Self-Care | An Excerpt from Be Mindful & Stress Less

Self-Care

As the well-known columnist Ariana Huffington notes, “We take better care of our smartphones than we do ourselves.”

When you take care of yourself, you are saying to yourself that you matter. Engaging in self-care doesn’t mean you are selfish. You can’t care for anyone else until you first take care of yourself. Then you can model for others how to take care of themselves.

Be For Yourself

When a phone’s battery is almost out of power, the phone will alert you to charge it so it will continue to work. Similarly, when a car is almost out of gas, an icon on the dashboard lights up or flashes, alerting you to the need for fuel. Unlike phones and cars, there is no visual indicator light that tells you when you are depleted or almost empty—physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Being for yourself is a way to help yourself have a healthy mind and body. Even when others aren’t cheering you on or helping you succeed in life, you can be for yourself! One prime way to be for yourself is to engage in self-care.

Self-Care Activities

Self-care is defined as giving attention to your physical and psychological well-being. Self-care activities are positive behaviors or things you do that make you feel good, nourish you, and fill you up. Interestingly, what some people think of as self-care can be quite harmful. If you engage in an activity that harms you physically or mentally (for example, cutting, sexting, binging, or purging), that isn’t self-care—it’s self-harm.

Here are some examples of positive self-care activities:

• Do something that makes you smile.
• Listen to your favorite (uplifting) music.
• Engage in a hobby you enjoy.
• Spend time with people who build you up, such as friends or family members.
• Take a warm bath or shower.
• Have a nice warm drink, like a cup of tea.
• Spend time looking at or being with nature.
• Eat something healthy.
• Get a restful night’s sleep.
• Exercise.

Right now, think about some self-care activities that you do for yourself, and write at least five self-care activities on a piece of paper.

Using A, B, or C from the following list, indicate when you could do each of your activities.

A. Today
B. This week
C. This month

Follow through on performing your self-care activities according to your list.

Level I, II, III, and IV Self-Care Activities

Another way to work with self-care activities is to think of how much time it takes you to do each one. You can consider activities that take from one to fifteen minutes as Level I and those that take longer than fifteen minutes—usually a half hour or an hour—as Level II. The idea is to do at least one Level I activity a day and at least one Level II activity a week. Consider activities you like to do when you tell someone you are doing nothing for the day or are taking the day off as Level III. The idea is to take a half to full day off once a month and engage in activities that are on your Level III list. Level IV asks you to take a half to full day, once a month, to spend time with a friend or family member who nourishes and supports you. Of course, you can do more each level, but these are recommendations for starting off.

LEVEL I EXAMPLES

  • Playing with a pet
  • Taking a bath or shower
  • Making a healthy snack
  • Taking extra time for grooming

LEVEL II EXAMPLES

  • Taking a nap
  • Going to a yoga, dance, or exercise class
  • Reading a book or magazine not related to school or work
  • Going to the movies

LEVEL III EXAMPLES

  • Salon or spa visit—nail care, massage, facial, haircut
  • Watch movies or TV
  • Lie around, nap, sleep
  • Garden or spend time in nature

LEVEL IV EXAMPLES
Consider people who fill you up and bring you happiness, peace, and joy in the following categories:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Students
  • Colleagues

What Level I self-care activity can you do each day this week? What Level II self-care activity can you do once this week? What Level III activities will you do when you have your next day off or down day? Who will you spend time with at least once this month when you do your Level IV self-care? Remember, you can always pick new activities from each of the first three levels; they don’t have to be the same each time.

Mindful Takeaway

It is important to care for yourself as well as, if not more than, you would care for your smartphone. Practice bringing self-care into your life every day.

Gina M. Biegel, MA, LMFT, is a psychotherapist who teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in multiple settings. She adapted the MBSR program typically for adults for a teen population, and created Stressed Teens. Find out more about her here.