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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Realistic Self-Care: 12 Key Questions to Figure Out What Works for YOU

Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

What does 'self-care' mean to you? 
Lying on an exotic tropical beach?... But  you're thousands of miles from the coast. 
Taking a relaxing bath every night?... But your kids always interrupt you, or there's a drought, or you live in a tiny apartment with a shower stall and no bathtub. 
Buying yourself flowers, expensive chocolates, or a whole new wardrobe?... But you're on a tight budget, and you worry about the environmental impact, and who has time to shop in the midst of everything else you have to do? 
Maybe it's time to rethink self-care. 

To me, it means finding ways to nurture yourself in the midst of your current life and responsibilities.

Realistic self-care: 
  • doesn't cost a lot of money; 
  • doesn't take a lot of time; and
  • doesn't diminish the care you give to others.

It is NOT about:
  • being selfish;
  • shirking our responsibilities; or
  • ignoring the needs of our families, communities,  students or clients.

It IS about:
  • being honest with ourselves about what we can and can't handle;
  • figuring out what aspects of our work and schedules we have control over; 
  • making choices about how to most effectively spend our time and energy; and
  • recognizing that we all have unique gifts, preferences, circumstances, and challenges, so there's no 'one size fits all' approach to self-care.

Here are a dozen questions to help you think about what works for you:

1. Are You Trying to Keep Too Many Balls in the Air?
Real life being what it is, daily or even weekly balance isn't usually possible.  If we think in terms of cycles—weeks, months, even years—there are times when we may need to put more of our energy into our work, caring for our families, or dealing with our own health issues.  
2. What Does Your Body Need? 
Your specific answers to this question might be quite different from mine, but they'll likely fall into the same three general categories: movement, nourishment, and rest. 
3. What Kind of Exercise Do You Enjoy?
Rather than thinking "I really should be getting more exercise," can you find something you enjoy?  That way, the chances are a lot higher that you'll exercise regularly. And it won't feel like it's just one more burden you have to bear.
4. How Many Minutes Have You Got?
Even on the most frazzled days, you can likely squeeze in five minutes to eat a quick healthy snack or even just 60 seconds to look out the window and take some deep breaths. 
5. What's Draining Your Battery?
Does your work leave you feeling physically exhausted, or sluggish from inactivity? Are you getting too much of a mental challenge or not enough? Or perhaps you need to be firmer about setting boundaries, or  let go of something you 'have to do' that you don't really have to do. 
6. What are Your Guilty Pleasures? 
We all have 'guilty pleasures.' If we let go of the guilt, we can see more clearly whether these habits and treats are more helpful or more harmful than we tend to believe. 
7. How Do You Blow Off Steam? 
We're all under a lot of pressure, and it needs to be released somehow. Do you have a healthy way of doing this? Or, like too many of us, do you act like an 'exploding doormat,' putting up with too much and then snapping in a way you end up regretting.
8. How Do You Handle Anger?
Most of us have a tendency to react in unhelpful ways: overly aggressive, passive-aggressive, or overly passive. Responding calmly and assertively is almost always more effective.
9. What's Holding You Back? 
Do you come up with the perfect self-care plan, only to have it derailed by unforeseen circumstances? Or do you spend so much time trying to come up with the perfect plan that you never take action? Do you always honor commitments to other people but have trouble meeting your own needs? Or do you tend to push back against restrictions, even if you've made the rules yourself?
10.  Where Do you Draw the Line?
With endless need and 24/7 connectivity, are you putting pressure on yourself to work nonstop (or until you drop)? Or do you often finding yourself giving in to others' demands, even when they're unreasonable? That's not sustainable for anybody. It's important to figure out how far you can bend without breaking.
11. Do You Need an Oxygen Mask or a Parachute?  
You hear all the time that you should 'put on your own oxygen mask first,' but do you actually follow that advice? And is that truly enough to take care of yourself, or are you in a situation that you really need to get out?
12. What Kind of Support Do You Need?
Let's face it. Self-care doesn't happen in a vacuum. We're all in this together, and there are a lot of ways we can support each other.

About the Author

Catharine Hannay is the founder of and the author of Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness, a workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance.


related posts:

10 Questions About Self-Care Only You Can Answer

Posters, Quizzes, and Infographics about Mindfulness and Self-Care

Breath-Based Practices for Mindfulness or Stress Reduction

Do-It-Yourself Mini-Retreat for Counselors and Teachers

Video Playlists for Teachers and Teacher Trainers