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  • Dina Cohen

Why Shrug Off Self-Care When You Can Get It For Free?

If you wouldn't mind some self-care but hesitate because you don't think you have the necessary time or money, this post is for you. Did you know that one of the most effective ways to care for yourself - and enjoy the renewed energy and positive emotions that result - costs absolutely nothing and takes minimal time?

The self-care most people already know about are physical self-care, emotional self-care, and the fancy stuff.

The first addresses your basic physical needs, such as eating and sleeping enough, getting exercise, showering/bathing, and getting appropriate medical care. The second involves taking care of other needs, such social, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional. This can mean taking meeting up with friends, taking a class, praying, making time for entertainment, seeking therapy if needed, etc. The third is the one most people think of when they hear the term self-care (and automatically relegate it to the realm of the impractical), like massages, mani/pedis, vacations, etc.

What I'm talking about today is different. It takes so little time but can have far-reaching effects. We'll call it internal self-care and you can do it in two simple steps:

  1. Check in with your internal state. How are you doing? How do you feel physically? What messages are running through your mind? What is going on for you emotionally? Essentially, what's going on for you inside?

  2. Decide if there's anything you'd like to take action on.

For example:

I'm noticing I haven't stopped for a drink in long time. I'm going to get a water bottle and keep it with me while I get through these next chores.

I'm noticing that neck and shoulders are very tense. I'm going to do some stretches for a minute and take some deep breaths before getting back to work.

I'm noticing that my old critical thoughts are really loud in my brain right now. I'm feeling very down about how I responded to my child. I'm going to remind myself that I'm a work in progress and I'm doing my best. I'm going to take a short time-out before so that I can be calmer before our next interaction.

I'm noticing that my eyes are bothering me. It's probably because I'm spending a lot of time on my phone lately. I'm going to put it away for the next half hour and take a break.

I'm noticing resentment that no one acknowledged how hard I worked today. So many challenges came up and nobody praised or thanked me for all that put up with. But I can be proud of myself. I know that years ago I wouldn't have been able to handle all this. It's pretty amazing. I can give myself an internal high-five and allow myself to feel pride and gratitude.

Checking in allows you to take care of yourself in small ways throughout your day. This can help you feel more positive and less stressed overall so that you're not as vulnerable to experiencing burnout. It can spare you from feeling like the only way to feel cared for is to do something big (like a vacation) because you're not experiencing physical and emotional exhaustion.

Obsessively checking in is not what you're after; fortunately, your body does have the ability to run on autopilot. But taking a minute a couple of times a day to ask yourself what you need and respond with care can help you feel your best.

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