The Importance of Self Care
How many things are vying for your time these days? Long work days, taking care of the kids, keeping up relationships with your family, friends and partner, cleaning and maintaining the house, schoolwork, social media, etc. That doesn’t even count shopping for groceries, cooking, exercising, sleeping, or anything fun.
Life Is Hard
Our modern lifestyles are slowly wearing us down. There’s the expectation that we should be able to do everything, and do it all perfectly. Work a flawless 10 hour shift, help the kids with their homework, cook a delicious dinner (that everyone will eat) and keep a home that Martha Stewart would be proud of. I don’t know about you, but I sure can’t keep that up for long. Over the days, weeks, months, and years of trying to hold it together – things start to unravel. We spend so much time trying to do too much, giving our time and services to others, that we wear ourselves thin. Pretty soon we’ve become walking zombies. And who wants to live like that?
I’ve usually been pretty good at taking care of myself. I love to cook healthy food, do yoga, go for hikes, sleep, or sit with a friend and have a deep, meaningful conversation. But recently I’ve been reminded just how important it is to make time for these things on a regular basis.
Believe Me, I Know
As you probably know, I run a busy acupuncture practice, working 10 hour days. I love learning more and perfecting my craft, so I signed up for a year-long course in Japanese acupuncture … in NYC! So, once a month I fly up to the Big Apple for a 3 day weekend of classes. But then the advanced Chinese herbal certification course that I’d been waiting to take for years finally got rolling, so I hopped on. After all, if I didn’t do it now, who knows how long I’d have to wait before they open it again. And top of all that, I’m planning a wedding!!
Now, all this stuff is good, and I’m very excited by it, but it left me no time to go to a yoga class. Or spend time in the kitchen cooking dinner. Or get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Or even play music with my fiancée. And then I was too stressed to get a good night sleep. My energy level plummeted, and I was too tired to enjoy all these fun things I’m doing. One day my neck and shoulders would ache constantly, and the next day my hips would be the ones talking to me. And all this started affecting my mood.
Everybody has bad days. But when those bad days start outnumbering the good ones, it’s time to do something about it. Maybe you’ve gotten to that point, too. Even if you haven’t, you’re probably well on your way.
So, Take Care Of Yourself
This is why self-care is so important. It’s not indulgent or selfish. It’s not an occasional luxury. You might think that you’re too important to other people, that they’ll never be able to survive without you, that you have too much responsibility to step away from, but it’s not true. They’ll all be fine without you for 30 minutes. They can wait. YOU ARE IMPORTANT, and taking time to honor yourself will make you better able to handle all those responsibilities.
And so, my dear friends, I’ve made you a list. A list of all the ways you can take care of yourself. Pick at least 2 of them to do on a daily basis. Then find another one to work in once a week. And finally, pick a big one for once a month. The good news is that may of these are free, and things that can easily be worked into your schedule, as long as you make it a priority.
The Ultimate Self-Care List
I love the Insight Meditation Timer app. It keeps track of how often you meditate, and there are tons of guided meditations to get you started. Or just lie on the floor (or sit in a chair) and breathe deeply for 10 minutes, keeping your focus on your breath and body.
I’m a yoga girl, and I get in my daily 30 minute practice before work. If you’re not the bendy type but you’re looking for a low-key, stress busting practice, try tai-chi or qi gong. Walking or hiking also count in this category, especially if you do them outside. If you’re more of a gym rat, get a personal trainer to make sure you’re moving your body correctly and not headed toward an injury. And if you prefer to work out in groups, join a sports team.
3. Eat Your Vegetables.
Preferably every meal (including breakfast). Sauté them, stir fry or roast them in lots of spices, or cook them into a stew. Drizzle a tasty sauce over top and serve with rice or fish, and that’s dinner!
4. Turn off your phone.
This may be controversial on this list, but in these modern times, having a smartphone on us at all times is a huge form of stress. And taking some down time where you can’t be reached, and you can’t reach the internet, is so healthy for your brain. I turn on airplane mode from about 9 at night until about 8 in the morning. Maybe you prefer to turn it off on Sundays, or while you’re at work.
5. Get acupuncture.
Of course this is going to make it on the list. Not only is acupuncture great at addressing any health issues that come up, it’s also great at reducing stress and for true preventative health. Since I started getting acupuncture years ago, I haven’t had one full-blown cold.
6. Soak in the Tub.
The classic self-care move. If you’ve got aches and pains, or trouble sleeping, this one is for you. Fill the tub up with hot water, then dissolve a cup or 2 of Epsom salts into it. For bonus points, add a few drops of essential oils – lavender for relaxation/sleep, eucalyptus if you’re coming down with a cold, or rosemary for tight muscles.
Monthly massage treatments are a great way to keep the stress of everyday life from settling into your muscles and causing problems down the line. They turn off the “fight or flight” nervous system, and turn on the “rest and digest” system to calm you down.
8. Spend some time in Nature.
There’s so much new research coming out about what is called forest bathing, essentially taking a walk in nature. The fresh air in your lungs and getting your circulation moving is the best remedy for our over-extended everyday life.
9. Flower Elixirs.
Otherwise known as flower essences, these are the opposite of essential oils. They’re very subtle, dilute herbal remedies that work on the mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. They address everything from stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and addiction, to existential crises and spiritual issues. Mix up a formula for yourself (or I can do it for you) and just take a couple drops under your tongue a few times a day to totally shift your outlook on life.
10. Make something.
Creativity is underrated in our culture. If you’re not Steve Jobs or Beyoncé, no one cares. But playing a song on the piano, drawing a picture, knitting, building a bookshelf – or whatever it is that you can lose yourself in – is quite therapeutic. You don’t have to be so-called “talented” or “creative”, and you don’t have to share your work with anyone if you don’t want to, but the act of making something out of nothing is, it itself, rewarding. And the process you go through, taking you outside your everyday life, that’s a radical act of self care.
Elizabeth Williams is an acupuncturist in Greenville, South Carolina, specializing in pain management, women’s health, and psycho-emotional issues. She’s passionate about helping people feel their best and sharing her wealth of knowledge with the community. Elizabeth is the owner of Dragonfly Acupuncture & Massage, on Wade Hampton Boulevard. Appointments can be made by calling 864-451-4313, or scheduled online here.