The concept of self-care has received a lot of attention lately. And really, that shouldn’t surprise anyone! It goes without saying that the past year (and change) has been ridiculously stressful for basically everyone.
We’ve been a little on edge, to say the least. If it hasn’t been one major once-in-a-lifetime event, it’s been another.
Needless to say, self-care is more important now than ever. While it can be tempting to bury your anxieties under work, or to just ignore them entirely, they tend to find their way to the surface, even if you don’t realize it.
There’s just one problem: sometimes self-care can be more stressful than just… not doing anything at all. Most guides talking about self-care fail to realize that: they tell you to just go do yoga, or eat a nice dinner, or to “take time out for yourself.” All of these things are nice, sure, but when you’re already stressed, being told to do them, “to take care of yourself,” can just feel like one more thing on your list.
But that shouldn’t be the case — and self-care shouldn’t look the same for everyone. Here’s what you need to know — and how you can maybe get some relief without having to reorganize your entire life.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is exactly what it sounds like — it’s stopping to take care of yourself. To quote Maria Baratta Ph.D., LCSW, “Self-care in essence is the mindful taking of time to pay attention to you, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you.”
In short, it’s stopping for a moment, looking at what’s going on in your life, and figuring out what you need to thrive.
A lack of self-care often leads to burnout, irritability, and more.
You might’ve heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs before. It’s an idea that was proposed by the psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943. In short, before you can reach self-fulfillment, you need to take care of other basic needs in your life. To simplify it further, Maslow’s hierarchy basically says that you can’t begin to think about reaching your potential until you feel safe, you have shelter, food, and the love of your community.
If you aren’t eating well, or if you aren’t getting enough sleep, that’s going to negatively affect your relationships. Likewise, if you don’t have a support system in place, you’re going to struggle to feel like you belong — or that others can see you for you. And if you don’t have those things, you are never going to thrive at work, or in your own creative pursuits.
While Maslow’s hierarchy of needs isn’t seen as definitive, the idea underpinning it is sound: if you aren’t taking care of your basic needs, the rest of your life will suffer.
This is, fundamentally, what’s at the core of the concept of self-care.
If you aren’t stopping to say, “Hey, I’m not sleeping enough,” or, “I’m not eating enough food to make it through the day,” then you are sabotaging yourself.
Likewise, if you aren’t taking time to recognize your own boundaries and limits, then you’re likely overstressing yourself and taking on more than you can handle. This, too, can degrade your quality of life.
On a simpler scale, too, self-care also means taking time not just to think about what’s missing from your life, but to just recognize the moment that you’re in. This can be through doing something as simple as taking a short walk, or by just sitting and listening to your favorite song.
In short, self-care is taking care of yourself and recognizing what you need to thrive. That’s going to look different for everyone — but figuring out what exactly makes YOU thrive is key to self-care.
What Self Care Isn’t
We’re going to be honest: self-care can be a little annoying.
As a concept, it’s totally fine! But often, if you read an article about self-care tips, you’ll see things that are unreasonable for anyone that actually works for a living (or who has a child to take care of, or has busy classes). They’ll often tell you to stop multiple times a day to take a long walk in the forest, or to stop for a 50-minute yoga session, or to drink ludicrously fancy and expensive tea.
All of these things are nice, but what if you live in the city or suburbs, and the idea of taking a walk through your neighborhood (filled with barking dogs, exhaust fumes, and trash day smells) isn’t exactly enticing? What about if you couldn’t possibly put aside 50 minutes to flail around in your office? And what if you can’t afford (or don’t like) the fancy tea?
The truth is, self-care is unique to you.
That’s why the first step to self-care is really stopping and asking, “What do I need?”
Often, self-care tips articles will encourage you to spend more time with family, but what if work is your self-care to help you deal with a rough home situation? In that case, the opposite is true: you should feel okay working on your projects — even if it is “work,” if it’s meaningful and gives you peace, then do it!
Likewise, “stopping to think about yourself,” doesn’t have to mean something dramatic. You don’t have to be sitting on a blanket on a Hawaiian beach at sunset, carefully meditating about your future plans.
Instead, you could simply close your eyes while sitting in a parking lot, listening to music on your car stereo.
Remember: the motto here is what works for you.
Self care isn’t about sunsets, or beaches, or fancy tea, or anything else: it’s about taking time out of your day to center yourself and do what is most reinvigorating for you.
Self Care Tips That You Probably Haven’t Heard of Yet
You’ve heard the typical self-care tips — but what about something… a little different? Here are a few self-care tips you probably haven’t heard yet.
