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What is Self-Care Really?

By Eric Dean JD, MBA, MA, MA, LPC, CADC

You have probably heard the term “self-care” at least a million times. It has become a ubiquitous topic of conversation since the beginning of the pandemic. I could write 20 blog posts on it and still only scratch the surface. So, to begin, in this post I am going to define and review examples of what self-care could be. Remember, your self-care routine should be uniquely tailored to your values, goals, and needs.

When I first heard this term, I was in graduate school and remember thinking two things:

  1.       Self-Care is about doing things that I enjoy and
  2.       Self-Care is important.

Much later I realized that my definition needed some work (okay, a lot of work). Self-care is better defined as a process of taking action to promote our well-being and facilitate healing. Over time, if you can practice self-care on a consistent basis, it will become habitual and routine, and therefore easier to maintain. Here are some examples of self-care that I have learned and practiced over the years:

  1.       Connect with someone you admire.

This could be using social media (e.g., LinkedIn) to reach out to someone who has written an article that resonated with you. Express to this person why you liked the article. Not only could you be forming a new relationship, but you are also providing recognition to someone, who will probably appreciate it.

  1.       Connect with nature.

We can feel rejuvenated after spending time in nature, or even viewing pictures of natural environments.

  1.       Get a hotel room nearby for 1 night and enjoy a new area.

Leaving our current environment can be refreshing and enjoyable. We do not need to plan a full vacation to experience novelty. Rent a hotel room in a nearby city, or a different section of the city you live in, to explore the area.

  1.       Redecorate your home.

Nowadays, we spend a lot of time at home which makes it even more important to create a comfortable and welcoming environment. Redecorating your home does not have to be financially burdensome. There are online retailers which sell less expensive furniture and other items, that can have a significantly positive impact on your living environment. Experiment and move around furniture for a new layout.

  1.       Build something.

One thing I have been doing for my self-care is buying furniture online (see #4) that requires assembly. I find that assembling furniture keeps me stimulated, helps me practice regulating my emotions, and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

  1.       Listen to a podcast on a topic with which you are unfamiliar.

I have grown to enjoy listening to podcasts on unfamiliar topics, which allows me to venture outside of my natural habitat. Podcasts also help me transition to sleep. Before I go to bed, I listen to calming podcasts that are designed for sleep and I set the sleep timer for 26 minutes.   

  1.       Do the opposite of what your instinct is telling you.

Habits and routines make life easier for us, but they are not always healthy. These behaviors can also keep us stuck in autopilot, which hinders our ability to appreciate the present moment. In addition, when exposed to novelty and challenge, our brain can change and grow in healthy ways.

For example, hundreds of times, I have taken the exact same route when I walk to my local convenience store. After learning more about neuroplasticity from a podcast (see #6), I now try to take a different route every time. When we do something outside of our norm or comfort zone, our brain pays extra close attention and enters learning mode, which has positive effects on the mind and keeps us more engaged in the present.

Symmetry therapists are here to help you create self-care practices that are effective and sustainable.

So, let’s get started – call Symmetry Counseling today at 312-578-9990 to schedule an appointment for individual, couples, or family therapy in Chicago.

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