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A Case for Self Care in the New Year

path in the woods

Written by Judy Bankman

Taking a long walk in nature. Getting adequate sleep. Spending time with loved ones. Do these suggestions sound familiar? I’m sure you’ve heard long lists of ideas for what is known as Self Care. “Self care” has recently become a bit of a catch phrase: earlier this year, NPR reported on “The Millennial Obsession With Self-Care”. Maybe millenials are a little bit obsessed with Self Care, but the world is also changing - political polarization, a culture of convenience, unaffordable housing, rising health care costs – and it seems to me that Self Care is more important now than ever.

So what exactly is Self Care? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it simply as “care of oneself”, while goodtherapy.org expands on this definition to include “activities an individual engages in to relax or attain emotional well-being, such as meditating, journaling, or visiting a counselor.” I like to think of Self Care as the myriad ways we give love to ourselves.

My favorite forms of Self Care are taking baths, doing yoga, and meditating in a group. Sometimes Self Care is easy for me: yes, I always want to take a bath after work in the winter! Other times it can be hard: I really need to rest, but I don’t want to disappoint my friends by not going out with them. Self Care challenges us to put our needs first, which feels uncomfortable for many of us. Like anything, Self Care is a practice. Once we make a habit out of getting 8 hours of a sleep each night, or cooking for ourselves once a week, it becomes less difficult to accomplish.

Often professionals who give generously to others are the ones who benefit the most from Self Care. Doctors, nurses, counselors, and even activists who work for social justice sometimes deny themselves Self Care because they are working hard caring for others. Actually, giving ourselves care helps us care better for others. If we’re not healthy, grounded, and fully awake, how can we possibly help our clients and our communities?

The beauty of Self Care is that you get to choose what works for you. What makes you feel grounded and at ease? What makes you feel healthy? What makes you feel cared for and loved? Answering these questions can help you figure out what actions to take to support yourself.

As we enter 2018 and think about our New Year’s resolutions, we can begin to incorporate Self Care into our daily routine. Remember, Self Care shouldn’t feel like a chore. If going to the gym every day is going to make you feel resentful, it’s not Self Care! Maybe twice a week works better for you.

I like to create a goal that feels achievable and measurable (e.g. gym twice a week) alongside a larger intention or affirmation (e.g. “May I feel powerful and resilient”). This gives me guidance while also focusing on a concrete and attainable goal.

So, how can you love yourself more in the New Year?