Self-care means taking care of yourself. Right? If you are defining this idea with the words themselves, it may mean you have a fuzzy idea about what self-care actually is and should look like. Let’s take a moment to try to better understand what this thing is so you stand a better chance of implementing it into your routine and can try to make your life better.

With clients, I often describe self-care as the counterbalance to stress. Where stress will run you down and deplete you, good quality self-care should replenish and recharge your batteries. Self-care is actually made up of those activities people do when they need to relax and rejuvenate.

Key Components of Self Care

There are three important parts to self-care in order to execute effectively on this tool.

First, is having a well-tuned barometer. You need to know when the pressure is getting to you and it’s time to implement some self-care. Another metaphor is that self-care is like the fuel gauge in your car. You don’t want to break down on the highway before you realize that you have run out of gas. It’s important to have some internal awareness about how you are doing and how much reserves you have in the tank. Be sure to fill up some time before you wake up and realize you can’t get out bed.

Second, you must be willing to give yourself permission to do self-care. This may seem a bit silly. Really? Do something fun and enjoyable? Boy, am I willing to do that? Most of us try to make this the focal point of our lives, so permission is hardly needed. In fact, sometimes we struggle to get work done in lieu of play. However, somewhere on the other end of the spectrum, there are folks who struggle with this. The Type-A folks who are driven or may have crossed the line into being a workaholic often find themselves putting off self-care and keep promising themselves that after this next task, they will do something. They may have a great barometer and even know exactly what they would like to do, but they just don’t give themselves the green light. Hopefully, this isn’t an issue for you. If it is, you will need to make a commitment to taking care of yourself and taking the time for self-care.

Lastly, is, what are you going to do? For most people, their self-care is made of hobbies and activities they enjoy. In fact, the really good self-care is often the stuff we are passionate about. When we do these activities time seems to fly. Two hours feels like 20 minutes and even though we are expending energy on these activities, we walk away feeling more energized. That’s good quality self-care! What you do is up to you; whatever floats your boat. Examples include: walking, gardening, listening/playing music, talking with friends, watching a movie, reading, journaling, doing art, exercise, and the list could go on. If you don’t have much, it’s time to start exploring and trying out things and see what resonates with you. It is good to have a repertoire of activities that are both quick (sometimes you only have 15 minutes and need a little pick me up) and take some time (one or more hours),  as well as some that cut across the seasons. We see a lot of people slump into the blues in winter months (cabin fever) because all their fun stuff is outdoors. These are the three key ingredients to self-care. If you can master self-care, you will find yourself on the road to greater happiness.

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