Similar to many other working, moving, shaking and heart-breaking women, I deal with the pressures of my daily responsibilities, bills, keeping track of life and everything else that comes along with adulting. Like millions of other adults in America, I also suffer from mental health issues that are exacerbated by stress and overwhelming situations. The one thing that has saved me from completely going bonkers is purposefully practicing self-care.
Self-care is not a buzzword. Self-care is not a suggestion. Self-care is not a trend. Self-care is an absolute must. Self-care helps to maintain physical and mental health, relieve stress, concentrate and focus on maintaining health relationships. When we take care of ourselves we are able to take better care of those around us and of the obligations of our lives. Not one of us is immune to stress or pressure. Therefore, not one of us shall be excused from taking good care of ourselves.
Self-care is for everyone. You may be a student, mother, career-driven business maven, high schooler or anything in between. If you are living, breathing person, self-care is for you. There is no certain level or threshold of stress or pressure that you have to meet to engage in caring for your mind, body and soul. Due to the many responsibilities that we take on or are put on us, it is almost impossible to avoid times of stress. Practicing self-care allows you to cope with and relieve stress, anxiety, depression and other overwhelming and energy-stealing feelings.
The 10 Self-Care Commandments
Thou Shalt Know Herself. Whether you keep a health journal or simply make mental notes, begin keeping track of the ebbs and flows of your mental, physical and spiritual health. Do you find that certain times of the year bring more stress than others? Perhaps you feel down more often right before you menstruate. Maybe you notice that certain people, places or duties trigger you. Learn your body. Begin to figure out when something mentally or physically does not feel right so that you can seek treatment if it persists. Keep a record of headaches that come when you are entering a high time at work. Know what is and is not right inside of you so that you can begin taking care of yourself right away.
Thou shall not let anyone else determine her feelings. Unlike those cool clear house phones from the 90’s, our insides are closed off to the outside world. So, while the people around you can see your facial expressions, view your output and hear your words, they cannot see what is going on inside of you. How is it, then, that they are somehow experts on your feelings, mental health and overall wellness? Oh, that’s right. They aren’t! When you are creating ways to take care of yourself, there will undoubtedly be folks all up in your business telling you what you do and don’t need; how you do or don’t feel. And yes, of course, you will have those few that love to remind you that “it’s not that bad” or “it could be worse.” I have choice words for those types of people but I digress. Your feelings, your stress, your mind, your body; they belong to you and only you. There is not another person on this earth that has the ability to tell you how you feel. So, when they try, politely ask them to remain in their own lane, or brush them off. But, do not let anyone make you feel bad for being true to your own feelings.
Thou shall care for herself early and often. Do not slack on taking care of yourself when you need to. We often feel guilt when we take time away from work, family or friends but think of it this way: take a short reprieve now, to avoid a long breakdown later. Self-care should be so ingrained into your daily life that you are taking care of yourself even when you are not thinking about it purposefully. Remember, self-care is not just about coloring pages and yoga. Self-care includes all the things that you do to make your quality of life better: eating well, sleeping enough, exercise, etc.
Thou shall determine what works best for herself. What works for one does not always work for the other. Sometimes you have to try a bunch of different methods before you find the one, two or few that fit best for your life and personality. When you mention to someone that you are stress, overwhelmed, depressed or feeling pressure, the suggestions will flow. Well, this is my one and only suggestion: Find something that works for you and do not give up if an activity does not help, something will.
Thou shall SELF care. You do not need to include anyone else in your self-care and you certainly do not have to feel obligated to take care of anyone else while you are trying to take care of yourself. Self-care is not something that you indulge in, like a pedicure once a month. Because it is essential to ensuring your life is improved and your mind is healthy, it is important to treat it like an obligation. Like C3 says, do it often. This also means that you may have to take time away from others in order to take care of yourself. Now, I am not saying that you should run away for a couple of weeks when you know there is no one else to handle your business for you. But, I am saying that it is important to have time to yourself. Even if that only includes 15 minutes of reading a good book with the door shut before the kids wake up. Take care of yourself so that when you are taking care of others, you can do it as well as you intend to.
Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” – Deborah Day
Thou shall make self-care a habit. Build your methods of self-care into habits that you do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Add it to your calendar, to-do lists and personal agenda. Make regular doctor and dentist appointments, add gym days to your schedule, pencil in face masks and manicures. Whatever it is that you are doing to maintain your care, record it so that you can hold yourself accountable. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you will forget to do it as soon as you finish saying that you are going to. When you think of self-care methods, make them as regular as teeth brushing.
Thou shall engage in health care. Your mental health is tied very closely to your physical health. If you do not take care of your mind, your body will likely suffer. Include physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, even financial exercises and practices into your routine so that you are taking care of every area of your life.
Thou shall be proactive and reactive. If you are not currently stressed out or anxious, I am quite sure you can recall a time when your mind was rife with anxiety. Do not wait to dive into self-care practices. Do it regularly so that when high stress times come, you will be prepared. Think of it as supplementary health insurance. On the other hand, stress may creep up on you when you least expect it. When that happens, be armed with methods of care that will help you to get over the hump. Make a note to record what methods work or don’t work for different types of pressures you face so that you can reference it if those times return.
Thou shall reach out. When you are most in need of self-care, what do you do? Do you retreat or do you go out and get active or social? If you’re anything like me, you hermit up like a recluse in a dark cave. While this may feel good for a while, it may also worsen your feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. During those times where you are most in need of relief, reach out to someone else. Perhaps you have a girl’s night or your make an appointment with that therapist that you’ve been meaning to call for the last six months. Maybe you invite your lover over for movie night or hang out with your family for the weekend. Either way, get around other people.
Thou shall not believe she is burdensome. When you are feeling stressed, stretched or depressed, it is easy to feel like talking to other people may cause you to be a burden. But, if your friends or family truly care for you, you will find that they are willing and able to handle what you throw at them. Then again, you may find that the people closest to you do not understand or are not able to give you the level of help that you need. In these cases, contact a doctor, counselor, therapist or spiritual counselor who is trained to assist you with these matters. Remember that the things bringing your mind pain and pressure may be symptoms of more serious mental or physical health issues that require professional assistance and treatment.
If you or anyone that you know is dealing with mental health issues and is in need of help, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 800-950-6264
If it’s an emergency in which you or someone you know is suicidal, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room.