Self care is an integral part of our physical and emotional well-being, yet self care is one of the first areas of our life we neglect. We may forego self care in order to take care of various responsibilities and obligations in our life that naturally result as we age.
We find ourselves taking care of things we feel we should take care of, and continue to add an increasing amount of responsibilities to our lives.
There is always one more thing we feel we should do.
In the midst of taking care of multiple responsibilities, it can become easy to lose sight of our own needs, because we are too busy taking care of others or taking care of multiple responsibilities.
One of the most important relationships we develop is the relationship form with ourselves.
Yet, little by little, we stop taking care of ourselves.
The process of not taking care of ourselves may begin in college, when we first start learning to push ourselves, and learning to do without those things that we had previously used to help us reset.
We learn to sleep less, eat while we work on school work, or eat on our drive home from work, instead of sitting down and enjoying our meal.
These little things accumulate over time, and amount to a lack of self care.
Most of my places of employment involved crisis work. By the time I graduated from my graduate program and started hospice work, I had become really good at not taking care of myself.
I let my work become my life, and it was easy to do because my personal phone was my work phone.
I was frequently on call and those things that I used to do to buffer the effects of crisis work such as exercising, or spending time with loved ones were being neglected, coupled with the fact that I had lost my own mother not too long before I started hospice work.
It was not until I had a flashback in a hospital that my mother had stayed at, that I realized that I needed to reevaluate my lack of self care.
It is the little ways in which we do not take care of ourselves that accumulate over time.
Think of the development of a self care plan as your working draft that is subject to multiple revisions at various points in your life.
Take 15 minutes to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee or take a 15 minute walk outside.
Small changes that we make in our lives that work for us, can lead to long lasting changes.
Also, if we look at everything that we feel is not working, the task may seem unmanageable, and may prevent us from tackling an issue altogether.
Develop a check in process.
Checking in involves being aware of when something is not quite right. In terms of self care, an indication that we are not taking care of ourselves could be that we feel exhausted or are feeling increasingly short tempered.
Learn to pay attention to physical sensations experienced in the body.
We may be taking shallow breaths when we are rushing from one appointment to the next, clutch the steering wheel when driving, or yell at the driver in front of us when we are in a hurry.
At those moments take a breath, imagine yourself breathing into that part of your body where you are experiencing tightness or tension.
Everyone's self care process is different and unique.
Hiking helps me feel connected and grounded.
Yoga assists in helping me to focus my attention.
In developing a routine of self care, keep in mind that it is the small areas that we neglect that accumulate over time that lead to a lack of self care.
Exercise patience and kindness with yourself in developing and incorporating self care into an everyday routine.
It is an imperfect process.
Desiree Guzman is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked in multiple practice settings including home health, hospice, mental health, as well as for state agencies.