SELF CARE..DO YOU HAVE A PLAN?
How often do you prioritize caring for yourself? If you’re like me or most women I know, it’s not very often. Today, I want to address why self care is important and why you need a self care plan. I seem to be in that phase (along with almost ALL of my gal pals), where we care not only for our own families, but our parents and maybe other relatives. This creates a huge drain on our own energy reserves as well as on those closest to us.
This shot was taken at the Muana Kea in Hawaii, but still, I’m having to actively remember to take care of myself. Granted, I am here for a vacation but self-care is still a struggle for me to prioritize no matter the circumstances. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the stresses of everyday life with long work hours and little time to ourselves.
When I feel it’s time to get a little relaxation for myself, I immediately think of planning a spa day – but I’ve learned that there’s so much more to self-care than just a massage and a facial. And, self-care needs to be right at the top of your priority list right along with spending time with family and work.
What Is Self Care?
At its core, self-care is any action we take or choice we make to fulfill one of our physical, spiritual or emotional needs. It’s all the little ways we take care of ourselves to make sure we don’t have a legit breakdown in one of these three areas. For the last few months, I’ve been working on ways to self-improve, and it became obvious that I needed a self care plan – especially after being in a nose dive for the better half of this Summer.
Why Do I Need a Self Care Plan?
The right self-care plan can help improve your overall well being, assist with stress management, and help keep you healthy in the long term. Which, of course, is doubly important if you are also caring for someone else.
It’s easy to let taking care of yourself fall to the bottom of your list when life gets crazy. Right? It’s always the first thing we sacrifice because, in the midst of chaos, it doesn’t seem as important as all the other “fires” that need to be put out. The problem is that we end up substituting the important with the urgent a lot more than we should. And after awhile, it starts to take a toll on our lives either by way of exhaustion, burnout, decreased focus, lacking motivation or whatever else.
Whatever the case, it’s important to spend a little time to get to know yourself and what your mind, body and soul need in order to function at your highest level. By learning to identify activities and things that support your well-being, you’ll be able to create a customized self-care plan that will work specifically for you. Take some time (if you can) to sit alone and think about those things that bring you most happiness and calm. What is it you REALLY need? How can you implement it into your daily life?
How To Create A Self Care Plan
The first step in creating your self-care plan is to make a list of the things you value and need as part of your day-to-day – like reading with a cup of coffee in the morning alone, a walk with your dog, or an evening a yoga class. Add to that, think of the things you don’t necessarily need on a daily basis, but things that make you happy emotionally or fulfill you spiritually. Things like learning a new hobby (I want to read more), or going through your closet to purge things you don’t need or wear OR finally making that dreaded commitment to clean out your pantry (just do it! Then come to my house and do mine….pretty pleaaassseee). Of course, things like getting a manicure and pedicure can be on your self-care plan, but try to think more outside the box. One of my favorite daily checklist items is to pick one thing that’s been on my mental “to do” list and get it done. This one is surprisingly very satisfying!
You want to think of your self-care plan on a daily and weekly (1-3x per week) basis. It helps for me to think of practices or activities within the following seven different categories or “areas” of life:
Physical: things that involve taking care of your physical body like eating well, exercising, get enough sleep, doctor’s appointments, hydrating, and eating real food (as opposed to shakes or pre-packaged stuff for convenience). Also, breaking down and FINALLY having those tests/exams done that my PCP is ALWAYS on my case about….I’m only about 13 years overdue!)
The Mind Game: this could cover a variety of different things, but I’d say things of the mind and your mental health are first and foremost in this area of life. For me, I think of journaling, setting personal goals, learning new skills, spending time alone, self-reflection, and brain-dumping.
Money, Money, Money: the “b” word for the present and future, taking care of taxes (being better organized with receipts and information) and other financial responsibilities and overall understanding of how finances our quality of life as we Superage (a little “first born – over achiever” attitude in that word, right?!).
The Inner Circle: investing in healthy relationships (those that make you feel great, lift you up and are supportive when you most need it), scheduling time to spend time with people that matter to me, being intentional about making phone calls to those I care about that live elsewhere, being aware of people’s birthdays, prioritizing important events, etc.
Work Life: pursuing work-life balance, setting boundaries, investing in new skills, networking, time management skills, planning for future travel and life in general.
Emotional: seeking feedback from others (and myself), journaling about how I’m feeling, expressing my thoughts and emotions (with myself) and others, investing time in positive activities, monitoring my self-talk and thought life, celebrating achievements, etc.
Spiritual: attending church and small groups or worshiping in your own way, investing in community and getting involved, spending time to read inspiring books or stories, turning the radio off in the car to spend time in thought and being present, starting my day with quiet time and appreciation, etc.
Consider how you are taking care of yourself in these areas currently and then brainstorm ways you’d like to improve or things you’d like to try out. Of course, some areas are going to prove to be more important than others, but all in all, you want to consider how you’re addressing each category. On a daily basis, you want to make sure you’re prioritizing your physical needs just as much as you’re taking care of your professional and psychological needs. Incorporating more balance into our daily routine will help your productivity and overall well-being as well as enable you to be more resilient when life gets stressful.
Once you have a list of things that contribute positively to your physical, spiritual, and emotional needs, it’s time to put your plan into action. I use a digital planner for this part, and schedule in my daily self care plan items in a self care checklist format to make sure I complete them. It’s not always perfect (and ever-changing slash adapting), but taking some action and initiative will go a long way here; the key is to be making a conscious effort and investment in yourself.
The non-daily things I scatter in on a weekly or monthly basis – like “cleaning out my closet day” and “sign up for a pilates session.” By writing down the things that contribute to my self-care, I’m committing to putting my happiness and well-being first. And that is something we all need to do a little bit more of, don’t you agree?
What are you going to add to your self care plan? Do you already have a self-care routine and not even realize it?