Self-care occurs on every level of our being. When we think of self-care, we often think about a spa day or something else that is equally “luxurious.” But self-care doesn’t’ have to be expensive, nor does it need to be time-consuming. The dimensions of self-care as it relates to everyone are physical, intellectual, social, spiritual, and emotional. In the big picture, no one dimension is more important than the other, but at any given time in our lives, we may need to focus on one or two dimensions more than we focus on the others.
The physical dimension of self-care involves, well, the care you give to your physical self. This includes fitness (health), sleep, and nutrition. Haven’t seen your doctor or dentist in a while? Well, no time like the present. Do you have a sleep routine in place? It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as taking a shower or bath to signal the beginning of your bedtime routine. Studies show that a 10-minute shower or bath 1-2 hours before bed helps you fall asleep faster and improves your sleep quality. And while we don’t always do it, we know the benefits of a healthy diet. Can’t do it every day? Start small: chose 1 day per week, or even one meal per week to be your healthy choice and go from there. You’d be surprised at the momentum that builds when you make choices that make you proud.
Intellectual self-care speaks to your personal growth and quest for knowledge; a desire to keep learning. This does not have to be learning in a “formal” setting. It can be learning a new recipe or trying a new hobby. It can mean that you spend time each day or each week practicing mindfulness activities. And it can be that you have a positive mindset. There have been many studies that show a direct link between our thoughts and our feelings. The thought “what if no one is there to help” can engender feelings of fear; “I should have…” thoughts can trigger feelings of guilt; “I can’t stand it when…” can trigger feelings of anger. Instead of focusing on the negative, allow yourself to explore alternatives: instead of “I did a horrible job with/at…” try thinking “I did my best.” Remove those “should” thoughts and work to recognize those automatic negative thoughts. And put those negative thoughts on trial; determine if they are based on facts or feelings.
Social self-care includes your support system, those people to whom you can turn for guidance; the ones that uplift you or just listen to you as you vent. These connections help to create a sense of belonging and acceptance. They enhance your quality of life and help build resilience. Healthy social connections can enhance your self-esteem and promote good mental health. Social support provides you with empathy and a sense of being cared for. Social support can be particularly import during times of stress or loneliness; it can help you feel less anxious or stressed during trying times.
The word “spiritual” often prompts thoughts of religion. If that is the case, then your spiritual self-care may involve attending religious services or studying religious texts. In other instances, spiritual self-care is the simple practice of whatever feeds your soul. It is anything that is meaningful to you and brings about a feeling of experiencing something sacred. Spiritual self-care is meant to connect you to your true self; it energizes and inspires you. Spiritual self-care allows you to engage in introspection, which can in turn lead to clarity and comfort. It quiets the mind and honors the yearnings of the heart.
Emotional self-care requires you to care for your emotional needs by being aware of your feelings and emotions. It involves listening to, acknowledging, and honoring them in a way that allows you to move forward. Emotional self-care can be setting healthy boundaries at work or with family. It can be regular meditation, whatever form that takes for you. It means that you schedule “me-time.” It’s engaging in creative activities and acknowledging that it’s okay to have imperfections. Emotional self-care requires you be kind and compassionate to yourself.
So, whatever each of these dimensions looks like to you, I’ll leave you with two reminders:
- An empty watering can cannot water a garden.
- Self-care isn’t selfish
Sherine Chambers, PLPC