Self-Care for Stress Reduction
Many of us are relieved that 2020 is behind us, yet we are worried about what 2021 has in stock due to massive changes and uncertainties our world has faced since last year. There have been many promises of change and improvements to hasten our return to normalcy, yet our optimism is cautious. Now that our first month of 2021 has passed, how do we reflect and improve our 2021 outlook? I routinely speak with clients regarding the importance of prioritizing self-care. Often, I use the analogy of the preflight safety briefing reminding passengers that they should put on their oxygen masks before attempting to assist others. Without first putting on your mask, you are likely to become incapacitated and unable to effectively help others. Thus, if we do not prioritize self-care, then we are unable to provide adequate care for others.
Start with a Self-Care Self-Assessment
To determine your self-care needs, first, you should complete a quick self-assessment. Once you have completed your self-assessment and identified your areas needing improvement, then you should create a self-care plan. A self-care plan will be a useful tool to help you identify what resources that you need in order to reduce your stress. Having a personal care strategy will help you establish new routines, and recruit support from others.
Set Reasonable Goals and Boundaries
Another common casualty of poor self-care is the increased risk of suffering compassion fatigue and burnout. Compassion fatigue may negatively impact and impair our personal, social, and occupational functioning along with increasing our risk for future psychological and health problems. Many of us are finding that the pandemic has blurred the boundaries between our personal and professional lives. For many, the proverbial lunch hour no longer exists. So how do we reclaim time for ourselves when we are constantly inundated with to-do lists? First, start slow and set a reasonable and attainable goal. Are you able to set aside 5 minutes or at least 10 minutes a day? If so, research has shown that integrating meditation or mindfulness practice into your daily routine can improve your overall well being along with enhancing your focus and mental stamina. What if you have a bit more time to spare? Perhaps you can carve out an actual lunch break where you leave devices in another room and just sit and eat mindfully. Setting a goal for longer outings is also important, like going for a mindful walk or a hike.
In addition to setting aside time for breaks and outings, another important skill is learning the ability to self-soothe. An individual’s ability to self-soothe may be improved by adopting a kind and gentle approach to oneself. One critical skill that drastically improves our ability to self-soothe is practicing the art of self-compassion. By learning how to comfort ourselves and forgive ourselves for our inadequacies, we increase our capacity to cope during difficult times. Our ability to recover when faced with adversity is often referred to as resilience. By practicing self-kindness, recognizing that suffering is part of the human experience, and observing our feelings in a nonjudgmental manner, we feel more compassionate towards both ourselves and others. Taking time to care for yourself regularly will make you a better caretaker not only for yourself but for others as well. If you feel that you may benefit from additional support after reading this post, please reach out to schedule an appointment with one of our providers.