Self Care Challenge: Making Time For Self Care

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In life, we commit a lot of time to others. We have work commitments, family time, time with the kids, date night, girls night, boys night, but how often do you commit time just to yourself?

Never? 

Not as much as you would like too? 

How often have you said "I'm too busy for that? ..."I have more important things to do."

Ask yourself this...what is more important than you? Without you, all those other things can't happen. 

We go to great lengths to make sure we eat right & exercise, but how many of us make time for Self Care? Self Care is just as important to your health & Wellbeing as nutrition & exercise ... here's why:

Why Self Care Matters

I never used to make time for myself. Work always came first, & then every other free moment went to everyone else. Then in 2011, my life changed. I was hospitalised for two months because of stress & burnout. Later on that year I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, & my Wellbeing had to become my priority for the first time in my life. It was a hard adjustment for a self-confessed workaholic, but I learnt the hard way that stress & MS just don't mix. Stress can exacerbate my symptoms, that can mean weeks of recovery time where I'm unable to do anything at all. 

For me to be able to spend time doing all the things that keep us busy & engaged in life, I had to start adjusting my priorities & learn to put myself first for once, which was a very big adjustment. During this time I learnt about a foreign concept called Self Care. 

These days Self Care is as essential to my health as any of my medications, as it allows me to re-energise my mind & body. It protects me from fatigue & keeps me thinking positively. It is also how I reward myself, as no matter how difficult things get, I know that through Self Care I can find respite from my illness. It was something I had to learn to do, but now it's an integral part of my daily routine.

Since making Self Care part of my life, I have found that my stress has decreased & my energy has improved. So if you find yourself thinking you have too many other things to do than spending time on Self Care, think of this...It will create more time as you will have more energy & motivation.

Everyone Needs Self Care

You don’t have to have a chronic illness to benefit from self care. Looking after your mental Wellbeing should be everyone's priority, & with an estimated 45% of people suffering from a mental illness at some point in their lifetime, self care is one of the best preventative measures against depression, stress & burnout.

What is Self Care?

So what exactly is ‘Self Care’?

This is the best part…Self Care can be absolutely anything you enjoy doing that gives you a chance to relax & unwind.

Originally I thought Self Care involved massages, holidays & spa treatments... which is expensive & a lot of work to organise. I don't particularly enjoy these things & find them to be more of a hassle. Although a spa treatment may be an ideal form of Self Care for some, the truth is that Self Care doesn't need to involve spending money or anything elaborate. For example simply sitting in my favourite chair by the window, listening to an audio book for 20 minutes is something I do daily. 

The key to making something a Self Care activity is the intention you set before you begin. Whatever you choose to do, do it mindfully & without distractions. With this approach, you can turn virtually anything into Self Care. The important part is that you allow yourself the time to enjoy every moment of it. Turn off your phone, create a relaxing environment, candles or oil diffusers are great for this, & become totally absorbed in whatever you are doing. Notice how what you're doing makes you feel. 

If you get distracted by thoughts about life or work, practice observing those thoughts & imagine them like clouds passing by, then return focus to what you were doing, this is known as Mindfulness. You may want to try practising Mindfulness on its own at first to get used to the concept.

How to Come Up With a Self Care Activity

I can’t think of a Self Care activity.

This is a more common problem than you think. 

Putting ourselves first & treating ourselves is actually a very hard thing to do when you first begin. Feeling guilty or selfish for having some 'me' time is a very common problem, & this can be a barrier to taking time out for self care. This was what a lot of people would struggle with when I would teach self care as a Mental Health Peer worker. 

Self Care is Never Selfish

A good place to begin finding your ideal Self Care activity is to think back to the last time you didn't do something because you were 'too busy for that'. 

If you feel like doing something a bit creative, adult colouring books have become a popular choice, a strange concept I know. I was very sceptical about how enjoyable this could really be, but it's honestly a very relaxing & enjoyable activity. It gives even the most novice artist a creative outlet, & you can really get lost & focused on this activity. If you have ever struggled with the concept of Mindfulness, I strongly suggest giving this a go. 

Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for Self Care as well. Pin ideas, try a new one each week until you find something that works for you.

Otherwise, reading a book with a big cup of aromatic tea, or taking a long shower or bath are both perfect starting points.

My Top 5 Self Care Activities:

1. Watching nature documentaries

2. Long hot showers

3. Yoga

4. Taking my dog to the park

5. Listening to podcasts or audiobooks

As you can see you can turn anything you can think of, & anything that you enjoy, into Self Care.

Finding Time for Self Care

Finally, you will need to find the time for your Self Care activity. This can feel like a challenge in a busy life.

I started developing a habit by scheduling time into my diary. This way I had made a prior commitment to myself to spend time on Self Care.

Pick a time where you know you will have the least distractions. Put in in your diary & treat it like any other appointment. If something else comes up, schedule it around your Self Care time. If you need to cancel the time you set aside, reschedule it. Give it a deadline, give it the same sense of importance & urgency as anything else that is a priority in your life, because caring for yourself is just as important. 

Also, reward yourself for sticking to your plan. It might sound a bit self-indulgent to reward yourself for taking time out for Self Care, but if you're trying to build a new habit, this is an effective form of motivation. Over time the Self Care activity will become a reward in itself.

Try The Self Care Challenge

Set yourself a Self Care goal this week. Pick a Self Care activity, let your imagination run wild. Do that thing you never have time for. Make a date with yourself for some 'me' time, & know that by doing this you are doing good for your mental & physical Wellbeing.

We'd like to invite you to share your Self Care journey with us on Instagram. Share your Self Care journey, tag us in every post & don't forget to include #30DaysOfSelfCare.

Invite all of your friends who could use a little self-sustenance & Self Care to participate in 30 days of Self Care.

#SelfCare #SelfCareSunday

If you have any questions or comments about Self Care & our Self Care challenge, make yourself heard in the comments. We can also be reached via email at info@TheEssentialLife.org. We would also like to invite each & every single one of our readers to make their mark on The Essential Life by becoming one of our contributors. If you would like to share your story, your words & your wisdom with The Essential Life community, & you'd like to see your article featured here on The Essential Life website, please submit your articles here