There are many reasons why a person needs self care incorporated into their life but one shouldn’t need to have a reason or explanation to go along with it. Everyone deserves to enhance their well being but most of all everyone deserves to love themselves.
On my first day of graduate school for social work, every one of my teachers discussed self care and the importance of it especially for social workers. Some teachers even had self care listed as homework assignments. As a social work student and intern, my days are filled with talking about the injustice of the world and listening to my clients’ problems. As you can imagine, that can quickly start to affect a person’s mental and emotional health, which is why as social workers we need to incorporate self care into our lives in order to destress, decompress, to be able to complete the next day or week’s duties at our fullest potential. After all, we are working with other people’s lives and minds.
So what is self care? A “textbook” definition would be to take proper care of yourself by doing activities that you enjoy or simply just allowing yourself time to relax; decreasing stress which will maintain and enhance our overall wellness. My personal definition of self care is loving yourself enough to stay mentally and physically healthy; caring for yourself as much as you care for others in your life. Therefore, self care is self love. And everyone, not just social workers, should be participating in a self care routine.
Some may say self care is being selfish. But, my response to that is, how can you love another human being without knowing how to first love yourself? Or how am I supposed to complete my daily activities at my fullest potential if I haven’t given myself a chance to recharge?
The idea of self care doesn’t have to be an abstract thought. Self care can be any activity that brings relaxation and pleasure, allowing yourself to escape your stress and work for awhile. Sitting down and enjoying a meal or drinking enough water can be a form of self care for some, especially those living busy lives and taking care of others. Self care has six different categories; physical, professional, personal, psychological, spiritual and emotional; thats six different areas of activities that can be incorporated into our lives in order to increase our health. Physical self care is the category that people focus on the most; including routine check ups, eating healthy, and exercising. While physical self care is important, the other categories are just as important if not more because they affect our mental health.
Mental health issues and disorders affect a majority of the population. Incorporating self care into one’s routine can decrease mental health symptoms relating to anxiety and depression. One does not need to already experience symptoms or be diagnosed to partake in self care. Self care activities should also be used for preventative care.
Since that first day of graduated school, I attempted to incorporate self care into my weekly routine. I took some ideas from handouts that I found and dedicated one night a week as my “self care night”. This night included aromatherapy, a face mask, and going to bed early. I would look forward to this night every week, knowing that it was a time for me to relax and ignore my responsibilities. As the semester continued, I noticed my stress started to increase and my immediate reaction was to go to yoga. Now, prior to graduate school I had been practicing yoga; it had already been a passion of mine. Due to this gut reaction of needing yoga when I was stressed, I started to incorporate yoga into my weekly schedule as well; practicing 1-2x a week. That’s when I realized, yoga is a form of self care for me! In that hour, I fully am in the present moment, my worries subside and I am focused on my breath. Not only is it a physical workout but it also taps into the psychological, spiritual and even emotional categories of self care.
I had already been doing a self care activity prior to graduate school and didn’t even realize it. Yoga is an activity that I do for myself; it allows me to recharge both my mind and body.
When I was asked to co-host and attend the Mother Muse Self Care is Self Love Retreat, I couldn’t say no. The theme of the retreat alone had me excited because I would be able to share my two passions of mental health and yoga to other women. Imagine a weekend filled with relaxation activities, nutritious meals and conversations with other women on how to love ourselves. Sounds amazing, right? Well, it was. That weekend allowed me to teach others about the importance of how self care affects our mental and physical health. Then I lead the women through a yoga sequence which gave them the opportunity to try yoga and decide if it could be a self care activity for them. The energy from the retreat lasted with me into the following week. It was a wonderful opportunity that I hope to be a part of again in the future.
As for now, I will continue my self care practice on my own, being mindful to allow myself a chance to rest and recharge. After all, self care is not selfish, self care is self love.
Louanna Doll is a certified yoga instructor in Towson, MD and social work masters students in Baltimore. The health of both body and mind are her main topics of research and practice. Follow her on Instagram @littlelotuslou