Anytime you choose to do something that nurtures your well-being, you’re practicing self-care.
By Barbara Pierce
In our fast-paced world, daily life for most of us is a juggling act.
As women, we play vital roles in family and community. In our society, especially during a pandemic, women are the caregivers. We put others first: children, partners, parents, bosses, friends, even pets.
So, it may feel awkward for us to shift the balance from everyone else to ourselves.
However, if we don’t care for ourselves, our bodies will let us know in negative ways.
Ongoing exposure to stress, without taking care of ourself, puts us at risk for serious consequences such as depression and heart disease. As people weigh the costs and benefits, more and more are turning to the practice of caring for themselves.
“This is something I help my clients with all the time,” said Heather Beebe, certified personal trainer and integrative holistic life coach, owner of Unstoppable You Coach in Utica.
“We are more powerful in who we are if we care for ourselves.”
Life coach April Cacciatori, owner of Zensations Therapeutic Massage in Rome, also finds this is an important issue for the women she works with.
“All the time it comes up with clients. I invite them to build a practice of self-care,” she said.
What exactly is self-care?
Self-care simply means you’re taking time to care for yourself—and that’s critically important for your health and well-being. It means identifying and meeting your needs, something that most women struggle with.
Self-care is anything you do to take care of yourself so that you can stay physically, mentally and emotionally well. This can include taking some time to relax, going to the gym, or even visiting an orthodontics specialist to improve the appearance and condition of your teeth. These activities create positive health outcomes, increasing your resilience, making you better equipped to deal with stress.
Neglecting ourselves can cause increases in anxiety, distractibility, anger, and fatigue. We may have problems with sleep, relationship satisfaction, self-esteem, empathy and compassion.
For Cacciatori, self-care is the practice of being aware of what we can do to keep our life in balance on a daily basis.
“Not one size fits all,” she said. “It’s noticing what you need. It’s being aware of how you feel, mentally and physically.”
“Each person defines self-care differently,” said Beebe. “It’s tricky.”
“For some, it might be aggressive activities, like boxing or hiking, Others prefer calming activities, such as meditation or journaling,” she added.
Each person has something inside of them. “I like physical activity, outside activities—hiking, skiing, anything that keeps me moving outside,” she said.
Anytime you choose to do something that nurtures your well-being (physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually), you’re practicing self-care. It doesn’t matter how big or small the activity may be. It doesn’t matter whether anyone else would find it to be nurturing as well. All that matters is that it nourishes you. At the core, self-care is about valuing yourself.
Self-care is not an indulgence. It’s a necessity that should be woven into your life each and every day. Self-care doesn’t have to be a day at the spa or a whole weekend getaway to be beneficial. In fact, there are simple things you can do that will help you take an important mental pause to nurture your body, mind and spirit.
It’s much like the foundation of a sound building—if self-care is not the foundation, the building it supports will be compromised with a steep price tag.
Where to begin with self-care?
“It’s a daily practice. Begin by noticing what you need,” Cacciatori suggested. “It sounds simple, but the results are profound. Awareness will help you create a new habit or shift perspective.”
Do something you enjoy every day, something that brings you joy. Like reading a few pages of a book, gardening, going for a run, doing a craft project, cleaning out your closet. It doesn’t have to make sense to anybody else. If it makes you feel good, it qualifies. Sometimes it can be something as simple as taking a hot shower. However, you can’t just do it while your mind is racing through your laundry list of things to do. The key word here is “enjoy,” which means you need to pause and immerse yourself in the experience or activity.
Cacciatori writes 750 words a day on 750words.com. “I do it the first thing in the morning, while I enjoy my coffee,” she said.
Do what you do with more intention, she suggested, adding, “When we add intention to our daily ritual, consider it a ritual to service yourself. It becomes a lot more powerful. You’re making a conscious attention instead of unconnected going through day.”
“Find what works for you through trial and error,” Beebe said. “Try something—if you don’t feel good, don’t do it. You’ll stay with the things you need.”