Indulge in The Parts of Work That Matter
Often, self-care articles will emphasize that self-care means getting away from your work. Often, this means taking a vacation, or by isolating yourself from whatever it is that you’re doing. So, in other words, at the end of your day, get in your car and immediately stop thinking about what you did that day — or what you’ll do tomorrow.
We get why this is a suggestion — many people have jobs that drain them, and they need to get away and put distance between their work and everything else.
But that’s not everyone.
For many people — even people that aren’t in love with their jobs — there are bits and pieces they really enjoy. A chef might hate dealing with getting their kitchen ready, but they might find bliss in how busy they get during the dinner rush. They might genuinely enjoy how chaotic it is, and how everything seems to be held together by a thread. Sure, that might be stressful for someone else, but for them, that’s the reason they decided to become a chef.
If that’s the case, should they really run from that — or should they embrace it?
Teachers have stressful jobs, but the time they get to meet one-on-one with students might give them peace. It might be the thing that gets them up in the morning — it might recharge them just as much (if not more) than a cup of tea would, or a walk in the park.
No, you don’t have to find your peace at work — and it might be impossible to. That’s fine, too! But if you really do enjoy some part of your workday, celebrate it. Look forward to it, and center it in your day.
Stop Doing One Thing
Self-care often focuses on adding things to your routine — yoga, meditation, walks, exercise, more complex meals, extra food you need to eat, journals you have to write, and so on.
So wait, you’re already overloaded… and you’re supposed to do more?
Instead of doing that, why not just take something off your plate?
There are some things you can’t stop doing (you probably can’t just not show up to work), but there are probably little things that you do that you might be able to skip out on. Do you have a weekly meetup with friends you aren’t that close to? Maybe skip a week, if you need the time to recover.
Are you trying to pick up too many hobbies? Maybe decide to focus on one, instead of splitting your attention between a handful.
Maybe you’re the sort of person who is prone to taking on additional products at work. If that makes you happy, keep doing it — but if you’re stressed out, considering passing on optional work and using that extra time to focus on what you find meaningful.
Wind Yourself Up (Or Down)
For some of us, self-care will look like this:
You’re sitting on a beach, drinking a fancy drink with a fancy straw. It’s 80 degrees. The sun is setting. There’s a nice breeze. You’ve got a nice book next to you. Or maybe you’re getting a massage. Just a peaceful scene, where you can really focus on yourself.
But that isn’t what peace looks like to everyone.
Maybe your peace is a metal concert. Or maybe it’s walking down the street in a busy, noisy city. Maybe you can’t really focus on yourself when things get slow — so maybe you need to speed things up instead.
No guide can tell you what’s right for you. Instead, you’ve got to figure that out for yourself. Maybe you’ll be able to focus on yourself when you’ve got loud ‘80s hair metal playing, or maybe complete silence is more your style.
Remember: your self-care is not someone else’s. Find what YOU need.
Make Decompression Part of Your Routine
Decompression is the process of acknowledging that you’re holding onto stress and then doing your best to let it go. What decompression looks like (can you see a trend here?) is going to be different for everyone. Perhaps it’s driving home at the end of the day and listening to music (or listening to nothing at all).
Maybe it’s just taking a break and sitting in your computer chair, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breath. Maybe it is yoga first thing in the morning, or the last at night.
Making this part of your routine doesn’t mean devoting an hour to it every day. It just means setting aside a few minutes where the only focus is you — and on how you’re feeling.
Try a Weighted Blanket for Self-Care
When it comes to self-care, buying stuff often isn’t the answer — but that doesn’t mean that it can’t sometimes help.
Sometimes, self-care is about pampering yourself, and doing what you need to do to help you relax.
The pressure of a weighted blanket resting on you may help you relax. People have discovered that weighted blankets can help ease the symptoms of a range of health concerns, including anxiety. Likewise, they may help you out in times of stress, letting you ground yourself.
SensaCalm has been the industry leader in weighted blankets for 10 years. Order your custom weighted blanket to start enjoying more restful, relaxing sleep. You can also choose from our ready-to-ship finished weighted blankets, which ship the next business day after your order.
The Best Self Care Tip? Take Time to Find It For Yourself
We know — we’re sounding like a broken record. But self-care isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. While many people can suggest ideas to you, you’re ultimately going to have to figure out what works for you.
That might mean listening to loud music, driving in silence, grabbing a cup of tea, or simply meditating on your day. Or maybe it’s all of those things — or none of them! (And maybe a weighted blanket could help, too!)
Remember: the goal of self-care is, as the name suggests, to make sure you’re not forgetting to take care of yourself. Take some time out of your day to think about what makes you happy, and the things that help you center yourself.
We’re here to answer your questions. Give us a call at 855-736-7222 or use our contact form to get in touch with one of our team members.
Disclaimer: The content on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before undertaking any type of therapy or treatment.