Learning the importance of self-care activities to my overall health and wellbeing has been a game-changer for me.
If you would have asked me eight years ago what self-care was I would have said it is when someone gets a gift certificate for a pedicure for Christmas and they use it before the certificate expires.
Nowadays, my understanding of the benefits of self-care activities to my mental and physical well being are much deeper.
I used to think that self-care activities were just indulgent events that you planned out and did for special occasions. I never thought of them as being therapeutic to mental of physical health.
My parents were both the kind of people who put their heads down and powered through any stress or difficulty. They modeled that kind of behavior for my sisters and I to the point where none of us asked for help or even let the thought cross our minds that we couldn’t handle something.
Maybe once in a blue moon I would go and get a massage or a pedicure But, that was really the extent of any kind of self-care activities that I did.
When I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and panic disorder, I had to make some dramatic changes in my life to get well.
And, that meant learning about the benefits of self-care activities.
What is self-care and why is it important?
Self-care is a general term that is used to describe any activity that you do to be good to yourself. Basically, self-care is treating yourself the way that you would treat others. Crazy concept, right?
A major piece of self-care is being mindful of your resources. In other words, tuning into your body and recognizing when you’re feeling tired, irritable, angry, etc. And, then doing something about it.
Hopefully, it goes without saying, but there are things that feel good that are 100% NOT self-care. For instance, getting drunk can be really fun, but it is not self-care.
It’s actually an unhealthy coping mechanism that will create more physical and emotional unrest that it will help.
The hardest part for me when I first started with self-care was accepting that taking a ten-minute walk would improve my irritable mood.
It didn’t make any sense to me how something so subtle could actually change my mood. But, that is the power of self-care activities.
And, once you can wrap your mind around how beneficial it is to do, recognizing when you need it comes easier and faster.
What are the benefits of practicing self-care?
The basic criteria for something to qualify in the self-care activities bucket is that it is good for you without question. In other words, you don’t wonder if it’s good for you because it provides one of the following benefits;
Improves your productivity
For those of us who are currently or reformed type-A personality, it’s really hard to say no. In fact, it feels like a failure if we say no and we are NOT okay with failing for any reason.
But, it turns out that saying no is actually one of the most powerful self-care activities.
When you say no, you’re setting a boundary on your time, focus, and resources. That boundary protects you from overextending and running on empty.
Without all of the extra clutter of too many commitments and guilt about not being able to deliver, your goals become so much clearer and easier to focus on.
Reduced risk of infection
There are some studies that have proven that self-care activities actually activate your parasympathetic nervous system.
In other words, when you take the time to practice one of your favorite self-care activities, your body actually goes into a restorative state, which fortifies your immune system.
Improved physical health and strength
A stronger immune system means fewer colds, flu, and infections. It also means that your body isn’t in a constant state of inflammation, which can contribute to all kinds of terrible physical symptoms.
No one has the motivation or stamina to go hiking or take a class at the gym when their body aches with inflammation and stress.
Practicing a routine of self-care activities helps to improve your physical health and strength so, when you’re invited to go water skiing with friends, you jump off the couch and grab your sunscreen.
More to offer
It might sound counterintuitive but, when you take time for a routine of self-care activities, you actually increase how much energy, focus, and care you are able to give to others.
This was a hard lesson for me to grasp. I didn’t understand how taking time away from my kids was going to help me be a better mom.
Until I actually started doing it and then the impact blew my mind. I was stunned by how much more patient and joyful I was after taking a 1-hour yoga class or spending 20-minutes meditating before I took them to the park.
I wanted to know all about the different types of self-care and how I could create a plan to practice self-care activities for each type.
What are the five types of self-care?
When you start thinking about self-care it can be easy to plan a trip to the salon or a weekend away. But, those self-care activities aren’t really sustainable. They’re great for once in awhile self-care but, you can’t really do them daily or even monthly.
Instead, focus on simple self-care activities that you can do each day. There are five different types of self-care activities to choose from.
If you’re focused on how you’re experiencing the present moment, it much less likely that you are focusing on the past or on things that you can’t change.
Instead, think about how the cuddly blanket on your lap feels, how the lemon ginger tea in your cup smells, how the clean beauty routine you do before you go to bed makes your skin feel.
Just a simple 15-minute sit in the corner and read a book self-care activity can be experienced through all of your senses and have a very powerful effect on your mental and physical health.
This was a difficult one for me but, I learned that is was the main source for all of my panic disorder symptoms.
Instead of experiencing my emotions and speaking up at the moment that I was feeling them, I bit my tongue and pretended that the situation wasn’t happening.
Because I didn’t want to appear to be out of control. I didn’t want other people to think of me as not having it all together.
A lot of this came up while I was developing a healthy relationship with money because it was an extremely stressful time. But, I didn’t acknowledge that or how wobbly I felt in it all.
That only led to a complete nervous breakdown leaving me barely able to function soooo … that definitely wasn’t the best approach.
Doing things like journaling, going to therapy, and talking with friends or family who understand are all emotional self-care activities that help you to process the stress of your emotions.
This doesn’t have to mean religious but, it can if you need it to. Basically, this just means being mindful of your values and living a life that is inline with those values so that you’re proud.
Things, like meditating, practicing gratitude, saying affirmations, and identifying things that fill you up or energize you and incorporating those things into your life, are all spiritual self-care activities.
The physical self-care activities were the easiest for me to wrap my mind around. Something about feeling the actual benefits made me trust the process so much more and motivated me to be more consistent.
Physical self-care activities provide a compounded benefit because they offer both a physical, emotional and mental well being.
Now, if you’re like I was at first, going to the gym and exercising feels more like self-harm than self-care.
But, here’s the thing. You don’t have to jump on the treadmill to be practicing physical self-care. You can do things like yoga, barre, taking a dance class, or just getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
This one is still very difficult for me. I get my energy from myself and I enjoy alone time so, practicing social self-care activities is hard for me to commit to.
But, I do enjoy more ‘introverted’ self-care activities like having coffee with my best friend once a week, doing date night with husband, joining a mastermind group to spend time with like-minded women, etc.
These types of social self-care activities don’t require me to go to a huge party or event so they’re still enjoyable to me while also being beneficial to my mental health.
What are some types of self-care activities?
We’ve talked about the criteria for what qualifies self-care activities. But, as a beginner, you might still be struggling to come up with ideas.
So, I’ve listed a few here for you;
Check an item off of your to-do list
Grab a friend and go for a mani/pedi
Go and have a massage
Get an acupuncture treatment
Learn a new subject just for fun
Block your me time in your calendar
Set your alarm to play music in the morning
Practice gratitude every day
Donate clothing you don’t wear anymore
Pack an extra lunch to share with a person in need on the way to work
Practice a random act of kindness
Send a loving text to a family member
Put a loving note in your kid’s lunchbox
Learn a skill like sewing
Send a friend or family member a gift just because
Start martial arts or yoga
Make a budget so you don’t have money stress
List your wins for the day each night
Unplug for a whole day
Feed any parking meters you pass by today
Go for a walk with headphones and your favorite music
Cook a meal
Do something creative
Lay in the grass with your eyes closed and the sun on your face
Feng Shui your home or office
Use the Headspace app for mindfulness
Make treats for your child’s classroom just because
Throw away your bathroom scale
Go to therapy
Listen to a podcast you love
Eat dinner on the lawn in the backyard
Take a bath
Write affirmations on your bathroom mirror with dry erase marker
Become a chemo angel
Read a book
Join a Meetup
Write in your journal
Work in the garden
Go to the pool and float
Build a fort and sleep in it with your kids
Watch a funny movie