We’re connected by technology, but there’s an increasing concern that our reliance on devices means we’re losing the ability to connect with ourselves and others.
As a society, we have fewer built-in communities, like church communities, than we used to, which means a lot of our emotional and physical caring falls on our own shoulders. Many of us have to work at finding a group of people interested in our well-being and where we feel connected and safe, says Dr. Rachel King, registered psychologist at Grey Nuns Community Hospital. And that means we may be lacking when it comes to self-care.
“I think the importance of self-care has grown as we take on many roles and responsibilities,” says Rachel. “More and more people are feeling anxious and stressed out. Social media permeates our existence and can make us feel like we are not enough or not doing enough.”
Self-care is investing time and energy in five domains — physical, psychological/emotional, relational, spiritual and professional — to meet your needs so that you can thrive in life rather than just survive, says Lyn Beddoes, chaplain at the Misericordia Community Hospital. You need to know yourself well enough to recognize what you need.
A benefit of self-care is reducing stress so you can increase your capacity to do the things that really matter in your life. It allows you to thrive. When done well, it helps you make decisions to make your life more balanced. Everyone needs to practice self-care. However, what you need and how often it’s needed may change.
Practice self-care like a kid
- Kids like to move. Find activities that are fun and don't feel like a chore.
- Kids eat smart. Eat whole foods, limit sugar and processed foods and eat all the colours.
- Kids love to laugh and connect with others.
- Kids sleep soundly. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep in each 24 hours.
- Kids live in the moment. Practice mindfulness, deep breathing or a spiritual practice.
- Kids love interacting with nature and animals.
Source: Laurel Kirchner, wellness advisor, Covenant Health
Sometimes you need to be creative because your initial ideas aren’t possible. “Try being a little playful,” says Rachel. “Ask yourself, what could I do? What might I like? What might feel good to me right now? Consider doing research to find activities and groups with similar interests.”
Self-care begins by checking in with yourself to figure out how you’re doing, says Rachel. What do you need? How does your body feel? What’s happening with your emotions and your stress level? What kinds of thoughts are you having? Then take action to do what you need.
“Mindfulness can be really helpful,” says Rachel. “It’s really being able to take a pause and be present in the moment and aware on purpose. Be non-judgmental and curious.”
Mindfulness doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and you can do it while you do other things. You can just take a moment and check in with yourself or, if you want to, you can close your eyes and do a formal mindfulness meditation. Consider setting reminders for yourself throughout the day to check in and see what’s happening for you.
“I like the analogy that self-care is a life bank,” says Laurel Kirchner, Covenant Health wellness advisor. “Every day that we do a little bit of self-care for ourselves, we’re investing in our long-term wellness. When we don’t take care of ourselves, we make a withdrawal from our wellness account. We want to keep a positive balance.”
The most common self-care misconceptions are that it costs a lot of money, it’s selfish and it takes a lot of time. Self-care is a $10-billion industry, but you don’t necessarily need to spend any money to do it. Self-care does require putting your own needs first at times, but it’s a fundamental necessity, so it’s not selfish, says Rachel.
Most people are doing self-care without realizing it. Going for groceries, preparing a healthy meal for your family or taking your dog for a walk are all self-care. Self-care is accessible for everyone, Laurel says.
“Self-care is individual in that it needs to meet your needs in a way that’s meaningful to you, but it doesn’t need to be solitary,” says Lyn. “Figure out what resonates with you and participate in activities that nurture you.”
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about what would work for you.
Quick self-care tips
- Psychological/emotional: Practice mindfulness or meditation, write in a journal, see a counsellor, take time to laugh and play
- Relational: Spend time with people you enjoy, ask for what you need in your relationships, set boundaries, find times when you can give the people you're with your full attention
- Physical: Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthy meals and snacks, get regular medical care, be physically active, wear comfortable clothes, cuddle with a pet
- Spiritual: Create time and space for reflection, connect with nature, find a spiritual community, practice gratitude, be open to not knowing
- Workplace/professional: Take breaks during the day, take time to connect with co-workers, engage in learning, give yourself quiet time to finish tasks, identify projects or tasks you find fulfilling