While self-care has always been an important factor in each person’s life, the continued ramifications of COVID-19 and the overall immensely stressful 2020 year has made self-care more important than ever for many people. In an effort to start the New Year off right in 2021, implementing a self-care plan for each individual can help a person improve their outlook on the world, and can help make this year an overall more positive experience. However, “self-care” may mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Learning how to practice self-care on a daily basis, and even how to create effective self-care days, are all crucial in establishing new, productive practices designed to improve one’s physical, mental, and emotional health in the New Year.
Self-Care Is Unique and Malleable
While each individual needs to practice some level of self-care, effective practices will differ greatly from person to person. There is no one set way to engage in self-care, nor are there practices that will be guaranteed to work for all people. However, because self-care lacks a single, universal practice, it can be incredibly flexible in its implementation. As a result, practices can be highly individualized, creating a unique plan for each person without worrying about if it is “right” or “wrong.” Self-care can be a great way to continue to explore one’s interests and identity outside of the stresses of responsibilities of work, and can be a time for each person to explore things with the intention of enjoying themselves. When exploring how to do self-care or how to make a self-care plan, know that it is a practice of intention and personal enjoyment, and just because one aspect may not work for one person doesn’t mean that another won’t find great benefit from the same practice. The malleable nature of self-care is also beneficial when dealing with the continued social distancing guidelines, quarantines, and continued closures of popular communal spots such as congregations, malls, or various kinds of clubs. COVID-19 has undoubtedly caused several additional hurdles on all of these fronts. However, one’s self-care plan can adapt alongside these constraints and develop new effective practices that can be used despite the effects of COVID-19.
The Many Dimensions To Self-Care
Learning how to do self-care also includes understanding that each person has many unique needs. These needs are often broken down into the categories of mental, emotional, and physical — and effective self-care plans address all of these elements. Effective plans also may incorporate varying degrees of commitment throughout the day. Effective plans can be created around dedicating a few hours a day to detach oneself from work and engage in activities of personal interest, while others may benefit from shorter, more regular breaks of 10-15 minutes through the course of the day. It is all dependent on each individual’s physical, mental, and emotional needs.
Creating a Self-Care Plan for Physical Needs
Addressing one’s physical self-care needs is a great place to start when learning how to start self-care. One’s physical needs involve taking time for oneself to exercise and address one’s diet. While going to the gym or a restaurant may be dangerous due to COVID-19, there are still ways to address these needs as part of one’s self-care plan.
Create a Regular Sleep Routine
Sleep is one of the best ways to recover from stressful events in one’s life. Stress, anxiety, depression, or even simply adhering to the cascade of responsibilities that may be on a person’s plate all take a lot of energy to process, and sleep is the best way to mitigate this stress. Proper rest is essential for employing other self-care strategies, and thus makes up the cornerstone of effective self-care plans. Having and maintaining a regular bedtime and morning alarm can provide a needed structure into a person’s day, while also providing a measurable amount of rest on a regular basis. Prioritizing an effective sleep schedule based on one’s needs rather than expectations is paramount for all other aspects of self-care. This means that if a person needs eight hours of sleep, it is better to structure their day around these eight hours, rather than prioritize other responsibilities and simply rest with whatever time they have left.
Get Moving Every Day
Getting the body moving can get one’s mind moving, in turn. While many may feel stuck inside due to quarantine, getting moving is still an important part of taking care of one’s physical, mental, and emotional state. Going on a walk with your dog, taking a bike ride around the block, or even creating inside exercise routines can all help a person maintain physical activity while socially distancing. Exercising is a great way to expend pent-up energy, and can be a catalyst for releasing stress, anxiety, or feelings of depression that may build up through the course of the day. Starting the morning off with a quick walk around the block, a jog after dinner or yoga in the afternoon are all ways for a person to keep their bodies and minds moving without feeling stagnant or stuck in time.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Maintaining a healthy diet involves two different factors — eating healthy foods and maintaining a regular eating schedule. Much like sleep, a body that feels healthier as a result of absorbing proper nutrients can provide the energy needed to employ other self-care strategies, or even the energy to just make it through each day without becoming overwhelmed. Keeping a regular eating schedule can continue to help a person maintain structure and consistency in their lives, and allow a degree of agency on a daily basis. Lastly, this approach also may require a person to simply take the time for themselves that they have earned, such as ensuring that a person is taking their full lunch break at work, or are allowing themselves to detach from their phones around dinner.
