I was watching a nature documentary recently that talked about lakes and deserts and, apparently, the deserts of central Australia are some of the hottest, driest, and most inhospitable places on earth. But every 10 years or so, monsoons hundreds of kilometers north flood the desert, creating Kati Thanda – the largest lake in Australia. When the lake floods, it transforms from a barren wasteland to a lush paradise that sustains all kinds of wildlife.
When flooded, the lake sustains more than half of Australia’s pelican population, many of whom travel hundreds or even thousand of kilometers to lay their eggs and raise their young on its shores. Once the lake dries up, the animals depending on it for sustenance are forced to move elsewhere… or perish. When the lake is not replenished by the rains, everything around it dies.
Why am I talking about pelicans and lakes? Is this an analogy for something else?
What is Self-Care?
Kati Thanda is the perfect example of the importance of self-care. Essentially, self-care is anything we do to take care of ourselves. This could include sleeping, exercising, brushing our teeth, eating our vegetables, or practicing meditation.
Anything you do to improve your health – whether physical, mental, or spiritual – is an act of self-care.
And there are plenty of kitschy blogs out there that talk about how “self-care is not selfish.” But, I mean, it kind of is, right? And that’s not really a bad thing. Selfishness simply means being concerned with your own interests, which is exactly what self-care ought to be. And there’s a whole argument to be made that everything we do is, at its core, selfish, but I’m not blogging about that today.
What I want to talk about is not being a total jerk. Because whether or not self-care is selfish (or if that’s even a bad thing), NOT practicing self-care is an act that harms you and the people around you. In fact, if you don’t practice self-care, you’re kind of being a nincompoop.
There, I said it.
But the good news is that you don’t have to be a nincompoop. Odds are, you aren’t practicing self-care because you don’t realize how much you and those around you depend on it. But just like Kati Thanda, you desperately need to nourish your mind, body, and soul. Otherwise you become a dry, barren desert that’s useful to no one and will kill anyone or anything depending on it.
Now let’s get into the super-practical stuff. I’m going to tell you a few of the ways in which self-care benefits you and the people around you… along with a few useful tips to get started.
We certainly hope that this info helps enrich YOUR life and the lives of the people around you.
Top 3 Reasons to Practice Self-Care
#1. It makes you healthier.
This is probably the most obvious benefit of self-care, but also the most important. When you eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise, your body becomes healthier. Your mind becomes sharper, your muscles become stronger, and your immune system functions better. The same thing applies to mental and spiritual health. Treating yourself well reaffirms that you are a strong, beautiful person who deserves love, happiness, and success.
When you don’t practice self-care, you’re sending subliminal messages to your brain that you aren’t worthy of basic good health and happiness. And once you get that idea in your mind, it will fester and grow until you truly believe it at your core. You can help to fight off depression and feelings of inadequacy by simply treating yourself the way you should be treated.
I get that most of us have different ideas about spirituality. And I’m not here to absolve you of sin or lead you to enlightenment. But I can tell you that inner reflection and quiet time to process your thoughts and feelings are important.
So, whatever that looks like for you, be sure to foster it.
#2. It leaves you with more to offer.
Just like Kati Thanda, you can only nourish others when you are nourished yourself. And this is when failing to practice self-care can actually be more selfish than practicing it. You can’t help others if you’re physically and emotionally drained. And there are tons of little proverbs about this.
You cannot serve from an empty pitcher. One drowning man cannot save another.”
You get the idea.
So, whether you’re caregiving for a loved one, raising children, supporting a spouse, or talking your friend Becky through her latest in a string of terrible relationship choices, remember that you can only give as good as you get. The more nourished you are, the more nourishment you’ll have to share with others.
#3. Self-care makes you more productive.
Most people consider themselves productive when they just work non-stop. It’s become a sort of “badge of honor” to work long hours or work over the weekend.
