A lot gets said about “self-care” and its importance in our lives. We are, as we are often reminded, frequently overworked these days, with too many obligations and ambitions hanging over our heads, and too many distractions placing demands on our attention on a daily basis.
Self-care, therefore, is often thought of in terms of getting some much-needed rest and relaxation, having some fun doing things that entertain us, such as watching our favourite TV shows, or spending a night out on the town with our friends.
But, what if “self-care” can mean other things than just having a long soak in a bath, and indulging in some forms of casual entertainment?
There’s actually a good argument to be made that true “self-care” often takes a very different form from this kind of rest and relaxation model, even though rest and relaxation are obviously important components of self-care nonetheless.
If you’ve been stressed recently, and feel like life and work have been grinding you down, here are a few other things that self-care can mean.
Swallowing your pride, and seeking out the help you need
When all is said and done, no man (or woman) is an island. We all like to think that we can handle whatever problems come our way, by ourselves, and without any help from others. In reality, sometimes we do need help from outside in order to assist our own efforts, and to recover from issues that might be holding us back.
Sometimes, self-care means swallowing your pride, and seeking out the help you need, whether that be booking yourself in for a toenail fungus treatment with The Harley Laser Specialists, or even just a long talk with some friend or relative who you can trust and confide in.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should abdicate your autonomy to other people, or believe that you are hopeless to shape your own fate. It’s just a matter of doing whatever you can, in order to improve your situation – while taking into account the simple reality that you won’t always be able to do everything completely by yourself.
Letting go of harmful and unproductive habits and behaviours
It’s not always easy to figure out what the best thing to do is in a given situation, in order to move ourselves towards our dreams and goals. But, everyone can, if they’re being honest with themselves, typically identify all sorts of harmful and unproductive habits and behaviours they are currently engaging in, and that they could, and should, give up.
A major part of self-care is letting go of harmful and unproductive habits and behaviours that we know are bad for us, and that we know are taking us further and further from our goals and dreams, but that we stick with out of sheer inertia.
It can be helpful to create lists of your habits, in order to get a sense of what it is you do each day, on an automatic basis. According to some experts on the subject, the vast majority of things that we actually do over any given period of time, are going to be automatic, largely unconscious, and habit driven. We don’t, for example, typically put in a lot of conscious thought when we are making our morning cup of coffee. We just do it.
Once you have a list of your habits, decide which of those habits are positive, and which are negative. The first order of business should be to begin eliminating the negative habits, systematically, to the best of your ability.
Generally speaking, it is thought that the best way to get rid of negative habits is to replace them with positive (or at least neutral) habits, that offer the same sort of “reward” as that which motivates the negative habit in the first place.
In addition to habits, there will often be moments over the course of the day where you are faced by choices, and where you know that one choice is ultimately going to be harmful to you, and another helpful. Do your best to avoid the harmful path, and you are exercising a powerful form of self-care.
Setting yourself goals that you actually care about, and making a commitment to work towards them
A major part of self-care has to do with creating a positive structure for your life that moves you forward towards something better, and helps you to act in a way that generates further enthusiasm, motivation, and hope, as a matter of course.
In order to achieve this, it’s important that you set yourself goals that you actually care about, and then make a commitment to working towards them.
When we have worthwhile targets to work towards – that is, things that give us a sense of hope for the future, and that motivate us to put in our best effort – life is likely to become much more positive and uplifting across the board.
There is good evidence that a lot of our positive emotion in life is connected to the sense that we are moving towards a better future, in one way or another. Making a commitment to work towards goals that we care about, therefore, can help to improve our mood, in addition to boosting our motivation to act.
Suffice to say, when you have something to work for that you actually care about, and are motivated for, things just generally work better.
Surrounding yourself with people who help to lift you up, instead of bringing you down
It would be silly to make a point of exercising “self-care” in your life via performing a regular exercise routine, having a hot bath every day, and so on, if you were only going to then surround yourself with destructive people who are constantly trying to drag you in a bad direction.
For one reason or another, it’s quite common for us to find ourselves in social groups which are completely dysfunctional, and where the individuals we surround ourselves with don’t really care about our well-being at all, and just use us as drinking buddies or other forms of entertainment.
All told, it’s very difficult to move your life in a more positive direction, when you have people trying to drag you in the opposite direction.
Surround yourself with people who help to lift you up, and who genuinely care about you. It can be a tremendously powerful thing to do.