BALANCE - work - life

Self Care—the Key to Living a Balanced and Satisfying Life

From finding the perfect job, affordable place to live and someone to love, life is filled with rushing from place to place, stress-filled workplaces, concerns about finances and wondering if you’re getting enough exercise.

Self-care is one area that is often overlooked in the hustle of daily life. With all of that going on, how can you possibly think about self-care? The real question is, what is it costing you when you don’t take care of yourself?

The definition of self-care is varied but boils down to any activity undertaken to gain or maintain an optimal level of health. It should never be something forced or not enjoyable. It should refuel you and make you feel better rather than create more stress.

To use self-care to create a balanced and satisfying life, you need to examine your life’s different areas that benefit from conscious self-care. The main areas of self-care include physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, social, professional, environmental and psychological. When you pay attention to your needs in each area, you are opening the way to living a balanced life. This can then lead to a life filled with enjoyable activities, good relationships, a job you want to go to and leisure time with friends and family that bring you joy.

Self-care isn’t something that has to cost money, although as you begin to see benefits you may want to take on self-care options that have a price tag. But you can start with free and easy ways to create a self-care routine.

For physical self-care, you can go for a walk, put on music and dance around the house, take a bath, eat nourishing foods and get the right amount of sleep.

For emotional self-care, you can be kind to yourself when you make mistakes, reflect on your feelings about a specific topic in writing, say no to the things that don’t feel right and determine and stick to your emotional boundaries.

When looking to spiritual self-care, you can meditate, write in a journal, read about a religious tradition you’re not familiar with and walk in nature, contemplating the natural wonders around you.

Financial self-care includes things like knowing when bills have to be paid and paying them on time, making sure to take care of your tax responsibilities, saving money and spending wisely.

Your social self-care means having a reliable network of supportive friends, honoring your commitments to other people, spending time with family, meeting new people and asking for help when you need it.

When it comes to professional life self-care includes making time to eat a good lunch at work, taking advantage of professional development opportunities, having clear boundaries, advocating, and negotiating for your needs.

An often overlooked area of self-care is your environment. You want to have a clean and well-maintained living environment, clean clothes, no clutter, and a reliable mode of transportation.

Some examples of psychological self-care are learning a new skill, being creative, simply reading a book and being mindful of how time you spend with your technology.

Once you determine how you want to start your self-care, try one of the free options and congratulate yourself on starting the self-care journey and a balanced and satisfying life.

The current situation with COVID has shown us how important self-care is in maintaining our physical and mental health in times of crisis. So what exactly is self care?

It’s not an easy question to answer because it’s different for everyone. Generally speaking, though, it’s the activities we engage in to get and maintain an optimal level of overall physical, mental and emotional health. It’s the one thing that’s missing for someone who’s busy and stressed because it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself.

But not taking care of yourself often results in not doing a great job at taking care of many of the essential things in life like your job, children, spouse and friends. In fact, can you really afford not to take care of yourself?

When you think about self-care you may have difficulty finding what would be the right self-care for you. Keep in mind you’re looking for things that will allow you to achieve your optimal physical, mental and emotional health. That means doing things because they help you feel better, not because you think you should be doing them.

So start with some simple things.

When you notice you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, just stop and take a few deep breaths. This will help to get more oxygen into your body because as you get stressed you tend to breathe shallowly, not getting enough oxygen. There’s nothing so urgent that you can’t spare a moment or two for a couple of deep breaths. You will be amazed at how a simple thing like breathing can make you feel better. Recognizing that you’re feeling stressed and stopping to breathe is self-care.

A technique called “box breathing” is an easy method to get yourself grounded when you’re feeling stressed and anxious. First exhale any air in your lungs. Then, slowly breathe in to the count of four filling your belly first then your lungs. Hold your breath for four seconds then exhale slowly for a count of four.

Another simple method is to find a picture of something soothing to look at.  What kinds of images instill calmness in you? What feelings do you get when you think about the beach, palm trees, sunshine? Find a picture of that to gaze at. How about the sky, clouds and birds flying? Find a scene like that. Does looking at photos albums of friends and family give you the warmth and fuzzies? When you’re feeling stressed and anxious look at those scenes or photos for a few moments and notice how much more grounded you feel.

Near the top of any list of simple and cost-free self-care practices you will find meditation. That’s because it’s easy to do no matter where you are and just a few minutes can have you feeling grounded and ready to deal with the world again. Meditation combines breathing and mindfulness, which are both helpful to restoring emotional balance. If you’re one of the many who find it difficult to stop the mental chatter on your own, there several free apps that have short guided meditations for you to focus on. (put in 3-minute meditations and noise machine).  NOTE: do reviews of these items.

Sometimes what you need is a good laugh. Create a YouTube playlist of funny videos to watch for a few minutes. Or maybe looking at puppies or kittens is soothing for you. You can combine both by finding funny puppy or kitten videos. You can make a list of inspirational videos to tap into when you need a quick break that’s also uplifting in the same vein.

Taking a quick walk is also a big stress reliever.  In fact, it’s recommended that people who sit most of the day working should get up at least once per hour and move around for five or ten minutes. Doing this is one of the best ways to practice self-care. And you can easily do it without alerting anyone to what you’re doing.

Other ways to practice self-care include letting go of perfectionism, reassessing your priorities, purging toxic people, creating and enforcing boundaries, defining your values and living by them and communicating your emotional needs to the people in your life. Once you’ve done these simple self-care activities, you’ll likely find that your days are happier and your stresses are fewer. And that’s the point of self-care.

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