a lot? Do you buy coffee every morning? Then, compile your monthly bills and find ways to cut back. Do you need cable? Are you still paying for a land line phone? Your cost of living should be about 30% of your income. Look at your spending habits and then start prioritizing. Prioritize paying bills and debts over things you want but don’t need. Don’t worry about Keeping Up With The Joneses. Focus on what’s best for you. If you have to clip coupons. You don’t have to be a crazy coupon person, but it can make quite a difference on your monthly grocery bill. Then, get a piggy bank. Empty your change into it every day. Once it’s full, take it to the bank and put it into a savings account that you don’t spend from.
Practicing Self Care can seem like a lot of work if you’re not used to it. That’s why it’s important to start slow and build from there. Pick one thing from each category and try to weave it into your routine this week. Once it becomes habit, add one more thing. Soon it will become second nature and handling stress will become easier.
Do you need help practicing Self Care? Call or schedule online to book an appointment!
Emma Carpenter is a therapist practicing in Philadelphia, PA. Emma supports individuals and couples manage the challenges that they face to lead happier and healthier lives. To schedule a free phone consultation with Emma, email email@example.com or call 267-838-0066. You can also schedule online 24/7 at abetterlifetherapy.fullslate.com.