Give the Muscles a Break
Even if a person is taking care of themselves mentally and emotionally, the body has its own needs and may occasionally need a break. Especially during such difficult or unsure times, it is important to remind yourself that you have earned time off from your job and should empower yourself to use this time for your own wellbeing. This is particularly pertinent for those who work highly physical jobs, such as in shipping or construction. It is okay to take a break and request time off to take care of oneself. It is time that each individual has earned and can use for their health and self-care.
Addressing Your Mental Self-Care
Mental self-care is just as important as physical, and is typically incorporated into one’s self-care plans in one of two ways: either introducing a positive, personalized mental stimulus into one’s day or providing the tools necessary to detach oneself from stresses or responsibilities to focus only on one’s own mental health. Addressing the mental aspect of self-care means that a person must realize their mental health is just as important as any other part of their health and that taking time off or engaging in personal activities is in no way selfish. Even if work culture seems to demand that a person can simply deal with the stresses of a high paced, intense work environment, it doesn’t mean a person isn’t allowed to put themselves and their mental health first.
Detachment is one of the major ways that a person can monitor their mental health. These practices are intended to be completely separate from one’s daily responsibilities, and exist outside of the expectations of others. They are activities that a person can engage in wholly for their benefit, and simply for the fun of it. Stress, responsibilities, occupational expectations, and many other aspects of life can cause a person to cast aside much of their childhood interests or sense of freedom. However, this kind of mental freedom is essential for maintaining a healthy mental state and self-care practices.
Music and Dance
Music and dance are ways a person can express themselves while providing a mental break from other responsibilities to engage in their own identities or interests. Whether a person is practicing dance, listening to music, or even learning to play an instrument, a person is free to get lost in the music either in preparation to be on stage or listening from the comfort of one’s room. This strategy is useful, as not only can a person explore different genres of music or dance that are impactful for them personally, but they can also be engaged with it for however much time is needed. Even taking a few minutes after work to sit in one’s car and listen to music can help a person process professional stresses before they have a chance to build up.
Create a Movie Night
Movies are another way for a person to wholly escape into another world or story. This strategy can also be utilized with television shows, video games, poems, and books on a regular basis. However, scheduling a time for this practice can help give a person something to look forward to through the week. Creating new familial traditions can also be birthed from this process, creating a time where a person can detach from stresses and instead, engage with loved ones and put aside the stresses of one’s personal life for a little bit. This kind of escape can not only distract and entertain the mind but also allow a person to then return to addressing responsibilities with a better mindset and renewed energy and focus to tackle any other problems effectively.
Keep a Journal
Journals are a way for each person to constantly have an outlet available even as stress, anxiety, or depression may continue to build. Having access to this outlet whenever needed is an incredible tool, and journals can provide a completely safe space for a person to genuinely express their thoughts and feelings on any subject. A person can write as much or as little as they see fit, and can do so with the confidence that others will not see it unless the author consciously decides to share it. Not only is it a powerful outlet to let go of stresses or anxieties, but it can also be used to track a person‘s mental state through trying times and help identify patterns while providing a record of one’s positive experiences, even when things seem particularly difficult.
Emotional self-care is a practice in mindfulness and community and is especially important when learning how to self-care when depressed. While self-care is done for oneself, it doesn’t mean it has to be done in isolation — and several approaches allow a person to take care of themselves by engaging with their friends and loved ones.
