Winter is turning to spring and I am so ready! The changing of seasons gives us a great opportunity to examine the “what” and “when” of self care. I’m not sure about you, but I know that the long, dark hours of winter get to me. I feel sleepier, less energetic, and less motivated when it’s dark, cold, and bleak outside. Not to mention the restrictions of COVID coupled with this dank atmosphere causing this winter to be a particular challenge to find meaningful ways of connecting with others (and perhaps with ourselves). So, we welcome spring. Spring with it’s longer, gloriously sunny days. Spring with warmer weather, outdoor gatherings, pleasant cool breezes. But how do we help our insides (internal) match the outside (external) welcoming weather? Good question!
As a therapist, I am up on self care. Not to say that I am a master at it (or as consistent as I would like to be) but I recognize the importance of caring for myself in all seasons.
What is self care?
I think it can be easy to hear “self care” and think “good idea,” but how many of us know what that actually means? Depending on who you ask, you may get a different response. Simply put, self care is taking the time to care for yourself. Period. The beauty of this is that self care looks different for every person. For me, I know that what I need to “recharge,” to be the best version of myself. It’s simple: time with Jesus (journaling, a couple bible verses, some prayer), running (especially outside), and time alone. Easier said than done, but so much of this happens by forming healthy habits. Below, I am including two things for you 1) how to carve out time for yourself and 2) some ideas to get you thinking of what self care might look like for you.
Finding the Time for Self Care
Finding time for oneself can be a challenge. It’s so difficult to carve out time and uphold that time to do something for yourself. I hope these ideas help as you begin your journey towards self care!
- Look for empty spaces within your schedule. Perhaps you have an hour long lunch break at work, but really only need 30 minutes to eat. Is there something you could do with this extra half hour to care for yourself?
- Do you like that snooze button? I know I do. It’s too easy to push that orange button and sleep another ten minutes, four times over. However, consider how you’d like to begin your day. How could you use your mornings to increase self care and begin your day more intentionally? The mornings are an awesome time to carve out for yourself, because the mornings haven’t (typically) yet been hit by the busyness or demands of the day. The mornings are a blank slate and when you use that time to care for yourself, that can change your mindset as you move on into the rest of your day.
- Set a timer… literally. I was listening to a podcast the other day, on which the speaker shared that she sets a 20 minute timer on her phone, silences her phone, and reads until the timer sounds. Something as small as this can give you more space in your day.
- Spend less time on social media. According to Google, in 2019 the average internet user spent an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social media. Two and a half hours!! That my friends, sounds like a lot of time that can be redirected to more productive and fulfilling activities.
- Be intentional. This one’s more vague, but be more intentional in the “extras” with which you fill your schedule. If your life is full of commitments (perhaps some that you don’t enjoy or value), how can you say “no” and give yourself more time? How can you reshape your schedule so that there’s time for what is most important and life-giving to you?
What you can do for self care
Here are some self care ideas that might be helpful. If none of these resonate with you, hopefully it sparks another idea.
- Exercise! The benefits: increases endorphins (this provides a sense of happiness), releases stress and tension, reduces anxiety, and can improve sleep. Try brisk walking, running, yoga, virtual or in person classes.
- Journal. Simply putting your thoughts to paper or “giving your thoughts somewhere else to live” can help cope with anxiety, or a sense of being overwhelmed by to-do’s that you may be focusing on. This can also aid in processing life transitions, difficulties that you may be facing, and even recording personal goals or dreams.
- Read. Did you know that reading fiction increases your ability to empathize with others? Empathy is so useful in deepening your connection with others, as it allows you to more fully understand not only their experiences, but how they are feeling in the midst of their circumstances.
- Sleep. This sounds silly, but honestly, making sure that you are getting an adequate amount of sleep is a huge form of self care. This allows you to be more present in your daily activities and responsibilities, as you will be more alert and less groggy.
- Spend time with friends and/or family. I know this one is tricky within our COVID-impacted world. However, if it’s not an option to take a walk or grab coffee with a friend, pick up the phone. A huge form of self care can be remaining meaningfully connected to others — essentially not isolating and combating a sense of loneliness. Allow others to know you.
- Find a hobby! Having something that you do for fun (just because you enjoy it) is so liberating for many people. Having an activity that brings you excitement, interest, or joy, is so worthwhile. A friend of mine is currently considering bee keeping — pursue whatever interests you!
Need help with self care?
If you are having difficulty with some aspect of self care, but want to take better care of yourself, reach out to one of us here at Lime Tree Counseling. We believe that your relationships, work, and interactions with the world will improve as you learn to be better at self care. It might be that counseling will help get the ball rolling by assisting in healing and improving your understanding of yourself.