Types of Self-Care and Ways to Practice

While exploring my relationship with self-care this week, I realized something. It’s hard for me to practice self-care because outside of a loose definition, I don’t know what it looks like. I’m a person that needs examples of explanations – you can’t just give me a definition and expect that to be sufficient.

That’s where I struggle with self-care. Just practice physical self-care – take care of your physical self I would read. That’s a good idea, but what can I do that will actually accomplish those goals? So, I decided to select five of the most prominent types of self-care and not only provide a brief explanation but toss in a few activities you could do to put it into practice as well.

Physical Self-Care

This might seem like the most obvious one, but it’s obvious for a reason! You have to take care of your body if you want to live a long and healthy life. Oftentimes people see this and think it just means they have to exercise more (and that’s fine if you do!) but it’s also doing the little things throughout your day to make sure you’re feeling as healthy as possible.

Examples of practicing physical self-care: Eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking as much water as you can, getting enough sleep, going to the doctor when you need to

Emotional Self-Care

Emotional self-care is not simply ‘dealing with your emotions’ but dealing with them in a healthy way. We all have healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with our emotions – in this case, it’s not just about being self-aware, but making a concerted effort to make sure we’re trying the healthy activities over the unhealthy ones even if we don’t want to. Especially if we don’t want to.

Examples of practicing emotional self-care: journaling and/or writing down how you feel, creating art (how you define ‘art’ is totally up to you!), going to a place that brings peace (park, lake, home, etc.), having a good cry 

Social Self-Care

This aspect of self-care is all about making sure you’re forming healthy relationships with the people in your life. That doesn’t just mean doing activities that you want to do, though, because social relationships are different for people. For example? Introverts, you’re probably going to need to get out of your comfort zone – just make sure it’s with people you either like or want to get to know. Extroverts, you might be so concerned with being around people that you’re less concerned with the quality of person that’s around you. But at the end of the day, healthy relationships should be the result.

Examples of practicing social self-care: learning how much energy you need to be around other people, having meaningful interactions, nurturing the relationships you currently have

Spiritual Self-Care

Practicing spiritual self-care sounds more complicated than it is because when people see it, they immediately think of religion. And while spirituality can be synonymous with religion, it does not have to be. Spiritual self-care is all about exploring your values and belief systems and trying to focus on something bigger than yourself. It might all sound vague but if you’re doing things that nurture your soul and contribute to a greater good, you’re on the right path.

Examples of spiritual self-care: contributing time or money to a cause you care about, attending religious services (if you’re religious), meditating, introspection and self-reflection

Mental Self-Care

When I looked up mental self-care I saw it being associated a lot with intellectual self-care as well, which helped clear up the definition for me. This one is fairly simple – keep your mind active! Think of this as physical self-care but for your brain. Yes, every now an then it’s nice to turn your brain off and just relax, as long as you’re making time to keep your mind sharp and challenge yourself.

Examples of mental self-care: solving puzzles, reading books, exploring arts and culture

So, is there an activity you see here that you’d like to do more? Something not listed that you think people should know about? Let me know in the comments!

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Three Things to Remember When You Feel Guilty

Guilt almost ate me alive last week – I’ll explain. I didn’t wake up on time for work and was about an hour and a half late.

That’s it! That’s all that happened. It wasn’t fatal to my job, and I got all my work done that day. But I felt very guilty about it. And it took much longer than it should have to make that guilt go away.

Why did I feel guilty? A more accurate question would be why did I not feel guilty? I felt like a bad employee and that I let my team down, which consequently led me to think about the worst-case scenario of the ramifications of my actions. I felt lazy and unreliable and perceived my lateness as a character flaw. I didn’t look at being late as a rare occurrence but as an indicator of who I am as a person. Is that true? As I came to realize, it is not, and that is not who I am.

I’m sharing this because I know I’m not alone in this experience. Guilt plays a much bigger role in our lives than I’m sure we want – at least, it does it mine. If guilt doesn’t affect you, please let me know how you’re able to exist in this way because I am all ears on that topic.

But let’s say you’re like me, and feelings of guilt are hard to get rid of. How do you get rid of them? I came up with three things I continued to repeat to myself until my guilt subsides.

This is not who you are – you are more than this

This is my favorite of the three things because, as I wrote earlier, my guilt comes from the fact that I believe my mistakes – even if I only make them once – are all character flaws. Reminding myself that there’s so much more to me than what I feel guilty about is a reminder that I am a complex person who is not defined by any one thing – good or bad.

Is it really that bad?

I’ll be honest; sometimes the answer to this question is ‘yes.’ Sometimes we do things that are just as bad as we make them out to be. But the reality is that our guilt permits us to make things out to be much worse than they are. Was being late to work one time, after not being that late all year, really all that bad? In the grand scheme of things, maybe not.

Who does this effect?

Another way my guilt becomes exacerbated is that I think that so many people will suffer from my mistakes. Did I miss a meeting when I was late? No. Did someone need me during the time I was missing? They did not. In reality, this situation affected me and my boss, who was wondering where I was, and no one else. The office didn’t come to a halt; people moved on with their day. Sometimes our guilt can make us think that our mistakes are the end of the world – oftentimes, the opposite is true. Most of my mistakes only affect me, if I’m being honest. That minimizes the impact of my mistake and gives me a good perspective to look from.

I don’t have all the answers. I continue to feel guilty about plenty of things – mistakes or not. But taking steps to assuage your guilt and remind yourself of who you really are, and that you’re more than one or two bad choices, is key to overcoming the debilitation that guilt can produce.

What’s something silly that you’ve felt guilty about? I want to know!

Why I’m Back in Therapy

As I mentioned last week, I’m back in therapy. This decision didn’t come easy – it’s been almost two years since I’ve routinely gone to therapy. But I’m a different person than I was two years ago, with different goals. This time, I’m prioritizing self-improvement over self-love. Let me explain.

A common symptom of depression is not liking yourself very much. It sucks, but it’s true. On top of everything else depression threw at me, this was the thing I had the hardest time dealing with early on. I couldn’t stand the fact that I hated myself. I read book after book on loving yourself, learning to like who you are and accepting yourself as a human being. And it didn’t do squat for me.

When I used to go to therapy, I would obsess over this fact: how do I learn to love myself? This ever-present worry surrounded me and got in the way of any self-improvement. I was so fixated that the concept of ‘loving myself’ became foreign to me; I wasn’t sure what ‘loving me’ even meant.

This isn’t to say that those therapy sessions were fruitless. They helped me explore my mental health in a way I had never done before. But my own self-improvement, as a topic, was never on the table. I thought that I had to rid myself of my mental illness instead of living with it. But why does it have to be that way?

It’s taken me a very long time to realize, but I finally want to focus on improving myself in other areas. For instance, I have a tendency to be late for things and I have problems waking up in the morning. I used to chalk up some of these flaws as part of my mental illness, but I’m tired of that. I’m wary of when I use my anxiety and depression as a reason for not getting something done. I won’t lie, it bothers me sometimes. By attacking other aspects of myself, I am able to become a more complete version of myself – mental illness and all.

This has also changed my perception of who therapy can benefit. Like many people, I believed that only those who were mentally ill, who truly ‘needed’ help, needed to go. That’s why I went, right? Not anymore. Therapy is anything that helps you become a better version of yourself. And when I say anything, I mean anything. Exercising, yoga, meditation, writing in a journal..the list goes on and on. And yes, actually talking with a therapist is also a form of therapy.

I’ve been searching for ways to become the best version of myself, to learn how to live mentally well. I think talking with a therapist will help in that goal, so that’s what I’m going to do. But I also know that’s not the only path to self-improvement – there are many other things we can do. But it starts with us. And this time around in therapy, that’s finally something that I understand.

What is your favorite form of therapy? Let me know in the comments!

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