Why is self-care important?
Most of us don’t pay much attention to our body, mind and soul until something happens.
Do you pay attention to your knees? Or do you only notice them when you knock them against a furniture?
Do you pay attention to your emotions? Or do you only start to know their importance when you have depression, anxiety and panic attacks?
For this month’s 2016 Self-Love project, the theme is self-care.
Caring for yourself is important. Self-care is part of loving yourself, but it isn’t exactly self-love. Self-love is about accepting yourself, whereas self-care is about taking actions to maintain or satisfy your different needs. When you love yourself, you would naturally take good care of yourself and your different needs.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care is especially important to social workers, counselors, health professions and moms. This group of people tends to focus too much on helping others and more likely to neglect themselves. But even for men and singles, self-care is something we need to pay attention too. We might get too overwhelmed by work that we forget to care for ourselves.
Below are four main areas of self-care that we usually neglect:
Physical self-care refers to taking care of your physical body and health. Here are some examples:
- Food: Do you take your meals at regularly timings? Or are you too busy and have no time to eat?
- Movement: Do you allow your body to move about? Or do you sit down in front of the computer all day?
- Sleep: Are you getting adequate sleep? Or do you stay up late at night to do random things such as watching TV and surfing the web?
- Health: Do you take a break and see the doctor when you are sick? Or do continue to work regardless of your illness?
We neglect our physical health because we don’t listen to our body. Our body calls for help when there is any imbalance. It notifies us via body sensations long before serious health issues arise. When our eyes get really dry and irritated, perhaps it’s time to get away from the computer screen and close our eyes for a minute or two. When we feel bloated or have frequent diarrhea, maybe we need to be more conscious with what we eat.
Feeding ourselves is something so simple to do, but yet we sacrifice it for work.
Nowadays, humans have a distorted priority of what is important. In the past, eating food is of the utmost importance. It’s for survival. Food gives us energy and it nourishes our body. Now, people would rather skip meals or delay their meals to rush a project. It’s as though work is more important than their life.
How sad life is if we don’t even have the time to eat and enjoy a meal?
Emotional self-care refers to being conscious of your feelings and accepting them when they come.
- Awareness: Do you know what you are feeling? Or do you tell yourself, “No, I’m not feeling angry, sad or depressed etc” even though you are not at peace?
- Acceptance: Do you accept whatever emotions that arise, be it positive or negative? Or do you numb your emotions or ignore them by distracting yourself with something else?
- Check in: Do you tune in to your emotion state regularly? Or do you wait till something drastic happens, then attend to your emotions?
Your emotional health is like a machine that needs regular cleaning.
If you haven’t been “cleaning up” your emotions regularly, they accumulate in your system. Your body remembers all the emotional pain you had felt before even though your mind might have forgotten about them. When something drastic happens in your life and you can’t accept it, everything would come back again.
“Cleaning up” means attending to your emotions and letting them go. It doesn’t mean forgetting about the incident or avoiding it. Are you at peace with the past? Take something from the past and see if you are still emotionally charged. If yes, then that’s something you haven’t let go of.
You could clean this up through journalling, counselling, mediation etc. Just don’t let these emotions grow and accumulate in your body.
Mental self-care refers to giving your mind something challenging to work on and keeping it clear. Here are some areas you can improve on:
- Work: Is you current work challenging your intellects? Or do you find it too boring?
- Hobbies: Do you have any hobby which gets you thinking or explore your creativity? Or are all your hobbies passive? Just receiving information and no reflection required.
- Clarity: Is your mind free of noises and negative self-talk? Are you able to shut down your mind when you need to? Or is your mind full of mental noises? Does it have control over your life?
Similar to emotional self-care, you need to declutter your mental space regularly too. Sometimes, it involves decluttering the physical environment. Sometimes, it means shutting down your mind and getting into a space of no thoughts. This is what many spiritual teachers refer to as mindfulness.
Give your mind something challenging to analyze or it may just analyze you.
Your mind needs something challenging to work on. It needs something new to learn. Otherwise, it might feel stale and start analyzing you and your life. Of course, not all minds are alike. Some mind needs to be creative, while others need to be more analytical.
But all of us need to learn how to switch it on when they are needed and switch it off for the things it is bad at.
