To survive in this hectic world, we may feel forced to put our own needs aside and function on autopilot. With so many tasks that we just need to get through in a day, it only seems natural to postpone those that aren't set in stone, like cooking a healthy meal, having a good night's sleep, or enjoying a dinner out with friends.
However, functioning on autopilot and neglecting our needs takes a toll on our health and wellbeing, as it may damage our immune system and cause various physical and mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
And even though burnout syndrome has finally been recognized as an official medical condition, it requires more than simply taking a couple of sick days off in order to recover from it.
There is no sustainable solution other than making self-care practices a priority and giving them "obligatory" status in our busy everyday schedules.
What Exactly is Self-Care?
Self-care has become one of these buzzwords we often get wrong and unintentionally might even use it as a cover for behaviors that are far from self-nurturing.
Sometimes, it's easy to recognize when we're missing the point, like when we stay up until 3 a.m. to binge-watch the latest Netflix show for the second night in a row, decide to "treat ourselves" to that third piece of chocolate cake, or purchase yet another pair of sneakers.
At other times, spotting these self-neglecting habits is a bit more difficult, especially when the actions we're taking are considered "healthy." It might be going out for that 6-mile run even though you're feeling exhausted, or going out with your friends although your soul craves some quiet me-time.
You're genuinely self-caring when you engage in activities that contribute to your health and take the time to listen and tend to your mind and body.
Since your wellbeing and your resilience to everyday stressors pretty much depend on how nurturing you are towards yourself, self-care should not be considered as a luxury, but rather a priority.
Take Care of Your Basic Needs First
Whenever in doubt, remember Maslow and his hierarchy of needs - your basic needs always come first. These are your physiological needs, such as your need for food, water, shelter, rest, and sleep.
If your physical needs are not met, your body will not be able to function properly, and your health will suffer. You may think that you can run on five hours of sleep or a single meal per day, but that is not a good long-term strategy. Your energy levels will eventually decrease significantly, affecting your overall performance.
Think about the way you're caring for these needs:
Are you getting 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night?
Is your diet well-balanced so that you are consuming all the nutrients your body needs?
Are you getting enough exercise to reap all the physical and mental health benefits?
Are you taking charge of your health by regularly attending doctors' appointments, or taking prescribed medications?
If you notice an area where you could improve your practices, put it at the top of your self-care priority list. As some of the changes will take time, you can still help yourself and your body by opting for natural vitamins, minerals, or sleep support supplements while working on building healthier habits.
Turn Your Autopilot Off
Somehow, we're led to believe that putting in extra hours or overworking ourselves is the only surefire way to success. Even when we're overwhelmed by our workload, we don't question this idea anymore, we just turn our autopilot on and carry on.
This way, you're headed towards burnout and illness. Self-care means we're ready to question such practices and turn the autopilot off. There are many ways we can achieve a better work-life balance without sacrificing our business performance.
Tend to Your "Higher" Needs
Once you succeed in setting your priorities with your self-care high on the list, and your basic needs are being met properly, you can pay more attention to satisfying your "higher" needs, and tend to your emotional, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing.
Assess these areas of your life:
How is your social life? Are you spending enough time with your friends and family?
Are you practicing activities that mentally stimulate you? Are the books you read or the movies you watch fueling your mind?
What gives your life a deeper sense of meaning? Are you getting enough of it?
Do you know how to deal with your emotions? Do you practice activities that recharge you emotionally?
Not everyone has the same needs, and your own needs change during your lifetime too. That's why it's essential to keep in touch with yourself and reassess them often.
If you find that you're neglecting certain areas of your life, plan to make changes. That's what self-care is all about.
I’m Rebecca, a translator and avid traveler, a book worm and horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.