In our backyard, we have a miniature willow tree. It is magical with tiny spiralized leaves that billow over wild, and freely droop inches above the ground. It is the highlight of our back yard. Last Spring we were grateful for its healthy green branches and new leaves. Then, we had about 20 hot days in a row and to our surprise the layers of branches began to wilt, some branches turned from a healthy green to crunchy brown. Grass grew around the roots and weeds took over the base of the tiny tree. It turns out, this tree in particular needs special treatment. Each spring, the branches needed to be pruned away, it needs nutrients, and it needs water. This simple care would have encouraged our tree to develop new branches and promote healthy growth. As I was considering how we would save this little tree, I thought about how much it related to our own self-care. Even the healthiest, high functioning person needs self-care, or it is impossible to sustain our productivity through the hottest days.
Self-care is thought to nourish the career of the most earnest therapist, social worker, teacher, and pastor. It rejuvenates the mom or dad that stays at home with the kids. It fills the cups of the couple that is constantly giving to their community, church, volunteer place. Self-care is necessary for growth. It ensures we have enough, in order to be able to give to any other. However, many people question what this would look like in their everyday life.
Start your day well.
Had we pruned the branches of our tiny tree at the very start of the summer, it would have thrived all season long. This is the truth about how we function as well. I have heard the three most important times of the day are when you wake up, when you leave your house, and before you go to sleep. It is easy to start the day stressed, getting consumed by being too busy. However, the flavor our day has at the start, tends to linger throughout the entire day. I hear this all the time: “I’m too busy to eat breakfast,” “too busy to exercise,” “too busy to start the day in quiet.” This “too busy” mind set propels us into a too busy or stressed out day. So what do we do?
- Eat breakfast sitting down
- Try some yoga or if just the word “yoga” feels intimidating, try some light stretching
- Write in a journal
- Drink a glass of water
- Make your bed
- Make a to-do list
- Get fresh air early
Feed yourself well.
Just like plants and trees, people need nutrition in order to sustain their pace. We may be able to function on skittles and soda pop, but we cannot thrive. Start to notice foods that make you feel strong and energetic. What fuels you to get through the day? And while it is easy to hyper focus on body image, it is sustainable to consider how what you eat effects your body. Some say dairy is their best friends, some say dairy is a nemesis to their digestive tract. Know what foods best fit your needs. Like all areas of self-care, feeding ourselves well is a journey and a constant process of evaluating what works and what does not. The following is a list of ideas for food and self-care.
- Invest in multivitamins, minerals, and fish oils
- Keep a log of the foods you eat
- Try a new healthy recipe or treat each week
- Have a dinner with friends or family
- Sit down for meals
- Create a weekly or monthly meal plan
- Consider kicking sugar to the curb
Sometimes movement is the last thing we want to do and the first thing we should do. Exercise buffers our bodies against the injuries brought on by stress. Movement encourages us to breathe deeper and the rhythms of running and walking encourage us to sort through the stress of the day. The following are some ideas for increasing movement in your day to day life.
- Create an exercise schedule
- Invite a friend to your daily workout
- Start small with a walk or light stretching
- Try joining an adult sports league (soccer, volleyball, or softball)
- Join a community event, such as a 5k race or yoga in the park
End your day well.
Sleep is one of the most crucial aspects of self-care. This is when our brain files away all of the experiences of the day and the body recovers. Often when we live busy lives we lose track of sleep, we convince ourselves that we can function on a little less, in turn this leaves us chronically behind. The following are some ideas for ending the day well.
- Give yourself a window of time without screens
- Drink a glass of water
- Have a end of the day routine
- Maintain a gratitude journal
After learning the care my little tree needed in order to thrive we made plans to care differently for the tree in the future. However, gardening is always a matter of tweaking the variables. The best way to increase self-care is to develop a routine. Then do the best you can to follow your routine. It is a process. A constant tweaking of the variables. In some seasons we need more sleep, more nutrition, more water. The key to self-care is to listen to your body. Do you find yourself tired all of the time or agitated? Do you wish you could avoid activities that you typically enjoy? This is the time to hone in your self-care. You will find that listening to your body and your emotions will increase your satisfaction.