Personal self-care is about doing something fun that you enjoy. It’s about play, not about work.
- Leisure: Are you spending enough time on things you enjoy to do? Perhaps travelling, hiking, painting etc. Or do you spend all you free time catching up on work?
- Me time: Do you give yourself “me time” to reflect and do what you love? Or most of your time is spent serving other people and fulfilling their needs?
- Relaxation: Are you taking time away from work to relax? Or do you work 24/7?
Even though personal self-care could also involves activities which help our physical, emotional and mental well-being, the main purpose of these activities is for play and relaxation. It’s not for maintenance of our well-being. It doesn’t have to be meaningful. What’s important is giving ourselves the permission to take a break.
It’s really up to you to define what personal self-care is.
For some, personal self-care means spending more time with friends. That’s how they relax. For others, it may mean having more “me time” to do something alone. There’s no right or wrong answers when it comes to personal self-care. As long as you take time off to do the activities you love, you are taking care of yourself.
Benefits of Self-Care: Why Is Self-Care Important?
Taking care of ourselves brings us many benefits, not just to us, but to the people around us too. It’s not an act of self-indulgent. It’s crucial to our well-being. Here are some benefits of self-care.
1. It reduces stress.
Self-care stops you from getting burnout. Like a computer or a laptop which is overheating, your human “CPU” needs a break. It needs time off from work for rest and maintenance. An overworked computer would die on you. You don’t wish to experience the same —overextend to a point of no return.
Self-care serves as a big reset button.
It helps you to refocus. It redirects your attention from work and helping others to your own well-being. Self-care not only reduces stress from work, it reduces stress accumulated in your body. Unattended emotions, stale energy and restlessness. Simple self-care activities such as taking a walk, stretching or taking a nap can help you to release these stress and restore your vitality instantly.
2. It makes you aware of your well-being.
Awareness is key. For many major illnesses, there are early, warning symptoms and signs before they become serious. Your emotions also tell you a lot about what you could accept and what you have been resisting. Practising regular self-care activities is important because it brings these vital information to us.
Don’t let small issues manifest themselves into something big.
Knowing the cause of your emotions and imbalance in your body could help you take prevention measures or find solutions to resolve the cause. Self-care brings you that awareness and reduces mental health issues such as depression.
3. It keeps you healthy, balanced and stable.
Self-care encompasses all parts of ourselves. Most of us focus only on one area and neglect the rest. But all areas are intertwined with each other.
Self-care is a great reminder to take care all your needs.
Physical health is important. But you could eat all the healthy food, exercise and still be unhealthy if you neglect your emotional needs. Have you feel a cold pang in your chest when you are feeling depressed? Do you notice how short your breath becomes when you are anxious? Emotions are experienced in the body and they affect your body.
If you have been taking good care of yourself, building a strong foundation, and keeping your well-being in balance, then when there are life challenges, you are more likely to be able to deal with it. And the impact on you will be less.
4. It helps you keep a healthy relationship with others.
When you don’t take good care of yourself, not only would it affect you, it would affect people close to you. If you are sick, who is going to take care of you? Your parents, your children or other family members?
Self-care reduces your dependency on other people.
Sure, you will still receive help from others from time to time. But taking care of yourself first is being responsible for your own well-being. It reduces the need for others to take care of you. And thus, reduces their stress and obligations. Self-care the least selfish thing you can do.
Also, knowing your emotional and personal needs help you create healthy boundaries with others. When your mood is good, you could then take care of others better. When you neglect yourself and your life is in a mess, it’s tough to care for others too.
5. It is a way to communicate love (for yourself and for the Universe).
Self-care isn’t just a mean to achieve work-life balance. Life isn’t all about work or taking care of other people. It’s also about growth and nourishing your body, mind and soul.
Self-care is a way to show love for yourself. When you take care of yourself, it shows that you are someone worthy to be loved. You are someone important. And this improve your self-esteem and confidence.
Better self-esteem starts from taking better care of yourself.
Practising self-care is also a way to show love and gratitude to the Universe. The Universe provides you with life, a body, a mind and a soul. Taking good care of them tells the Universe you appreciate its creation and are thankful for what you are given.
Featured Photo Credit: 23/30 / lauren rushing