Self-Care: How do you take care of yourself?

“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.” – Michelle Obama

When was the last time that you took time off for fun? When was the last time you nurtured your own interests? Are you someone who spends much of your time giving and doing things for others, but feels guilty when taking time for yourself?

Practicing self-care is known to have tremendous benefits, such as reducing occupational hazards like burnout and compassion fatigue. It can also help you to fortify relationships and enhance self-esteem and resilience. Despite the benefits of self-care, engaging in self-care is a challenge for most of us. Barriers to engaging in these activities may be related to our perspectives, such as seeing these activities as a weakness or an indulgence. Others may feel guilty or struggle to manage their time/responsibilities in order to practice self-care.

There is nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves. Just imagine that our life’s journey is like a long-haul drive; self-care is comparable to vehicle maintenance, which helps ensures our vehicle can handle the long road ahead. When we are able to prioritize our own well-being, we can be our best selves.

You may wonder, how do I practice self-care?

The following are the five categories of self-care with recommendations*:

  1. Physical Self-Care
    Engage in healthy practices, such as diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, and staying active. Stay up to date with your health care and listen to your body.
  2. Psychological Self-Care
    Make time for self-reflection, be curious, nurture your interests, and say no to extra responsibilities. Learn ways to manage stress levels and seek professional help as needed.
  3. Emotional Self-Care
    Spend time with important people in your life, be kind to yourself, feel proud of yourself, and allow yourself to express your emotions.  
  4. Spiritual Self-Care
    Identify what is meaningful to you, make time for prayer, meditation, and reflection, find spiritual connection, spend time in nature, celebrate your milestone, express gratitude, and listen to inspiring music.
  5. Workplace/Professional Self-Care
    Foster work relationships (i.e. eating lunch with coworkers), set limits with clients and colleagues, negotiate for your needs (salary and benefits), make time to complete daily tasks, and make your workspace comfortable and relaxing.

Practicing self-care does not need to take a lot of time. You can find a balance for caring for yourself as well as others. You can start making self-care your priority by setting realistic and reasonable expectations for self-care activities. Creating a structure and routine may help you to develop a consistent plan for self-care.

*Source: Adapted from Saakvitne, Pearlman, and Traumatic Stress Institute Staff, Transforming the Pain: A Workbook on Vicarious Traumatization, 1996.

Written by:
Dr. Ooi Ting Huay
Clinical Psychologist

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