Making Self-Care a Priority
All 365 days a year
Posted Jan 01, 2020
Many will start the year by making resolutions. Unfortunately, however, the statistics on people actually following through with their New Year’s resolutions are pretty bleak. According to U.S. News & World Report, an astounding 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
We believe that one reason why it is so difficult to adhere to resolutions is that it is very difficult for people to prioritize themselves and put themselves first. It’s so easy to put your work, your spouse, your parents, your children, and other social obligations ahead of yourself. Despite our best intentions in January, self-care New Year’s resolutions often fall quickly to the bottom of a long list of priorities. But it is our belief that self-care should be at the top of the list, and not just in January but all-year-round.
Webster’s Dictionary defines self-care as care for oneself. Further defined, self-care is the attention paid by oneself to oneself in the spirit of growth and wellness. To engage in self-care is an essential part of becoming and staying healthy.
Unfortunately, the reality is that self-care is often seen as a luxury. At times, it’s even mistaken for self-absorption. But for most of us, self-care doesn’t mean “me first” . . . it usually means “me too.” It’s just like on the airplane when the flight attendants advise you to put your own oxygen mask first before you assist anyone else. You can’t serve others from an empty vessel.
Self-care may seem selfish, but it’s not. In fact, we believe self-care should actually be viewed as a necessity. Once this mindset shift is made, finding ways to add self-care elements into your life becomes easier and not just something you do for the first 30 days of the year.
How does one think about self-care, you ask?
One of the frameworks that we learned in medical school is the use of the “bio-psycho-social model” to formulate treatment plans for our patients. By using this framework, we make sure to think about our patients in a holistic way, taking into consideration their biology (e.g., genes and physiology), their psychology (e.g., one’s inner mind), and their social circumstances (e.g., the eco-system in which patients live). We’re going to go back to our medical school roots and borrow this framework to explain self-care.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Get between seven and nine hours of sleep each day.
- Exercise three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes.
- Eat healthy, nutritious foods and avoid processed and/or fatty foods.
- Make and keep preventative health care appointments.
- Carve out “me time” twice a week (e.g., bubble bath, burn a candle, get a massage).
- Practice mindfulness and/or deep breathing exercises for at least 10 minutes a day.
- Consider seeing a therapist in the spirit of growth and self-discovery.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Set aside weekly time to plan, wish, and set goals.
- Practice self-forgiveness.
- Invest and nurture relationships that add beneficially to your energy level.
- Find coping strategies for dealing with those who zap your energy.
- Set loving boundaries and say no.
As we take care of ourselves in these most fundamental ways—building them into our lifestyle, making time for them in our day to day—we become energized, whole, self-actualized, and have the ability to manifest and live out our dreams. Self-care is how we truly consciously harness our own internal power.
“Self-care is a deliberate choice to gift yourself with people, places, things, events, and opportunities that recharge our personal battery…” —Laurie Buchanan
Dr. Carlin Barnes and Dr. Marketa Wills are two Harvard-trained psychiatrists. Their new book is entitled "Understanding Mental Illness: A Comprehensive Guide to Mental Health Disorders For Family and Friends".