Stress, anxiety, and depression are all very intense, very negative emotions that can be exhausting. As a result, it is normal for a person to want to distance themselves from these emotions or otherwise push them down. However, mindfulness is a practice that is essential to self-care and involves a person acknowledging that there are stresses in life. It is knowing that something is causing a person anxiety and that it is normal to feel this anxiety as a result. Mindfulness is knowing that people have complex, overwhelming emotions, and it is okay to express and acknowledge how one is feeling. It is okay to be sad or cry and create a plan that has space for a person to engage in this practice. Having a safe space like one’s bedroom to just scream every once in a while can be an incredibly relieving experience.
Take Time To Be With Others
Feelings of isolation can set in as a result of stress, anxiety, or depression, and it is important to keep up with one’s social circles as much as possible during trying times. While this is complicated by the continued effects of COVID-19, there are still several ways to stay connected with friends, family, and loved ones. Setting a regular time of the week to have a phone call with a loved one, or even set up a video chat with one’s family, can be an invaluable experience when dealing with intense emotions. Even having a pet can provide valuable feelings of interaction and a sense of belonging in one’s day, creating a situation where a person feels not just seen and heard, but also valued as a member of a community.
Identify the Positive
While particularly stressful days may make it difficult to just “look on the bright side,” this saying isn’t entirely without merit. However, “looking on the bright side” doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has to find the good in a bad situation, but rather, find the good in one’s life despite a bad situation. Recognizing that a person was able to buy themselves a gift on impulse, or that their family was able to make a family tradition work despite social distancing restrictions, is an important tool in contextualizing one’s day. Even beating a level in a video game can be a positive experience that made a person feel good, and it is important to acknowledge these positives even amidst an incredibly stressful, difficult day.
How To Have a Self-Care Day
Even daily implementations of self-care strategies may prove insufficient, depending on the other stresses of one’s day. In some cases, vacations or prolonged breaks from life’s stressors may be an important way to reestablish a healthy daily outlook. However, taking a vacation can be difficult, simply due to the amount of stress or responsibilities a person is being asked to take on. When planning a vacation, or even thinking about it, it is important to remind yourself that your health and care comes before anything else and that you have been working to earn this time for yourself. It is a time to detach from work and life stresses, and as a result, these same stresses cannot then be the barrier that prevents a person from taking a much-needed vacation in the first place.
Vacations also don’t have to be anything grand to be effective for one’s self-care. While spending time on a camping trip with loved ones may be effective, a person may also find the necessary rest and detachment simply in taking time off to stay at home with family, just resting and engaging in their own hobbies outside of work. This “staycation” not only is much less difficult to plan and is conducive to COVID-19 guidelines, but it also allows a person to continue to explore their own identity outside of other stresses in their lives and reconnect with people or activities that make them happy.
Schedule It In
Self-care is incredibly important, but it can be difficult to find time in one’s day to engage in self-care practices. However, self-care is just as important as any other part of one’s day and should be scheduled ahead of time. Not only can this constantly give a person something to look forward to through the day or week, but it can also begin to make self-care a normalized practice, ensuring that a person is engaging with self-care in a sufficient manner that will make a difference in their day-to-day lives. Whether it is a 30-minute break from work or a blackout time in the evening, having the time scheduled can allow a person to measure how much time they are dedicating to themselves and reasonably adjust to their needs.
Learning how to take care of yourself is difficult, and it is normal to feel guilty for taking time to detach from stressors. However, it is also important for maintaining one’s health. Whether you are learning to find ways to engage in self-care through your daily routine, or are looking to plan a vacation to prevent becoming overwhelmed, creating a self-care plan is essential for maintaining a healthy physical, mental, and emotional state. At Chateau Recovery, we understand the unique and personalized nature of self-care, and our professionals can work alongside you to create a personalized plan designed to help you address your unique stresses, anxiety, or depression and develop an approach that is effective for you. We take each unique approach to self-care seriously, and our experienced staff can help you balance your life by helping you manage your stress and take time for yourself. For more information on the various programs we offer, or to speak to a caring, trained professional about your unique situation, call us today at (435) 222-5225.