Written by Anushka Girdhar
Remember when psychologists weren't thought to be "real" doctors and mental health was discussed only behind shut doors? If you still hear the words "self-care" floating around but think you probably don't need it, you might have some catching up to do. We admit that it isn’t your fault. We've always learned how to prevent or treat only physical injuries while growing up.
Consider this as your opportunity to dive deep into learning what it means to take care of yourself, why it is important, with a readymade daily, weekly, and monthly plan for you!
A machine needs maintenance from time to time to keep running smoothly. Our glorious minds and bodies are much more complex and capable than a machine, hence the need for regular self-care arises.
Self-care can be defined as:
"The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health or the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress"
Taking care of ourselves is usually the first one to slip down our priority list, often labeled as non-urgent. Remember that if you care about your well-being, there is no scope of avoiding it.
Self-care is for everyone: Every person who is reading this (or not) needs it in their lives. Pat yourself on the back for taking the first step.
Self-care is basic: Thankfully, self-care isn't necessarily pampering sessions in the salon. It can be the basic things- eating your veggies, drinking lots of water, sleeping on time, playing outside, and reading before bed. (Basically everything our mothers made us do as kids.)
It is not a one-time thing: Following a good routine and having all your habits in place for a week doesn't compensate for the rest of the month. You might have heard “just as you bathe daily, motivate yourself daily". Physical and mental hygiene are both equally important and require consistency.
Be mindful of your consumption: What you eat, think, and the conversations you engage in shapes you as a person. Developing a habit of being mindful of what your physical and mental consumption can drastically improve your quality of life.
Exercise: People may choose exercising to improve their appearance but we truly need it for the feel-good hormones (endorphins) that are released when you exercise. You don't have to train like a maniac, any activity of your choice - dance, yoga, skipping, running, yoga, walking, or swimming for at least 20-60 mins daily releases endorphins and reduces levels of the body's stress hormones. (Read more here: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax)
Reflection: Spending a few minutes reflecting on your day unloads your mind, helping you feel lighter and sleep better. Appreciating yourself for your efforts, and forgiving yourself for what didn't go as intended helps you wake up feeling ready for the next day.
Sleep: Throughout the day, our body and the mind gets tired. Sleeping enough is important for physical as well as mental rest and repair of the body. An average of 6-8 hours of sleep daily is the best maintenance service for our bodies - completely free of cost. (Read more about sleep in this book- https://www.scribd.com/document/441125472/Happiness-Express-by-Khurshed-Batliwala-Dinesh-Ghodke, chapter- 2)
Spend time with your loved ones: Workdays can leave us with little quality time for our family. Once a week, watch your favorite shows, have all your meals, or cook with each other. Catching up with your BFFs or video calling your grandparents/ parents if you live away from them can be a huge mood booster for you and them.
Digital break: Work often binds us to our phones and laptops, being stuck in a constant connectivity web. Give your eyes and brain a rest from all the bustle and be mindful of your digital consumption on the weekend. Go cold turkey, take only important calls, or reduce your screen time by 50% if it's completely unavoidable.
Hygiene practices: Groom yourself for the next week, if that's your thing. Scrubbing away the dead skin, oiling your hair, shaving, painting your nails, or just a long hot bath can get you ready for the coming week.
Spend time in nature: Stepping outdoors and surrounding ourselves by nature can help us deal with discomfort since humans are genetically programmed to find nature and its elements engrossing. You can be by a lake, in a garden, feeling the wind, or dipping your feet in the grass. (https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing)
Learn something new: You are not your work, your work isn't you. Learn something completely out of your interest, that doesn't feel like work. It could be as simple as watching a documentary, a TED talk, practicing a new language (https://www.duolingo.com/ is our favorite), read a book, listen to a podcast, or take an online course. The idea is to keep nourishing our brains. (Read about the importance of keep learning: https://www.scribd.com/document/441125472/Happiness-Express-by-Khurshed-Batliwala-Dinesh-Ghodke, chapter: 6)
Meditate: Meditation is known for a plethora of benefits like an increase in concentration, creativity, and a sense of calm in tough situations which can help us present our best selves at work. If you find it difficult to meditate every day, you can start by making it a weekly practice and increasing the frequency as you get comfortable. (https://www.headspace.com/meditation/meditation-for-beginners)
Feel-good list: Having a personalized list of songs, photographs, videos, or quotes that feel uplifting can be extremely helpful when you're looking for some calm amid the busy days. Find out time to make it for yourself and keep making changes once a month or whenever you find the time. Knowing what makes you feel good is a superpower and you will soon grow to treasure this collection.
Digital de-clutter: Take out time, once a month to clear emails, photos, apps, people, or pages (on social media) that do not serve a purpose and don't make you feel good.
Make a vision board: If you're chasing your dreams and looking to stay motivated, a vision board (a collage of images, and affirmations of your dreams and desires) is the way to go! It will serve as a reminder of why you should keep going and fill you with hope and positivity. Plus, it can be a fun activity to channelize your creativity.
Go out: Take out time to explore a new place in your city once a month (or go back to your old favorites). Visit a cafe, restaurant, music festival, movie, pet show, trek, or library you had been eyeing for a while.
Always remember that self-care is not about perfection, but making consistent attempts. In the end, it is all about being there for yourself like you would for anyone you love dearly.