Self-care is something that is often easier to say than do. Self-care might hover at the bottom of our to-do lists because no one—outside of ourselves—is holding us accountable for it. Without that external motivator and with so much pressure from the other responsibilities we carry day to day, we fall further and further behind on caring for our own needs. It’s time we changed that. To get started and figure out what you most need to work on, you may want to take this well-being quiz.
Why does self-care matter?
You may ask yourself—so what? Why does it matter if my needs are met? The best answer comes in the form of an old proverb—you cannot pour from an empty cup. When we neglect self-care, all other areas of our lives are neglected as well. You may think you are simply too busy to add self-care to your overpacked calendar, but if you are feeling burned out, depressed, lethargic, or drained, then it’s time to think again. Here are four questions you can ask to help you prioritize self-care without adding more stress.
1. Are there changes I want to make?
Self-care means bringing balance to your inner and outer worlds. For example, if your home is cluttered or untidy, you may frequently feel unmotivated, stressed, and anxious. You may also feel guilty about the mess, which may perpetuate a cycle of indifference and anxiety. Making other lifestyle changes, like eating healthier meals, quitting smoking, or getting better sleep can also impact your self-care and stress levels.
One surprising thing that can make a big difference is your sleep. Is your mattress old or uncomfortable? It may be time to upgrade. Choosing the right mattress can be the ticket to more restful nights and stress-free days.
2. What activities bring me joy?
Self-care is one strategy to keep you from getting burned out. When we work for others—from employers to children, spouses to clients—without refueling, our mental and physical health starts to suffer. You can prevent this by making sure you are taking some regular “me” time by engaging in activities you enjoy. If you like reading, join a book club to keep you motivated to turn the pages. Making a habit of getting facials, pedicures, and massages can be a way to let go of tension in the mind and body. And what better way to feel energized and charged than to get a little exercise?
3. Where can I add self-care to my busy schedule?
When it comes to the end of the day and you still have half a dozen priority tasks to complete, self-care activities often fall off the to-do list. But it’s not fair to your overall well-being to keep putting off taking care of your own needs. It’s not sustainable.
You can get started with self-care by sneaking and squeezing it into your schedule. First, do something in the morning. Start your day with at least 15 minutes of self-care to guarantee you won’t put it off. Physical activity, even moderate exercise, can boost your mood and energize you for the rest of the day. Walk your dog. Go for a jog or practice yoga. If possible, try to not check your phone or email until after your self-care activity.
4. How will self-care make me happier?
Self-care has been shown to reduce anxiety, improve productivity, boost mood, power up your immune system, and lower your risk for health concerns associated with chronic stress, like heart disease and diabetes. It won’t happen overnight, but self-care is like strengthening a muscle—you have to work it a bit to see improvement.
To start, take an inventory of your life find out what kinds of self-care activities and habits are missing. If you want to make creating self-care habits more effective and efficient, start simple and keep it short. Make this activity somewhat reasonable and attainable—and then build from there. Why? Because self-care is crucial to your mental and physical health—and fortunately, it’s a skill we can learn and grow.
This article was co-written by self-care advocate, Brad Krause. Brad is inspired to help others improve their overall well-being through self-care.