July 24th is designated as International Self Care Day. This isn’t about just one day but provides an opportunity to maintain or renew interest in checking in. Taking care of your body and mind is important for maintaining stress levels and boosting your mood, concentration, and energy. It encourages self-reflection and routines or actions that positively impact your health. Self-care looks different for each individual and no matter how you choose to check in on your mental, emotional and physical well-being, it should be a priority.
Let’s deconstruct what self-care may look like: relaxing after work, lighting candles, drinking a cup of hot tea, and watering your plants. These are all very wonderful things–don't get me wrong. Even small acts in your daily life have a cumulative impact. However, self-care has as much to do with treating your mind as it does your body. Check-in with what your whole self needs and reflect on where there are steps to improve. How those can be filtered into your day or week? There is no doubt that some days this can be challenging. For me, self-care is sustainable when it becomes a habit, such as sticking to my morning or bedtime routine.
Mental health experts recommend addressing the following areas to improve physical wellbeing, communication, balance, and flexibility.
Awareness - When you become aware of internal and external stressors and factors that make you feel stuck, you deeply understand what needs to be worked on. Practicing self-awareness, also called interoception, allows you to take the next step. You can identify what needs to be changed and set goals.
Balance and Flexibility - Set goals that align with your values, but stay focused on what matters most to you. Slim down on commitments to prioritize yourself and what needs to get done. Creating space for your personal life and relaxing activities, or engaging in things you really enjoy can help you recharge and adapt. This creates a balancing effect.
Physical Wellbeing- The benefits of getting daily movement are unlimited. Not only does it boost focus, mood, and longevity, but it’s free and you could begin virtually any time, anywhere, with little to no tools. If you work from home or at a desk, go for walks frequently to maintain blood circulation and to lift energy. Getting 8 hours of sleep is more crucial than you may think. Bodies recover mentally and physically during deep sleep and REM, and they are the first to be compromised with less than 8 hours. Hydrate and nourish yourself with all the essential vitamins, amino acids, fats, and protein. Taking a multivitamin, eating a plate of fruit, and drinking lots of water are just a few examples to help you make healthy choices and positive lifestyle changes.
Support - Reaching out to family and friends, calling to check in on someone, or making plans to see people you care about is another avenue for feeling reset. Getting in touch with your support system can help you reach the goals and milestones you set for yourself too.
Here are some examples of personal self-care goals and affirmations:
- “I will practice gratitude and remind myself of things I am grateful for”
- “I can be more connected to friends and family this week, I’ll check in with a friend or family member”
- “I will move my body more - I am going to take the stairs and also drink more water throughout the day.”
- “This month I will begin journaling and meditating before bed even if it’s just for 10 minutes to start.”
- “This week I am going to go to bed earlier to help me function better and have better focus - I will make sure to adjust my schedule to allow for that.”
- “I will take breaks when I need them, even if they are for five minutes.”
- “I will advocate and care for myself”
- “I am a light. I have power. I can do anything”
At Leaf Shave, we encourage ‘Caring for the places you care about.’ Be that the hair on your body, the Earth that we all share, or the self inside of you. I hope you take some time today to perform even a small act of self-care, and perhaps this is the start of a new routine that may grow over time.
“Caring for Your Mental Health.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health.
Posluns, Kirsten, and Terry Lynn Gall. “Dear Mental Health Practitioners, Take Care of Yourselves: A Literature Review on Self-Care.” International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, vol. 42, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1–20., https://doi.org/10.1007/s10447-019-09382-w. Accessed 19 July 2022.
Laverty, Catherine. “International Self-Care Day.” Global Self-Care Federation, 18 Aug. 2021, https://www.selfcarefederation.org/news-events/international-self-care-day.
Dobkins, Karen & Winkielman, Piotr & Arnold, Andrew J. “Interoception and Social Connection” Frontiers, 26 Nov. 2019, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02589/full