Most people are aware of at least the idea of self care, time that is set aside strictly to take care of your own needs (both mentally and physically).
What they might not be aware of is the importance of practicing good self care, and the impact that it can have on your life if you choose to ignore your needs in favor of taking care of everyone else’s.
One of the best ways that you can begin to prioritize yourself and make sure that you are acting from a healthy place is to create a self care plan. CHIJI is here to help, with a step by step guide to creating your own plan and putting it into action.
For Starters… What is Self Care?
Self care, while the details are different for everyone, is just taking care of yourself in a way that makes you feel less stressed and more balanced. This can include different activities (like going for a long walk with a friend), or smaller things that you can do at home by yourself (like painting your nails or reading a book).
The goal of self care is to take the time out from the regular stressors of daily life to be more mindful of what you need.
Try to think of yourself like anyone else in your life that you regularly take care of. If you were able to care for yourself like you care for your partner or your children, what would you need? What would you do for yourself?
When you practice self care on a regular basis, you can more easily identify when you’re starting to get overwhelmed. The earlier you are able to recognize that about yourself, the less time and energy it takes to get yourself back to a healthier, well-balanced place. Part of this is being able to identify your specific triggers, as well.
Self care does not mean that you are selfish. For most of us who have spent our entire lives being told that our value lies in how well we take care of other people, it can sometimes feel like it is selfish. When these thoughts start to sneak in, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that you are just as important as everyone else and you deserve to have your needs met just as much as they do.
Developing A Self Care Plan
Developing a self care plan is helpful, not only for people who haven’t regularly practiced self care before, but for those who need a little reminding of how important that it is.
Self care plans focus on two different scenarios -- maintenance self care and emergency self care. Keep in mind that there really is no one size fits all plan that fits everyone, and self care plans are something that can and should remain as changeable and flexible as humans are.
Step One: Evaluate Your Coping Mechanisms
The very first step in any self care plan is to take a clear look at what currently counts as your self care. There are a few different guides out there to help point you in the direction of what your coping strategies are.
Generally, coping mechanisms exist in three different realms: problem-focused, emotion-focused, and meaning-focused.
Problem-focused coping strategies are pointed at changing the actual, specific situation. Examples include things like asking for help and support when you need it, establishing and standing by healthy boundaries, and setting concrete, realistic goals.
Emotion-focused coping strategies can help you change the way you feel about whatever is going on in your life. Things like working out, meditation, and focusing on eating healthier are great examples.
And finally, there are meaning-focused coping mechanisms. These involve looking at the stress in your life through the lens of being able to use it as a life lesson to learn more about who you really are. Journaling, going to therapy, and making a list of pros and cons are great meaning-focused coping mechanisms.
Keep in mind that not every coping mechanism is healthy or good for you. This part of developing your self care plan should also include identifying which of your coping mechanisms are unhealthy and need to be replaced with something more healthy and beneficial.
Step Two: Evaluate Your Self Care
After you’ve identified your coping mechanisms, move on to the things that you regularly do for self care. This checklist can be helpful so that you can compile them all in one spot, which helps you evaluate them more clearly
Much like coping mechanisms, self care comes in a variety of different categories: physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual, as well as self care that is specifically done in your relationship or at work.
The ultimate goal is to create a healthy balance between them all, but right now you’re just evaluating them and taking stock of what you’re doing currently. As you work through the list, take notes of the things that you may want to try when you’re creating your new self care plan.
Step Three: Create Your Maintenance Self Care Plan
Maintenance self care is any self care that you plan to do on a regular basis to enhance your mental and physical well-being.
You’ll want to create a quality list with multiple options in each of the important self care categories: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, mental, and social.
Focus only on things that help you feel more calm and bring you a sense of joy. Don’t feel like you need to put the things that you “should” put on there just because they’re standard. This is about you, and it should be specific to who you are.
You’ll also want to identify any potential barriers to being able to enact your maintenance self care plan, and ways that you can work to conquer them.
Step Four: Create Your Emergency Self Care Plan
Unfortunately, not every single stressful event in our life can be easily foreseen in advance. Often those events will sneak up on us, causing us to be caught totally surprised and unaware. That’s why creating an emergency self care plan is just as important as creating a maintenance plan.
Think of your emergency self care plan as being similar to creating any other emergency plan. You should always know what to do if there is a fire or a medical emergency, but what if you experience an unexpected loss or breakup?
These self care activities can be things that are also on your maintenance self care plan, but you’ll want to try to focus on things that you can do anywhere that you may experience stress.
Breathing exercises and meditation are great examples of ways that you can help to calm yourself during a self care emergency, but you may also want to include things that you know calm you down like calling a friend or taking a calm bath (light one of our crystal energy candles like the Peace candle to help even more).
Step Five: Make A Commitment and Follow Through
Once you’ve created your self care plans, the work doesn’t stop there! Look over both plans and make a commitment to yourself to follow through.
If you notice that you’re feeling a lot of hesitancy and push back to being able to commit, take some time to explore why you may be feeling that way. Is it worry that you’ll be seen like you’re being selfish? Do you feel guilty?
Try to think of your self care as following a healthcare professional’s instructions for your physical health. You would never feel guilty about using insulin if you needed it, so why make your mental health any less important?
It can also really help to share your self care plans with the people closest to you that you know that you can trust. There is just something about talking about your plans and goals that makes them feel more real, more solid. You can also trade ideas for other self care activities, and support each other.
And remember, no one is perfect. You can’t be expected to follow through with either plan every single time. But practice does make perfect, and the more frequently you’re able to put them into action the more natural it becomes.
Don’t beat yourself up over imperfection, because that’s just not realistic. It’s the commitment that matters at the end of the day.
Creating a self care plan is the perfect way to not only evaluate where your current routine stands, but help you develop a better plan for the future.
CHIJI is here to help you find a plan that works for you, and find products that can help support you on your journey to better mental and physical health. Having both a maintenance and an emergency plan at your disposal, that you can pull out any time that you need it, can help make any situation feel a little more manageable.