Originally, when I learned the concept of self-care, I thought it had to be luxurious activities to unwind and relax. But then, I finally asked myself, what is the actual definition of self-care? The Oxford Reference defines self-care as “the practice of activities that are necessary to sustain life and health, normally initiated and carried out by the individual for him or herself.” When I reflect on my self-care practices, it helps me to remember these definitions because I often neglect my self-care through the chaos of everyday life. Re-reading self-care as the “practice of activities that are necessary to sustain life and health” helps me remember the importance of incorporating self-care regularly instead of waiting until my body approaches burnout as a last resort.
In addition to Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, it is also Self-Care Awareness Month! I want to share five self-care practices I incorporate into my routine that are necessary to preserve my mental and physical health.
1. Sticking to my night-time routine.
I tend to experience heightened anxiety in the morning when I feel rushed and unprepared for the day. Sticking to my night-time routine allows me to prepare for the next day and know that I am getting the hours of sleep that make me feel energized. My night-time routine starts early and consists of checking my calendar for the next day, writing a list of 3 high-priority tasks, laying out my clothes, showering, and taking medicine. I never end the night without my cup of chamomile tea.
2. Keeping a tidy space.
A tidy space can be challenging to maintain when I am tired or rushed to complete other higher-priority tasks. Something manageable I do to keep clean is picking up one or two items when I enter a new room, whether it is trash that needs to be thrown away or sparkling water cans that need to be recycled. Focusing on only two things at a time helps make the clutter feel less overwhelming. I ask myself if it takes 2 minutes for me to do, then I can do it now rather than later. This is self-care for me because I feel a sense of serenity and peace when I am in a clean room.
3. Going outside at least once a day.
Over the last 2.5 years, I found myself staying inside an increased amount of time than I usually did growing up (for safety reasons during the pandemic and the habitual work-from-home routine). Staying indoors makes me feel stagnant, and I found going outside for a walk or sitting in my backyard with a book gave me the self-care I needed to change perspective, breathe more, and overall help with my mental wellness.
4. Setting clear boundaries with myself and others.
I am a people pleaser and will say yes to every opportunity for service or socializing. Setting clear boundaries with myself and others is essential to my self-care, not to overextend myself. If I see a free spot in my calendar, just because it looks free does not mean I am available. Those moments of free time to breathe and transition into the next activity are valuable to my mental health.
5. Repeating my personal mantra to myself.
I have a mantra I used to repeat to myself whenever I was feeling anxious or filled with self-doubt in college. I would say to myself, “I am strong. I am smart. I am confident. I am capable.” Now that I am into adulthood, I find this mantra an essential part of my self-care routine and sometimes say it multiple times a day!
Happy Self-Care Awareness Month! What self-care practices are essential to your daily, weekly, or monthly routine?