Changing Your Perspective
Self-care is one of the most important things for personal well-being, yet professionals often report struggling with incorporating self-care in their busy lifestyles. This struggle exists because there are aspects of self-care that get left out. Self-care is believed to be something that is done outside of work or when there is time. That’s a significant misconception. Actually, self-care is how you live and should be done every moment of the day. Allow me to explain how.
Self-Care Is Individual
First, identify what self-care means to you. Describe the impact of your current self-care practices on your personal, social, and professional life? What do you hope would be different if you were able to practice self-care daily?
Self-Care Requires Structure
Think of what matters most to you in this world and what your values are. Throughout your day, be intentional about saying, doing, and being all about those values that are important. Choose to do what’s helpful in all moments versus what is unhelpful.
Self-Care Is Intentional
Practice mindfulness. Maintain ongoing, nonjudgmental contact with the present moment in all activities and experiences. Connect to experiences by paying attention to what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.
Self-Care Requires Attention
Learn how to notice internal and external experiences as they occur in the here and now. Notice emotions, thoughts, and sensations you feel throughout the day, and name them to yourself without trying to push them away. Be curious about why some of these may be showing up for you when they do, and then ask yourself what is needed and make a decision that is based on what you identified as most important in your life.
Self-Care Requires You
You own the most powerful tool…your breath. Breathing is life. Inhaling activates your sympathetic nervous system and exhaling activates your parasympathetic nervous system. Taking long, slow breaths throughout your day creates space for you to become more centered and focused, removes physical tension in your body, and brings calmness. If this is not something you are accustomed to doing, then set a time on your phone and do it every 30 minutes.
Self-Care Requires Flexibility
It is easy to become so engulfed in a problem and with problem-solving, that you get lost to the point where you may spend lots of time worrying what may happen next. Sometimes our thoughts can be our biggest enemy. To truly care for yourself, you must be able to recognize that your thoughts are just thoughts and when they are counterproductive, be flexible in how you choose to see what’s happening. An easier way to do this is to just write out your negative thoughts and then write out the opposite thought, even if you don’t believe it at that time.
Self-Care Requires Feedback
There is a difference between you and the things that you are struggling with. Separate yourself out from those things. At the end of each day, take a few moments to focus on what went well, what changed, what moved, and what you were able to do. Leave the critic out of it…there will be many other people to criticize you; therefore, you don’t have to criticize yourself…just answer with facts only.
Self-Care Requires Practice
If you are doing something to take care of yourself and it doesn’t seem to be working, keep doing it. If at first you don’t succeed…redefine success. This is not a competition.
Self-Care Requires Accountability
At the start of each day, create an intention for your day. If you are not included in the intent of your day, then reset those intentions. Find ways to share your self-care lifestyle whether it is through journaling, self-monitoring, calendars, social media, supervisors, colleagues, etc.
Self-Care Is Ethical
As professionals, you owe it to yourself, your family, your co-workers, and your students to not become damaged by the work you do…therefore, taking time to do what matters most is essential.
Self-Care Requires Bravery
Finally, self-care is not a luxury. It is a basic psychological, emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, and vocational need. Throughout life we will experience lots of pain. Self-care helps us embrace that pain and minimize suffering in a more meaningful, helpful way. During this time when things are truly unpredictable, take time to ensure that you stay well.
Tenelle O. Jones
Tenelle O. Jones is licensed as a Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) and licensed as an Addictions Counselor (LAC). She currently works full-time at MUSC’s National Crime Victims’ Research & Treatment Center as a Human Service Coordinator II. For the past 23 years, her professional & personal life have been centered around promoting overall mental, physical, and spiritual health of all communities.
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