- Dr. Eric Carlsen
The Art of Self-Care & Why It’s Important
Self-care is not a luxury, it’s vital fuel for your inner-self—to keep the body and soul together.
Your kids need help getting out the door before the school bus arrives. Your significant other works late, so it’s up to you to get the groceries and pick up the dry cleaning. At the office, it seems like everyone’s problems are also yours to solve.
So how do you cope? Are you a familiar face at the McDonald’s drive-thru because you don’t have time to make a healthy lunch? Do you bail on coffee dates with your best friend or cancel your Zumba class to get that not-so-little bit of extra work done?
When your life is busy, self-care is one of the last things you make time for. If you do, you often feel guilty about it, even after this ‘go, go, go’ routine makes you feel like you’re ready for retirement instead of a promotion.
Why is self-care so important? Self-care is not selfishness. It’s also not an inspirational yet highly impractical New Age concept for people with too much time on their hands. It’s something you need to practice because today’s high-velocity lifestyle can take a toll if you don’t. When you’re feeling your best, your mood and resilience go up, and you’re in a better position to manage the demands on your time constructively. You’ll also realize the following benefits:
Better physical health. Regular exercise and a healthy diet will give you more energy, but well-deserved pampering will help you relax and keep the stress levels at bay—when you’re on that massage table, having all those knotted muscles untangled, try to stay awake—we dare you!
You’ll feel great emotionally. There’s a proven connection between the mind and body, so treating yourself with the care you deserve will make you feel good about yourself and support a sense of wellbeing.
You’re better able to support others. Ever heard the saying, “You can’t drink from an empty cup?” When you neglect yourself, you’re eventually going to burn out. Ignoring your own needs affects your ability to help others. It’s a vicious cycle that regular self-care can help you break.
As you can see, self-care matters, and that’s not just a mantra. According to psychologist Dr. Russell Thackeray, those who take time to look after themselves can concentrate better and produce more without sacrificing their own well-being in the process. Here are some tips for pampering yourself when you need a little bit of rejuvenation.
Have a spa day Spas have been fortifying us for thousands of years. The ancient philosopher Hippocrates said that anyone seeking good health should “have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.”
He knew what he was talking about. Fast-forward a few millennia and splurging on a spa day can still be a heavenly way to relax.
Massages relax your muscles, lower your blood pressure, and improve circulation. You’ll sleep better and face each morning with greater energy and enthusiasm.
A manicure and pedicure will keep your nails looking healthy and beautiful- but that’s not all. The accompanying hand and foot massage relaxes tired muscles and joints and leaves you feeling happy and refreshed.
Facials come in a variety of types, but they have two things in common: they leave you with bright, youthful skin, and they’re intensely relaxing. Close your eyes, slowly inhale and enjoy the pampering.
If you have some friends who you want to reconnect with, why not make it a girls’ (or boys') day out? Enjoy the spa treatments as a group, get your hair done, and indulge in a healthy but decadent lunch. There’s nothing more inspiring and empowering than spending the day relaxing and rejuvenating with your closest friends.
Go offscreen Research suggests that we spend an average of six hours a day online. We definitely love our smartphones, but spending hours glued to the screen before bed can impact your sleep. Think of all the times you checked Facebook or your work email before switching off the light and read something that left you staring at the bedroom ceiling all night.
Try cutting out all screen-time two hours before you go to sleep and leave your phone someplace where you can’t reach it while in bed. You’ll find that your nights are more restful and you’re calmer and more focused in the morning.
Learn to say no This is one of those strategies that sounds easy but can be challenging, especially if you’ve been conditioned to put other peoples’ needs before your own. Remember that you’re not throwing up a wall: you’re just setting up reasonable boundaries.
It’s perfectly acceptable to say no when your sister asks you to babysit, but you’ve got a spa day planned that Saturday. If your boss asks if you can work overtime and you’ve got theater tickets for that night, you can say no: you have other plans.
While we’re on the subject of work, don’t feel guilty about also taking time off. A last-minute, relaxing vacation can be all you need to recharge your batteries and rejoin the daily grind with a fresh and optimistic perspective.
Before you think of the million responsibilities that make it impossible to get away, remember that if you burn out, you won’t be efficient or effective. From that perspective, self-care is actually a smart career move.
Maintain a healthy work-life balance Repeat after us: workaholism is not a virtue. Once your energy is depleted by all the multitasking and late hours, you’re going to be tired, disorganized, and cynical. Left unchecked, this midnight oil routine might, eventually, cost you your job.
Set boundaries by taking intermittent breaks. Go for a walk at lunch, meet a friend at Starbucks, or browse through a bookstore for your next inspiring read. Except for the occasional emergency, avoid overextending at work. You’ll feel better, and both your motivation and performance will remain high.
Practice stress management Stress is part of human existence. While you can’t prevent or avoid upsetting or exhausting situations, you can control how you respond to them. Protect your physical and mental health by eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercise, and practicing meditation. You could even benefit from talking to a therapist about ways that you can let stress inspire you instead of leaving you exhausted.
You have a lot of responsibilities, but it’s important to remember that acts of self-care are essential for your happiness and wellbeing. Now go attend that Zumba class, meet your best friend at Starbucks, and get ready to live your best life!
Credit: Halden Sproule Founder & CEO at Joie Day Spa