Have you ever said to yourself, “I feel burned out,” “work is stressing me out,” or something similar? Have you ever experienced guilt or anxiety because you were falling behind in school or work? You are not alone. There are certain responsibilities that we have as individuals that are necessary to be able to live. Whether it is work, school, exercising, taking your children to school or practice, life will find ways to keep you busy. Do these responsibilities need to be done? Absolutely. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that our lives are precious. In fact, our lives are so precious that we only get one. Therefore, it is important to give bodies and our minds a break from the responsibilities and rigors that this life demands. Actively participating in self-care gives us that balance between doing something we have to do and doing something that we enjoy. Self-care can be defined as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Participating in self-care has many benefits: improved mood, reduced anxiety and the effects of anxiety; preventing burnout, helping shape and re-focus; and is also important for a good relationship with oneself and others. There are those out there that do not enjoy going to work, going to school, or exercising, driving to multiple venues to drop multiple children off, coordinating rides on the regular. These areas can cause people extreme amounts of stress. Actively participating in self-care gives you the physical and spiritual balance that you need to power through those stressful responsibilities. Personal Experience During my graduate program, I was worked with a collegiate golf team as part of an internship. I was beyond excited to be working with a collegiate team and wanted to make sure that I changed my schedule around so I could be present as much as possible. My daily schedule consisted of getting up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym, followed by work at 8 a.m., then practice at 1 p.m., and I would finish with class from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. most days. At firs t, I felt this would not be a problem, but I soon realized that my plate was beginning to overflow. I was not more than four weeks into my internship before my work began to suffer, I was dealing with minor health problems, I was constantly stressed and exhausted, I was beginning to lose it. It came to a point where, during a group supervision session with my professor and several others, I began to break down. The flood gates opened and I could not stop, the emotions kept spilling out of me. While this was helpful and necessary, my peers helped me realize that I was not doing anything to take care of myself. I was work-work-work; nothing else. It was at this point I realized the importance of self-care. While my schedule did not exactly change, I started planning activities on weekends to help me relax, I began to meditate more frequently, and I gave myself the chance to sleep in on some of the days I would normally work out. I had realized my biggest mistake: in not wanting to miss out on the opportunity of working with a collegiate team, I took on too much and did not make any time for myself. Self-care is a necessary activity that will help you maintain your productivity levels, as well as your own personal mental and physical state. What Can You Do? Here are my three tips for participating in self-care. First, when you come home after a long day, whether it is from work, school, or athletics, have a routine you go through to decompress from the day. Examples of this could be sitting in your backyard, lying on bed for several minutes, putting on your relaxing clothes, or cracking open for favorite beverage. The key is to give yourself that free time to relax, de-stress, and enjoy your evening. One thing that is helpful too is to take a nice, deep, relaxing breath either before you exit your car or before you walk into your house. A deep relaxing breath can have a major impact on lowering your stress levels. Second, do something that you enjoy every weekend. Examples of this could be going golfing, going on a hike, having a picnic at the park, seeing a movie – whatever helps you relax. Make sure you switch it up to keep things fresh. Another benefit that this has is it gives you something to look forward to when facing the mid-week haze, so that you can push straight through to the weekend Lastly, be kind to yourself when you are participating in self-care. At times, we experience guilt because we feel there is something that needs to be done. We experience anxiety because we do not want to fall behind in our work, and this takes away from our self-care. You deserve this time for yourself. You deserve to do something you enjoy. Your work will be there when you are finished taking care of yourself, and a fresh, relaxed, recharged mind and body will help you get the work done that is needed. Final Thoughts One must understand that self-care is not a selfish act. Rather, it is not only about considering our needs, but also about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, being subsequently able to take care of others as well. It is difficult, if not impossible, to take care of others if you cannot take care of yourself. Setting time aside to relax, to participate in something you enjoy and to disconnect from your daily schedule, are extremely valuable activities for our mental health. Make sure to alert others that you have time set aside for self-care so that they know to give you your space. Put it in your schedule to do something you enjoy this weekend. Actively participate in self-care and watch your mental health change for the better.
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