Take the time to look after yourself, so you can look after other people. (Photo credit: Madison Inouye/Pexels)

Take the time to look after yourself, so you can look after other people. (Photo credit: Madison Inouye/Pexels)

Your Wellness Matters: Tips for practising self-care

Before we can take care of others, we need to take care of ourselves

By Elvenia Gray-Sandiford

Life is constantly bombarding us with so many things that distract or engage us. We can feel tangible fears arising from COVID-19 mutations, political uprisings, bills, and responsibilities that constantly keep us on a treadmill. There is a whole lot to steal our attention. No matter what craziness is going on in the world around us, we should be leaving a little time to take care of ourselves, and if you are like me, I suspect that is not easily achieved.

We constantly make ourselves accessible to others to give support, but in order to have something to give, we must first invest in ourselves to build our overall sense of well-being. We cannot expect to see wellness being dispensed from our “health and wellness” accounts if we do not put self-care in. Many of us have exhausted our “overdraft allowance” and are now repaying with interest and taxes in the form of added aches and pains. Before we can understand why self-care is important, we need to understand what it is.

Self-care is basically loving and nurturing ourselves, to benefit our body, mind, heart, and spirit. It is putting our oxygen masks on first, so that we can help others. We are often busy giving, but not replenishing our energy levels. The modern mindset of society often makes us feel guilty for taking the time to care for ourselves, but it is only by caring for ourselves that we can be there for others when they need us.

Self-care takes on all kinds of meanings based on our socialization. Most men tend to think it is not manly to practice self-care, some women tend to think it is a waste of time. Others think that it’s selfishly indulging, and it is vain and wasteful (of time and money). Some, unfortunately, feel unworthy or take pride in thinking they don’t need self-care. Who else will give us the love and nurturing that balances output and input of our time and energy?

Maybe self-care to the average person means getting a massage, doing yoga classes, or something extraordinary when there are a few extra dollars. Interestingly, I have often observed people getting a pedicure, and they spend their time scrolling through their phones instead of enjoying or being aware of the warm water that their feet are soaking in, or the relaxing effect of the massage they are experiencing.

The self-care that I speak of is taking the time to give attention to our entire selves. It is about ways of doing which will affect us fundamentally in being of service to others. When we are feeling down, for example, consider what tiny steps we can take to feel better: perhaps a 20-minute walk, or just stepping outside for a few minutes to take a few deep breaths and stretch. Caring for ourselves is one of the best things we can do for others. People who take care of themselves are said to be happier, less stressed, and more agreeable!

The most valuable and important thing in life is our time. Time lost can never be regained, so take the time to see the beauty in your surroundings. Open your heart by opening your chest (stick your chest up to the sun) and breathe deep and long. Breathe in thanksgiving and breathe out gratitude for the gift of life.

Self-care is not something you do once, and hope it all works, and then forget about. Hope is not a strategy. For self-care to be truly effective, you need to intentionally incorporate it into your daily life. How you do that is entirely up to you.

1. It may help to make a list of self-care activities that resonate with you. It gets down to trial and error, but try to keep your list to 10 things. Adjust the list as necessary. Do not give up on yourself and try to make it routine.

2. Get your family on board. You may need to explain that you need to take better care of yourself so you can take better care of them.

3. Take a long shower or bath. Pay attention to the warmth of the water on your skin.

4. Take yourself on a lunch date. Be mindful of the texture of the food in your mouth. Pay attention to the colours of the food on the plate and the aroma coming from the food.

5. Take a 15-minute walk outdoors but leave the phone behind. Pay attention to the breeze blowing through the trees. Feel the wind against the softness of your skin. Listen for the sound of birds chirping. Take a minute to identify the different sounds of different birds singing their sweet songs.

6. Wake up 15 minutes early, or before your household. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, curl up in your favourite chair, and enjoy your morning drink, paying attention to the stillness of the morning.

What are some other things that you do for self-care? Please share a way that you practice self-care and manage to stay present throughout the activity to get maximum benefit.


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