free medicine: Self-Care

Yup, it’s true. Some of the best medicine is free. In the mental health world you may hear this medicine referred to as “self-care”. When a client comes in with a list of ailments, one of the first questions from the therapist will usually be, “well, what are you doing to take care of yourself?” This is because these basic levels of care are can have a HUGE positive impact on our mental health. Unfortunately, they also tend to be the first thing we scrape off of our plate and into the garbage when we feel overwhelmed, or sad, or worried, or tired, or anything but motivated!

So what exactly is this self-care stuff? Self-care refers to the consistent disciplines we maintain so that we give back to our physical, spiritual, and mental/emotional health. These are the three areas we usually break self-care down into because they encompass the entire self.

The best practice for yourself is to start to learn the things that contribute to your fulfillment and health in each of these areas, and to make sure you are practicing them enough that you consistently reap the benefits. Now, these things can look different for each individual but there are some easier places to start. Things like, sleep, exercise, diet, and socialization are all great places to begin to establish small goals in. And I mean small… always start with the smallest, most attainable, goal and build from there. We are not out to set our list of New Year resolutions, instead we are looking to make goals that we can consistently work on that will not be too invasive to scare us away. Once we begin to see the benefit of these small goals it usually encourages us to push forward with more challenging, or new, goals.

It is also important to find, what I call, your sweet spot. This is the level of self-care that is maintainable. Again, we are not going to the moon, we just want to ensure we are not neglecting basic levels of maintenance that contribute to our overall health. There is certainly a balance between self-care and perfectionism that can be risky for some of us. So, set small goals and continue to asses how they impact your physical, spiritual, and mental/emotional health. You goals could be to go on a walk once a week, have 5 minutes of reflection time in the morning before work, and call one friend to catch up ever few days. Find some small goals that give back to you and go after them…set an alarm if you need to! Most importantly, don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to get these things in place. Sometimes it is enough just to get out of bed!