The holidays are over and the new year is here, which means we’re getting back into our normal routines and probably returning to our old habits. It also means that this is the perfect time to pick up some new, positive habits. Most of us won’t start training for a marathon, especially if we weren’t runners in 2019. However there are smaller, more attainable self-care goals we can set for ourselves that will fit into our normal routines. Sometimes we just need a little inspiration.
For many, the holiday season is filled with rich food and drinks, last minute shopping for gifts, and lots of time spent with friends and family. With the magic of these holiday traditions can come financial strain, a tiff or two with your mom, and tums-worthy indigestion. I always try to view January as the perfect time to reset and re-energize. Why dwell on the unhealthy choices we made for our bodies and our wallets in 2019? Instead, let’s look forward to 2020 and set some healthy intentions for our lives. Who knows? Your new healthy habits may inspire others to take up some of their own.
As a social worker and therapist, I think about self-care on an almost daily basis. People who do this kind of work know that it can be emotionally and psychologically draining and that caring for their personal mental health is just as important as caring for the mental health of their clients.
I work in a high school and when I ask students how they take care of themselves and manage their stress, they stare at me blankly and ask me what I’m talking about. It appears that most teens have never considered that they need to do something to manage their stress. Sure, they’ve all heard of stress and the horror stories of people who have dropped dead because of it, but they know very little about what stress feels like in their minds and their bodies and that they have the power and ability to manage it. I remember being similarly oblivious to self-care as a teen and young adult and it is a passion of mine to educate the next generation so that they can take control of their mental health at a young age.
We have all heard the adage “self-care isn’t selfish” and most of us know through experience that if we don’t take care of ourselves, the people around us will suffer the consequences. I recently attended a two-day professional development class focused on trauma and grief. Those aren’t light topics and thankfully, the speaker also spoke to us about self-care. The most essential tip that she gave to us was that self-care is not only what we do after work or at the end of the day, it needs to be intertwined into our daily lives for the benefit of ourselves, those we work with, and those we live with.
Setting an Intention
When developing new self-care goals, it’s tempting to go with the usual new years resolution of eating right and exercising, which may very well what you need. However, I encourage you to take some time to assess where you stand in terms of life balance. To begin, it helps to take a moment to sit with yourself, check-in with your body and your intuition, reflect on your 2019, and determine what it is you really need to feel balanced in your life as it is right now. In order to aid in your self reflection, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- When I think about the past year, what word best describes my experience?
- How did I feel at the end of each day throughout 2019?
- What did I devote most of my energy to?
- Did I neglect any area of my life?
- What emotions am I experiencing as I think about this?
- What physical sensations am I noticing as I think about this?
Take a moment to process anything that came up during that exercise. Maybe the one thing that would bring balance to your life was immediately clear. Maybe you’re still just as unsure as you were before about your self-care goals.
In order to feel a sense of balance in life, it is important to give energy to all dimensions of your life. Just as a wheel that is perfectly round functions at it’s best, so do we when we are caring for each aspect of our lives. There are 6 dimensions, that when equally cared for and attended to, can lead to feeling more balanced. These dimensions are:
Setting Self-Care Goals
Perhaps you have no problem scheduling time to go to cross fit and you always eat a healthy, balanced diet but it’s difficult for you to make time to see your friends on a regular basis. Maybe you take care of your emotional health by meditating, checking in with yourself throughout the day, and working through issues in therapy, but you’ve had a few too many nights buying “necessities” on Amazon Prime and your bank account has been suffering lately. Maybe you have difficulty giving any energy to yourself and feel like you’re always giving to others (I know some moms who fall into this category).
No matter which category you fall into, I think we can all benefit from regularly assessing what dimensions we are putting our time and energy into and which ones we may be neglecting. The shift in balance doesn’t usually happen suddenly unless there has been a big change in your life. It’s often a gradual, imperceptible change that can impact our mental health in small ways until we become aware of it and make a change. Below are some self-care ideas that I often employ and that I hope will inspire you to invest in your mental health.
- Start a self-reflection journal
- Read an inspiring book (“The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle is one of my favorites)
- Try a yoga class
- Sit alone on a beach
- Play or cuddle with a pet
- Travel alone
- Take a walk alone on a nature trail
- Try a new exercise class (trampolines, anyone?)
- Try ClassPass and find a fun, new workout
- Take a walk in nature
- Turn off all electronics while you’re eating
- Check-in with your body throughout the day and notice if you have any pain or tension
- Learn to play an instrument
- Read a new book
- Re-read your favorite book
- Take a continuing education class at a community college
- Find a mentor
- Learn a new language
- Try a new budgeting app (Mint or EveryDollar are good options)
- Meet with a financial advisor
- Set a financial goal for the year
- Create a plan for paying off debt
- Choose one small expense to give up each month (one of your five streaming services maybe?)
- Turn off your phone and spend time with family
- Call a friend if you’re having a bad day
- Go on a date
- During family meals, review a good and bad from everyone’s day (sometimes called “rose and thorn”)
Let’s look at the New Year as an opportunity to try something new for ourselves and set some new self-care goals. Hopefully these ideas will serve as inspiration for you to take care of yourself this year.