Optimizing Health: The Importance of Self Care
It’s hard to imagine packing more into your already busy day. You already have plenty to tackle in the office, from meetings, to project deadlines, to reaching out to clients. At home it’s no different, with taking care of the kids while taking care of business from your mobile phone. Your closest friends are the same people you work with each day, and more often than not, the needs of your job and your family come before your own.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Many of us are too busy working through our day and getting the job done that we don’t take time to deeply care for ourselves. Self-care is often neglected because it feels selfish or too indulgent for them. The truth is, self-care is essential to our health and to keeping ourselves functioning at the top of our game. While it may seem counterintuitive, in order to take care of all that’s depending on you, it is essential that you carve out time for yourself. It’s easy to disregard our own needs from day to day, but over time that leads to burnout and ill health, and faster than you might think.
So why is self-care so important?
You can’t pour from an empty glass. You can only push yourself so far for so long before you start to suffer with flagging energy levels, lack of motivation, less patience and creativity, more pain and digestive trouble, and overall feeling far less than your peak. Self-care is important because it allows you to recharge, both physically and mentally. It’s much like sleep: necessary, though it’s the first thing we cut down on when life gets busy. Being proactive instead and planning a self-care routine can help you to enjoy enhanced health and performance, and give your mood a much needed boost.
It turns out that people are healthier, happier, and more effective when they can spend time taking care of themselves, and the shift in mindset helps them to be more productive and have more meaning in their lives. For example, hospice workers, who care for the ill and dying, often manage patient care but neglect to care for themselves, leading to career burnout, emotional damage, and challenges to their physical health. It seems ironic that those who care for others often neglect care for themselves. This is just as true for stay at home parents, many of whom manage home businesses while their partners are in the office and the kids are at school.
Setting aside time for self-care can make us healthier both mentally and physically, and allow us to keep a more positive outlook on life. There are many ways you can approach self-care, but the main idea is to choose activities that support improved mental, physical, and emotional health. Some people have a meditation ritual, others choose to get therapeutic massages, and still others learn about setting boundaries and saying “no” to tasks that don’t align with the things they value most.
Some things you can consider doing that are easy self-care steps include limiting the time you spend on emails, work, or social media, and instead focus on an activity that you either deeply enjoy or brings you closer to personal goals. Self-care can include prepping food for the week so you don’t have to scramble for take-out, and can also include seeking out opportunities for lightheartedness like laughing with friends. You can also consider some kind of physical activity, such as yoga or a group sport.
Be aware though, it’s easy to let self-care slip, because there is so much else in your day to make you “busy.” You usually know what you have to accomplish in a day, plus a handful of wrenches thrown in that you have to handle like client issues or family emergencies. Much of “busy-ness” can come from reacting to situations and letting the unexpected dominate your day. It’s an easy trap to get caught in, but it’s a bit harder to work your way out, especially if you’ve been handed too many responsibilities.
“Acting with intention” is a great approach that will allow you to retain more control over your day, because choosing what to focus on will help you to prioritize your actions and delegate tasks that others can do, freeing up valuable time and attention. Start each day with a clear picture of what you want to accomplish and set yourself to those goals as early as possible. If other issues demand your attention, see if a member of your team or an assistant can take care of them, or plan to tackle all those extra tasks at a pre-set time. Blocking off time on your calendar for tasks is a great way to keep organized, and you most likely already make use of a planner. Try rearranging your planner periodically to make sure you’re not only making the best use of your time, but also that you have enough down-time scheduled for yourself.
Why should you have a dedicated self-care ritual, when there are so many other things that need to get done? For starters, good self-care will lead to a better mindset, which means you’ll be able to focus on the things that really matter instead of the little aggravations that get under your skin. It will be easier to appreciate time with your family, and you’ll soon be able to tell a real difference in how you feel and how you approach your day.
Being mindful of your own self-care habits can help you to move through turbulent times, when situations are in flux. When your life is going through changes, such as having children going off to college, or if you or someone you love is facing a serious illness, self-care can help you, and them, to re-center themselves. These habits can help you to anchor meaning in your life, which is something many people today are challenged with.
Holding on to your own personal meanings in your life allows you to see things from a greater perspective and can help to reinforce healthy behaviors. When you have a reason to be the best version of yourself, you’re more likely to understand how important it is to rest and heal, which is what self-care is all about.
Self-care allows you to be more of who you really are, and can help you to be healthier, happier, and more fulfilled in life. You’ll be able to have more fulfilling relationships with your loved ones, and your refreshed attitude will allow you to seek out opportunities for more meaning in your life. Self-care nourishes you in ways that food can’t, and a good self-care plan can help you to perform at the elite level that you need to.