As a health coach and a nurse, the pandemic has taught me to make self-care a top priority.  Our worlds have been turned upside down and the past 13 months have been an emotional roller coaster…information has been changing constantly (“Wear masks” …” Oh wait, don’t wear mask” …”Oops! we were wrong again…Yes, to masks”).  I’m certain that at some point over the last year, a COVID-19 related issue has taken you by surprise and has forced you to make changes in the way you use to live your life.

Now, that we are on our third lockdown (in BC) …One can’t help but notice that patience is wearing thinner and meltdowns are happening to even the strongest of souls.  And that is why I thought a post about the importance of self-care was in order.

You might be asking “So, what exactly is self-care?”

If I were to survey a group of people and ask them if they take time to incorporate self-care in their lives, what do you think the majority would answer?  Most people believe they do take time, because they regularly shower, eat and sleep.  But that would be a common misconception that hygiene is the same as self-care. 

Self-care is the act of intentionally engaging in an activity to optimize one’s wellbeing (mental, emotional and physical).  Regular self-care can ease everyday stress and can prevent eventual burnout.

Even though we are physically at home more often, we are not just kicking back and relaxing. The truth is, we are faced with almost more stress than we were before! Our workplaces, schools, places of worship, and social gatherings all look very different today than they did a year ago and adapting can create strain and anxiety.

Even if we are not aware of it, stress creeps up on us. Our brains constantly receive an enormous amount of information from various sources…the news, social media, conversations, our own thoughts and don’t forget to add in our senses; sights, smells, sounds, feelings, the list goes on and on, it can be overwhelming.

The following signs may indicate that you are in need of more self-care.

·      mood swings

·      trouble concentrating

·      emotional outbursts/crying

·      feelings of being overwhelmed

·      fixating on one particular stressful thing

·      irritability, arguing more with others

·      excessive hunger or loss of appetite

·      increased thoughts and worries about food or body image

·      loss of interest in things you used to enjoy

·      lack of motivation or feeling “blah”

·      exhaustion or fatigue

Why is self-care important?

Stress takes a toll on our mental and physical health, and too much stress over a long period of time can lead to burn-out (which means, feeling exhausted or wanting to do absolutely nothing at all.)

When we don’t intentionally take time each day (even just 20 minutes) to dedicate toward self-care, we leave ourselves susceptible to feelings of stress, frustration, fatigue, physical pain, and even illness. 

So, how exactly do we do self-care?

Self-care is very individual depending on your personal values, beliefs, likes, dislikes, coping skills, and threshold for stress.  However, a self-care activity must be something that leaves you feeling restored and refuelled.

Ask yourself what brings you joy or relief? Here are some simple self-care guidelines!

  • take a break from work, emails, and schoolwork
  • turn off screens early to get a good night’s sleep (7- 8 hours!)
  • spend some time in nature (hug a tree!)
  • reach out and ask for help or support if needed
  • eat healthy whole foods meals instead of processed foods
  • move your body, play a sport, dance, or some form of enjoyable movement
  • watch something hilarious and have a good laugh
  • find a relaxing activity to do
  • set clear boundaries with others
  • disconnect from social media for a while
  • write or journal (put those thoughts onto paper)
  • chat with someone you trust
  • do something you love without distractions
  • learn to say “no” to extra obligations, without feeling guilty
  • be kind to yourself (This is a big one…it sounds simple but we are often hardest on ourselves and this creates stress in our minds and bodies.  We have to learn to treat ourselves as we would treat a friend or loved one

Here are some of my favourite self-care activities: 

  • Taking a long bath with scented bath bombs
  • Taking a few moments throughout the day to breathe deeply
  • Going for a walk outside…spending time in nature 
  • scheduling a phone call or video coffee date with long distance friends.
  • planning for future travel and exciting events
  • preparing healthy meals and snacks
  • politely cancelling a social video call if I feel over-stimulated by screens and require some quiet time
  • giving myself one day each week where I don’t think about work
  • Reminding myself that I’m doing the best I can under the circumstances, and there’s no right way to cope or feel

I want to challenge you to implement at least one self-care activity daily for a minimum of 20 minutes.  Start to notice how you feel while you’re doing your self-care activity, and how you feel afterwards. How did your mood or actions change after you took some time for self-care?

One more thing…remember, that when you choose to make self-care, a priority isn’t selfish, it is a choice you are making to ensure all your needs are being met, so you can be your best self, and so you will be a better version of yourself for others as well!