The Importance of Self-Care
Responsibilities…work…commitment…relationships…stress…obligations…family…tension… On a daily basis we are pushed and pulled from one “need” to the next. The daily to-do list keeps getting longer as the weeks progress and there just does not seem like enough time to finish it all. And even if you magically are able to actually accomplish the never-ending list, how much of it do you remember? Furthermore, how invested were you in the process? Does this sound familiar?
Quantity vs. Quality
When working on prioritizing, it can be very difficult to put our own self-needs into the equation. To challenge this notion, I encourage my clients to look at a few things when trying to tackle daily and life demands. The first is, to examine the quantity versus quality of a situation. What this means is imagine a specific task that would normally take about an hour to accomplish (think of a social situation such as sitting for coffee with a friend). Rather than spend that hour with divided attention (i.e.: mentally going through a checklist of things that should be done, and how much more efficiently time could be utilized, all the while being distracted while absently nodding at your friend, not really paying attention to whether they uttered “situation” or “contamination…”) that time could be better utilized by truly being in the moment, or as DBT ideology coins the term, being mindful. The idea of mindfulness is beneficial because it allows us to tune into our senses and be present with our surroundings as well as our feelings about said surroundings.
In an era of instant and constant gratification where it is difficult to focus on a sole person without reaching for our cell phones or thinking of the plethora of obligations we have yet to achieve, it can be difficult to take time out to think about what we need in the moment. Keeping this in mind, it is imperative to change the quantity of time we are spending elsewhere, and shifting that focus to enhance the quality of that time. One idea of how to enact this would be to spend half the allotted time with your friend, but to truly immerse yourself in that conversation. Listen and hear what they are communicating, engage and absorb in the body language and unspoken dialogue. Focus on tone and presentation, and essentially, just be in that moment. Eventually the amount of time will not matter as much as the idea of having an authentic experience.
After several rounds of contextualizing the idea of self-care, the World Health Organization in 2013 defined this phenomenon as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, and maintain health and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider.” While more of an abstract concept, the general idea behind self-care is to promote mental, medical, or emotional health. The important aspect of this is to take a theoretical idea and make it applicable and tangible to your life. One way to find the answer would be to ask yourself, “If I had an extra hour to my day to do anything I want to do, what would I do?” This then narrows it down into actual goals. Some may say they would like time to listen to their favorite musician or band, others may feel that a candlelit bubblebath is in order, some may want to take a relaxing stroll by the beach or spending time with a pet. Self-care is personal and individualized.
To ensure that you are properly applying this concept to your life, do a sense-check. Go through all five senses; touch, sight, feel, taste and sound while in the self-care immersion. Use your sense to navigate how you feel and how this impacts you.
Remember, try to be in the moment with whatever it is you choose to do. Essentially, the activity is not as important as how you respond to that activity.