We’ve all heard the directions for the oxygen mask on the airplane, right? Before takeoff, the flight attendants remind you that you have to put your mask on before you help others with theirs. So it goes with the concept of self care: We have to help ourselves first, otherwise we can’t truly be of assistance to anyone else.
But what happens when life happens? When parent guilt sets in because we feel we haven’t spent enough time with our kids? When we are experiencing grief, trauma, anxiety, or overwhelm? Or – perhaps most commonly – when we are just “too busy?”
More often than not, it seems that when life happens, self-care doesn’t.
To define the term, self-care is taking care of ourselves, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And there is good reason to engage in self-care: Research suggests that self-care can help us manage stress, increase our resilience, and even live longer.
Self care is also important in our relationships. Psychology Today notes that, “It’s essential that parents care for themselves…When parents “fill their own cups,” they have more patience, energy, and passion to spread to their families.” Likewise with other relationships in our lives. Practicing self-care can “minimize the effects of burnout, including depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and stress perception.”
But how do you do self-care? See below for some practical ways to nurture yourself, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and be sure to check out the links at the bottom too for additional ideas.
Physical Health: The mind-body connection is an important one to consider. When the body feels good, the mind does too. Self care strategies to increase physical health include exercise, getting an adequate amount of sleep, and eating nutritious meals that feed both your body and your brain.
Mental Health: MBHA’s Holly Dunn says she takes care of her mental health by, “Bringing myself back into the present when my thoughts get too future focused/worried or past focused/regretful or ruminative, doing my best to refocus back to what is within my control when I am over-focusing on others/things that annoy me, and letting go of the illusion I have control over anyone/anything but myself.”
Spiritual Health: Care for yourself spiritually by journaling, practicing meditation, or praying. And don’t forget to practice kindness and compassion, especially with yourself.
The flight attendants tell us in simple terms: your oxygen mask has to go on first. So take a deep breath and commit to your own self-care practice. Remember, the paradox of self care is that ultimately you are doing it for others.
*You can find more ideas for self-care on these websites: