Self-care doesn’t mean selfishness or self-absorption.
Rather, it describes a wide range of habits, activities, and mindsets which help make us healthy, happier, and better adjusted. Exercise, eating well, getting involved in our communities, even adopting a pet are all things which fall under the self-care banner.
Self-care’s critically important these days, too. Between lingering outbreak woes and what seems like endless bad news, taking a moment to check in with yourself is really easy to miss.
What Is Self-Care?
Basically, self-care is the act of taking care of and maintaining ourselves as well as we’re able to. Aside from the direct personal benefits, self-care also ensures we’re healthy and happy enough to work, play a part in society, and be there for others if we’re needed.
But it’s deeper than that, too. Self-care (maybe “self-maintenance” would be a better phrase) can help us improve ourselves in a surprisingly wide number of ways.
The 8 Dimensions Of Self-Care
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has identified eight specific areas which when combined, make us into complete, happy beings. Called the “Eight Dimensions of Wellness,” they are:
When in balance, these areas do more than make us happy and satisfied with our lives. They can actually predict how well we are overall.
Balance is key, however. When one area is thrown out of balance, the rest can be affected as well. It’s a bit like a line of dominoes: someone who thinks they’re not being paid enough at work might begin to feel depression or have feelings doubting their self-worth. In turn, these negative emotions can make someone neglect their physical health, avoid interacting with others, and even question their whole purpose.
Let’s be clear that this example is a worst-case scenario. But we’ve all had times in our lives when something bad in one area of our life (relationship problems, losing a job) affected other areas (worries about money, physical effects of stress.
Fortunately, there are some things anyone can do to address problems in those eight areas when they crop up.
Stopping The Falling Dominoes: How To Master Your Eight Dimensions Of Wellness
Here’s where self-care can really help. By doing a few simple everyday things, you can strengthen each of your dimensions of wellness, helping you deal when things get tough – and helping toughen yourself up, too.
- Emotional: Feeling blue? Go for a walk, listen to music, take a nap, hug a friend (two or four legs is fine), talk to someone. Starting a journal can really help, too.
- Spiritual: If you’re already of a spiritual bent, don’t forget to pray / meditate / do your thing. If you’re not, there’s secular things you can do to make the world a better place. Volunteer, help someone who could use it, maybe reflect on something (or someone important to you. Mindfulness meditation isn’t specifically religious … and it works, too.
- Intellectual: This is all about self-stimulation. Enjoy doing puzzles? Get into sudoku, word searches, and other stimulating games. Have a book you’ve always wanted to read? Find time to do it. Get into a new hobby – explore origami or knot-tying, two things which teach problem-solving and patience. Go deeper and check out a local community college. They often host a wide variety of interesting courses, from woodworking to music appreciation. Maybe try to learn a new language.
- Physical: Most people associate this with working out and exercise, which is fine. But remember a big part of physical health happens while you sleep. If you’re not getting the right amount of sleep for you, you’re going to feel the effects elsewhere in your life. And unless you’re prescribed them, stay away from sleep medications.
- Environmental: Get outside. That doesn’t mean plan a trip to a national park (although that’s a great idea!), this can be as simple as walking around outside of your office, spending some time at a local park or even just finding someplace quiet and out of the way to breathe deeply. Also consider cleaning your house – there are close links between positive mental health and cleanliness.
- Financial: Draw up (or get help drawing up) a real financial plan for yourself. This’ll do wonders for ending uncertainty and anxiety about your future. Get your financial affairs in order, too: How many streaming services do you have, for instance? Do you really need all of them? And try to ease up on credit card use – the bills can creep up on you.
- Occupational: Right now, it’s a job seeker’s market. Unhappy with where you work? Update and polish your resume. Consider asking your employers for a raise, too – you might be surprised how eager they are to keep you around. It’s never a bad idea to learn a new skill or two as well.
- Social: Keep in touch with friends; go out regularly. If you’re far away from your crowd, use social media to stay in touch (but avoid some of the toxic traps associated with it). If you’re new in town, consider volunteering or joining a local organization. This can be as simple as finding a group of people who share some of your interests.
Finally, Remember To Be Good To You
It’s very easy to lose track of your own needs. Remember – taking a break to assess your own concerns, wants, and goals isn’t selfish. It’s critical to being a happy person.
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