Self-Care: What It Is and Why We Need It
In a culture that thrives on 24/7 schedules, self-care offers an antidote to the frenetic pace of life. Self-care is a simple and powerful concept that allows us to check in with ourselves in a particular way. “Self-care looks a little different for everyone. For one person it may be meditation or spiritual practices; for another, physical activity; and for someone else, connecting with friends or family,” states Christine Menna, LMSW and associate therapist at Gateway to Solutions. The list goes on. However, while we may engage in the practice in diverse ways, the critical unifying element is that it is a time of nourishment for our entire being. It distinctly moves away from the obligations and “shoulds” in our lives and opens up the world of our inner desires, asking “what do I want and need right now? What would bring me joy in this moment?”
“An initial response when I describe self-care in this way is that it sounds selfish. I believe it’s quite the opposite – it recharges us so that we are able to be present for and fulfill everyday life tasks. It’s akin to the safety instructions given on an airplane to put on your oxygen mask before helping someone else to do so. Caring for ourselves allows us to have the energy to do the same for others,” suggests Menna. That being said, it’s important to find a path that looks reasonable within your life. Sometimes that means adjusting our schedule slightly, for instance waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual to savor a cup of coffee and read a book. Making it a true priority is also essential. “I suggest that clients schedule this time with themselves on their calendars and treat it as they would with a business meeting, following through on the ‘appointment’ with self,” states Menna.
Why try self-care? Research backs its benefits, suggesting decreased stress and anxiety and higher quality of life. It assists focus, creativity and productivity. It can positively impact our relationships and communication. Self-care may also assist with emotional regulation. All of these benefits extend to the long-term too. It’s well-established that stress is a contributing or causal factor in many illnesses, so engaging in self-care may be a helpful preventative tool and support a healthy lifestyle.
“If you’re not quite sure what self-care looks like for you, I’d suggest setting aside some time to reflect on things that bring you joy, that make you feel connected, and that feel nourishing. Create a list of ideas that you can draw on for this restorative time with yourself,” says Menna. See how self-care can favorably influence your life.