I watched a Ted Talk today by psychologist Guy Winch. He talked about practicing emotional hygiene and how we’re so much better at taking care of our physical bodies than we are at taking care of our emotional needs. It made a lot of sense.
In addition to the daily stress that normal people face, I also face the stress of a mental disorder (bipolar depression), addiction, and an eating disorder. It is paramount that I place self care as a high priority in my life.
But I’m not very good at it. All to often I put myself and my needs on the back burner. I tell myself I can take care of my needs later. I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want to be needy.
Believing self care is selfish is an old belief from childhood. It’s a belief I’m trying to let go. I am slowly coming to believe that I am worthy of love and care, both physically and emotionally. And the things I do to show myself love and care are slowly becoming enjoyable (rather than chores).
Self care isn’t the same for everyone. For several years, I couldn’t step foot in a gym without triggering my eating disorder. It was difficult to even go for a walk in the park without feeling the urge to run so I could burn more calories. Exercise at that point was not a good self care activity for me.
Now, though, I’m able to exercise for about an hour five times a week to help manage the stress of my job. The workouts help me feel calmer throughout the day, they help me manage my energy, and they help me feel stronger.
Self care for me is also about eating a healthy diet throughout the day. This activity is a battle. My eating disorder tells me, “You’re sitting on your ass all day – why do you need to eat?” I’ve stopped trying to reason with ED. I know that eating keeps my energy up and my mind clear. It’s an important self care step that I take every day that helps me manage all three of my issues – my mental disorder, my addiction, and my eating disorder.
Another self care routine that I try to remember to do every day is taking a long hot shower at the end of the day. It’s a simple thing, but when I was at my worst in my depression, I didn’t take showers for days. Now it’s an activity that I enjoy, and I try not to get so busy that I don’t have time to take that time for myself at the end of a long day.
Here are some other ideas for self care that you might find helpful to incorporate into your daily routine:
This might sound intimidating at first, but even a few minutes a day can bring you to a place of peace and serenity. I started meditating with Headspace, a free app that is helping me learn the basics of meditation. I started with just five minutes a day. I’m up to 10 minutes a day now!
- Take a full day to just rest
I suggest a Sunday. Unplug everything. Your phone. Your laptop. Your iPad. All electronics. And just rest. Catch up on sleep. Eat good food. Drink plenty of water and iced green tea. Luxuriate in a bath or a shower. Read, color, journal. Just rest.
- Stay hydrated
In general, you should drink six to eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day. Staying hydrated helps your body function. When I’m not feeling right and I can’t quite tell what’s wrong, I’ll drink a glass of water and instantly feel better.
- Stay in the moment
Whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, be attentive to the present moment. Thich Nhat Hanh, known as the father of mindfulness, says, “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
- Use the Pomodoro Method to manage a stressful day
The Pomorodo Technique breaks down work into intervals (usually 25 minutes) separated by short breaks. There are dozens of apps you can download to help you time yourself. The idea is that you stay focused on work for 25 (or however long) minutes, take a break for a few minutes, and then go back to work for another 25 minute session.
I’ve put this technique to the test, and I can tell you it works! I’ve gotten a ton of work done using this method.
- Enjoy something good
Chocolate? Cheese? Tea? Whatever you choose, enjoy it to the fullest
One of the most important ideas about self care is that it is not a reward. Don’t wait until you feel like you deserve self care to take care of yourself. As a living, breathing human being, you are already deserving of self care!