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Column: What self-care is and how to do it Self-

by Alexandra Weaver- Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Sep 26th 2017 06:00 pm
Photo courtesy of wikipedia commons 
Everyone needs to take time for themselves every now andthen so they can recharge their batteries. It's part of taking care of yourself.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia commons Everyone needs to take time for themselves every now andthen so they can recharge their batteries. It's part of taking care of yourself.

Self-care requires a good deal of introspection. While many see it as simply “treating yourself,” it’s more than that. North Carolina State University’s Counseling Center defines self care as “an approach to living that incorporates behaviors that refresh you, replenish your personal motivation and help you grow as a person.” 

The key is incorporating behaviors into your everyday life that make you feel better, emotionally and physically. Self care is not supposed to be an escape, but a way to give yourself the energy and the drive to keep going every day. It can also look a little bit different depending on the day, as you might crave different things. 

However, that doesn’t mean that giving in to every impulse is a form of self-care. If we did that, most of us would probably be dead. 

Self-care means allowing yourself to act on impulses that make you feel emotionally, mentally or physically better when you need to, ignoring impulses that degrade your health when you need to and most importantly, striking the balance. Opt for the pizza if you really want it and you’ve been eating healthy. Sleep in if you feel like you need it and you don’t have any reason to get up early. 

Perhaps it is most simply put as the process of recognizing your needs and meeting them in a way that doesn’t hurt yourself or others. This sounds simple, but it isn’t for everyone. Most of us are taught not to put ourselves first, even when it doesn’t hurt others. A lot of people struggle to identify what they need, because they aren’t taught how to. 

The first step to truly being able to take care of yourself is to unlearn these damaging, incorrect lessons. This may require the help of a therapist, or at the very least the people around you. I know that I learned how to identify what I wanted and needed in therapy. After a tough session, my therapist would ask me what I needed. 

I still remember how confused I was the first time she asked me that question. I really wasn’t sure. She wouldn’t let me leave until I came up with something to do or get for myself that would make me feel better. Finally, I realized that I was really craving a slice of cake from a local bakery. During other sessions, I realized I wanted to take a nice, relaxing bath that night instead of a quick shower. 

Sometimes, identifying what you need means that you need to be your own therapist. You may need to be a little bit tough on yourself. Sit yourself down and don’t let yourself do anything until you’ve searched within and figure out what it is that you want. If you can’t do it for yourself, then you might need a little bit of outside help. 

Even if you know how to give yourself what you need, it can still be hard to do sometimes. The University at Buffalo’s Social Work Department suggests examining your current coping and self-care mechanisms, coming up with a routine self-care plan, an “emergency” self-care plan for difficult situations and then making a commitment to taking care of yourself. Examining your current coping and self-care methods is important, because sometimes behaviors we think are healthy actually aren’t. Sometimes there is an imbalance between different types of self care, for example, taking good physical care of yourself but neglecting your emotional health. If you notice an imbalance, think about the different things you could add that would restore the balance. 

Maintenance self-care is the self-care activities you do on a regular basis. Part of maintenance self-care is eliminating obstacles. This can be anything from getting up earlier so you’re not rushed in the morning to staying organized so that you’re not doing things at the last minute. Maintenance self-care essentially encompasses any and all habits you have that make your life easier. 

Emergency self-care is exactly what it sounds like. It’s best to come up with a strategy for emergency self-care before an actual issue comes up. “Emergency” in this case means incredibly stressful situations. This could include anything from break-ups to a death in the family. Regardless of the situation, it’s still important to take care of yourself. A common metaphor that is used when talking about self-care is putting your oxygen mask on first before you help others. In times of crisis, you still need to take care of yourself because others may be looking to you for support. You are at your most helpful when you are taking care of yourself. 

To come up with an emergency self-care plan, University at Buffalo’s Social Work Department suggests listing things that help you relax, such as deep breathing, exercising or music. Then, list things that you like to do when you’re in a good mood. Sometimes it can help to do something that you have positive experiences with when everything feels out of control. Make a plan for things to do throughout the day that will help you feel better. Try to avoid overly negative thoughts, as those can spiral. Stay in the moment and allow yourself to feel your feelings. 

Know who your support system is in times of crisis. Pick people who will listen to your problems and your feelings, who will provide empathy without making the situation about themselves and who are willing to provide you the support you need, whether that’s as simple as listening to what you need or for them to be physically present. 

Finally, make a list of things or people you should avoid if possible. If something or someone makes you feel worse, or causes your thoughts to spiral out of control, sometimes the best thing you can do is avoid it of them altogether. 

Sometimes, it’s not possible to avoid a certain person, especially in the case of a family crisis. Under those circumstances, you might have to advocate for yourself. Politely tate what you need, as in that kind of situation that person is likely to be upset too. 

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