The virtue of selflessness has been instilled in many of us from an early age. We are taught to take care of others and to put others before ourselves. And while selflessness is an admirable quality, it shouldn’t take away from your own personal needs.
If we never leave any time for ourselves and don’t prioritize our wellbeing, then how can we adequately care for others? As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
“It’s like when you are on the airplane and the flight attendants tell you to put the mask on yourself first before you put it on your child or the person next to you. This is because you have to be able to take care of the ones who can’t take care of themselves, and how can you continue to do that if you have no energy and you are at the end of your rope with a short fuse?” said Shykita Hill, clinical social worker at Iredell Psychiatry.
January is self-love month, a time to practice self-care, appreciate yourself, and invest your time in things that make you happy or help you grow.
“Self-care is taking the time to do things that help you improve your physical and mental health. It is important to make yourself a priority. Self-care says that I am committed to myself — to trying to be the best version of myself that I can be. The more you practice self-care, the more natural it becomes, and you start to see a shift in how you feel and how you respond to certain situations,” said Hill.
According to Hill, self-care can help reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression. Taking opportunities to care for yourself can also boost self-esteem, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and assist with mental clarity.
“There are people who believe that in order to be able to give themselves some self-care, you have to have money. Self-care does not have to cost a lot of money. Self-care can be free. It is really about taking some time to focus on you,” said Hill.
A lot of times, we get so busy that we forget to think about our own health. You overwork, cancel exercise sessions, stop spending time with friends, skip meals, and spend the little bit of time you have left caring for others. This month, start the habit of caring for yourself. To help you get started, Hill offers six tips.
1. Start meditating.Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance. It may help you counter stress by helping you achieve a state of relaxation in which your mind and body are calm. Meditation may also increase your awareness and help you focus.
“Find 5-10 minutes and sit and focus on your breathing. Just be present in the moment,” said Hill.
To meditate, find a comfortable position and observe your own inhaling and exhaling. If your mind begins to wander, simply return your attention to your breathing when you notice.
2. Take a hot bubble bath.“Taking a hot bath can be very relaxing. Take the time to set up some candles and maybe add some essential oils to the bathtub. Then, you can either just relax, take a book with you to read, or just sit until the water gets cold,” said Hill.
3. Start a gratitude journal.It’s easy to take the good things in your life for granted. Take time each day to write down things you are thankful for. Even when life feels stressful and out of control, there’s always something to feel grateful for.
4. Practice mindfulness.Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and conscious of your sensations, thoughts, and feelings. There are several different activities you can try. Mindfulness can be as simple as taking a walk outside and noticing the sights and sounds around you. Other techniques include slow breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
“I use mindfulness activities with my patients when they are anxious. Mindfulness has the ability to transform you to a tranquil place in your mind and helps to ease the stress,” said Hill.
5. Get a good night’s rest.Sleep is vital to your overall health and plays a huge role in how you feel emotionally and physically.
“When you get a good night’s rest, you wake up recharged and ready to face the day,” said Hill.
The average adult needs a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers, on the other hand, need 9 hours or more.
Tips to promote better sleep include:
Exercising throughout the day.
Maintaining a consistent sleep routine.
Sleeping in a quiet, dark, less cluttered room.
Setting a cooler room temperature.
Eliminating screen time on electronic devices, like TV and phone, before bed.
Avoiding caffeine and large amounts of alcohol before bedtime.
6. Pamper yourself.Last but certainly not least, Hill recommends scheduling time to pamper yourself. Go get a manicure, massage, or facial. You can also join a fitness class, declutter your home, carve out some reading time, cook your favorite meal, or splurge on some self-care products. Do what makes you feel happy, relaxed, and at peace.
“It is important to understand that it is okay to take care of yourself. In fact, it is crucial that you take care of yourself, and self-care gives you the ability to be able to keep going,” said Hill.
Shykita E. Hill, MSW, LCSW-A, is a clinical social worker who offers mental health services at Iredell Psychiatry. To schedule an appointment with Hill or learn more about Iredell Psychiatry, please call the office at 704-380-3620.