But that’s stupid. That mindset invariably leads to burnout. And sacrificing your self-care in the name of “The Grind” will only make you progressively LESS productive and more prone to errors. If you work in an environment where unrelenting work around the clock is the norm, it’s time to get out of there. No good businessperson (or human being, for that matter) treats people like they’re expendable.
Investing in yourself will pay dividends in your productivity levels almost immediately. When you get enough sleep, you have better focus and energy. When you unplug from your phone and laptop at night and replace it with personal time or quality interaction with others, you are able to come back to work more refreshed.
The truth is that taking time for yourself can actually make you better at time management. And that’s what good bosses, employees, parents, and students all have in common: the ability to manage their time and set realistic expectations.
So, make time for healthy meals. Separate work time from play time from personal time. Get enough sleep and stop over-committing to things. You’ll be amazed at just how productive you can truly be when you start focusing on your own self-care.
You may be thinking: “Wow! What an amazing blog! I’m so happy I read this! I can’t wait to share this with my friends and start practicing better self-care! But where do I start?”
Say no more, fam.
7 Ways to Start Practicing Better Self-Care Right Now
#1. Get quality sleep.
This is as simple as setting a schedule and sticking to it. Pick a bed time, turn off the tv, and put your phone in the other room. It only takes a few days for your body to get used to the schedule and getting enough quality sleep will leave you well-rested for the day ahead.
#2. Get organized.
It’s hard to get enough sleep, make time for exercise, avoid overcommitting, and still have time for personal reflection or quality time with friends. Get a planner. Figure out what meals you want to make for the week. Start with the most important things first, and schedule the rest around them.
#3. Eat good food.
And I don’t mean a giant rack of smoked honey barbeque ribs (although sometimes you gotta treat yo self). I mean prioritizing nutritious food that gives you the vitamins and minerals your body needs and doesn’t leave you feeling bloated or facing a 2 pm sugar crash. Leafy greens. Fresh fruits. Lean meats. And don’t forget organic!
#4. Carve out personal time.
And it doesn’t really matter what you do. It could be something as simple as taking a bath or enjoying a nature documentary narrated by David Attenborough (available on Netflix right now and highly recommended by the world’s best bloggers). Whatever it is, make it just for you. No phone; no multitasking. Just time to relax and enjoy something simple.
According to a Google search I just did, nearly 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. And no wonder. We’re all drinking our coffees and our sodas and our juices and whatever else. But as the great Bobby Boucher Jr. says, there’s nothing better than some high-quality H2O. Staying hydrated improves memory and attention, helps us eat better, and encourages the body’s natural sleep hormones. Drink more water!
#6. Read books.
I’m sure it’s hard to imagine anything more entertaining than our blog, but there are actually tons of people with really cool and important things to say. And most of them have something to share that will be new to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading Dickens, Brene Brown, or Tolle – you can read whatever you want. It’s a great way to stimulate your mind, helps you to wind down at the end of the day, and allows for (much-needed) personal time.
#7. Get off your devices.
Digital detoxing is one of the most important things you can do. Designate as much time as you can to go tech-free. No emails. No social media. No emojis. Just do something real. Take your dog for a walk or make dinner with your partner.
That’s about it. Self-care is crucial. It actually is kind of selfish, but that’s a good thing, because you need to nourish yourself before you can go and nourish others. There’s no handbook for practicing self-care, but I’ll leave you with this:
- How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as a beautiful, intelligent being with tons of potential? You should.
- How do you feel? Do you feel rested, strong, and healthy, ready to take on anything today throws at you? You should.
- Do you feel like you are so overflowing with positive energy and self-assurance that you just want to share it with those around you? You should.
Many of us are pushing through each day as a dry desert, devoid of nourishment and inhospitable to any growth. But if we flood our bodies and minds with support through self-care, we can become a bustling utopia that promotes growth and cultivates those around us. Remember: The biggest lake gets the most pelicans. Or something like that…