How to Cultivate A Self-Care Practice
“The challenge is not to be perfect — it is to be whole.” —Jane Fonda
Think about last week.
Can you remember a precise moment where you actively chose to prioritize yourself and to put your needs first? If you did, then you practiced self-care. This behavior is reflected in any action you consciously take to protect and nurture your integrated wellbeing – mind, body, and soul.
The Four Pillars of Self-Care
I’ll start by stating the obvious: one size does not fit all.
Your lifestyle, your family situation, your work, your time, and your priorities, are unique in your
reality. And these priorities determine which actions will make up your self-care roadmap.
If you’re looking to develop a long-term self-care practice, or are looking to tweak your current
routine, here are four pillars that can guide you towards either goal:
Actions that contribute to your physical wellbeing
Actions that elevate your knowledge
Actions that care for and promote your emotional and mental wellbeing
Actions that fill you with purpose
In my experience, constantly coming back to these when I’m losing perspective and falling deep into the perpetual to-do list spiral, reminds me of the commitments I’ve made with myself. And reminds me of how good I feel after dedicating time to what keeps me grounded, balanced and well.
Your Physical Wellbeing
In one sentence: food that nourishes, movement that inspires, sleep and rest that help you recover.
If staying active is one of your priorities, because you either feel amazing after that yoga class, or after jogging, or at the end of that HIIT workout where you drain any negative vibes and stress – then your routine probably includes some form of movement. On the other hand, if you’re always busy, have an energetic job that keeps you running around all day and are constantly dreaming about teleporting to your couch to watch reruns of your favorite TV show (any FRIENDS fans out there?) – you might choose to prioritize rest and recovery.
Start to determine what you would like to achieve by asking yourself some questions: How many times a week do I want to work out? For how long? What schedule works best for me? What type of activity inspires me enough to jump out of bed at 5am? How many hours do I want (or need) to sleep? What is my ideal bedtime?
Once you’ve established priorities, and depending on your family situation, talk with your partner, roommate, parents or whoever’s support you might need to get in that 20-minute walk around your neighborhood at 6am. (Add in an extra 10 minutes to enjoy some hot coffee in pure silence before that walk, and you have given me E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.)
Elevating Your Knowledge (and Feeding Your Soul)
Have you started flirting with a hobby or a secret life-long passion that you haven’t pursued, because you just “don’t have the time"? On many occasions we underestimate the soul-nourishing power of our side passions and hobbies. If you enjoy or want to learn more about novel writing, gardening, embroidering, knitting, drawing, painting, learning languages – how about doing a little bit more of that?
I’m the first one to complain about not having enough time. And I’m also the first one to call myself out when I realize I’ve been Insta-scrolling for an hour (which is OK too #wedontjudge). It makes me realize that I do have the time and I can definitely dedicate 30 minutes to that unfinished book, online course, or short story. I just need to remember that I’m doing it for me. That I’m choosing me. We live in the era of online education. If you relate to these types of actions, and are eager to learn, here are some popular portals to start your search: edX.org, coursera.org, domestika.org.
Your Mental and Emotional Well-being
How do you take care of your emotional health? Although a visit to my therapist usually calms the waters, there are endless activities that could also contribute to my emotional wellbeing, and probably to yours. Some of us have routines that include movement, meditation or breathing, a quiet cup of coffee with our thoughts – whatever we consider enough to recharge and reconnect internally. Others turn to their communities: groups of friends, sisters, colleagues or other women with whom we share similar experiences, challenges and interests.
And finally, those activities that lift your spirit, that recharge you and that make you feel better no matter how cliché – from enjoying delicious hot chocolate with dulce de leche-filled churros, or spending time in nature, to a homemade mani-pedi or a SPA day – if they increase your sense of wellbeing, they are part of your self-care toolbox.
Bursting with Purpose
There are situations or actions that can heighten your sense of purpose – that magical, whimsical feeling that you are unique and can bring profound value to this world.
On the one hand, sharing your knowledge, your skills, or expertise — formally or informally — is one way to achieve this. On the other hand, practicing mindfulness, meditating or praying according to your faith, could also connect you with your purpose, calm your mind and contribute to your overall feeling of wellbeing.
I believe that the most important relationship, and dialogue, is the one you maintain with yourself. So…what types of conversations are you having with yourself these days?
I’d encourage you to find a mirror, stare at it, and ask that face some personal questions – starting with: “If there is one thing I could do for you today what would it be?”.
Deprioritizing yourself to prioritize everything or everyone else, and being in a consistent state of busy is not a badge of honor (channeling my inner Brené Brown here). When the uninvited feelings of guilt start pulling you away from that outdoor workout, that appointment with your therapist, or that (virtual) coffee date with your bestie, remember this: if you are well, the rest will usually follow.
This piece was written and contributed by:
PR & marketing pro by day, wellness writer by night. IIN health coach, yoga teacher (and student…always a student!), and advocate for most things wellness. Jit finds joy in a cup of scorching coffee, in making the words of others shine (a.k.a. copyediting), and in rediscovering paradise in her native Panama – where she lives with her husband, his son and their Shih Tzu, Valentina.