When we think about self-care, the kinds of things that often come immediately to mind are hot bubble baths, a glass of wine at the end of a long day, a piece of chocolate to reward us for making it through a week of healthy eating and so on. And these things are self-care… but are they enough to do what self-care should? That is, are the enough to keep us in balance?
Much of what we consider to be self-care is actually a reactive response to stress instead of a well-planned strategy to ensure we are at our best at all times.
In a recent talk to educational leaders, Associate Director of School Wellbeing at Real Schools Australia Amy Green suggested that we need to make our self-care strategies STRATEGIC and EMBEDDED into our lives in order to really feel the benefits of them. This was such a powerful message that we felt it needed to be shared on The Wellbeing Hive.
Self-Care, when done properly, is an important component of our psychological wellbeing. It should boost positive emotions – and not just in the moment, but in the long term. For example, a piece of chocolate may be great in the moment, but if we are concerned about our health long-term, this may not be a good strategy over time. Nor may glasses of wine or nights spent in the bath – both of which may create stress at other times that actually contributes to making our life HARDER.
When we are strategic about self-care, we make proactive choices that become a part of our everyday lifestyles that help us to avoid the need for so much impromptu, short-term solutions.
The five daily habits of The Wellbeing Hive provide excellent guidance here, and Green herself suggests that exercise and nutrition are non-negotiables that we need to be much more conscious of. Both of these have the capacity to make us feel good both short and long term, and to avoid afternoon slumps when we have had too much sugar or not enough fresh air.
She also espouses being creative and connecting – so long as we are connecting with positive people – as other good strategic wellbeing choices.
But there are a lot of very surprising, but thoughtful and useful things she also suggests should be part of our wellbeing and self-care strategy. Some of these include:
We are all guilty of doing too much at times, and sometimes of feeling like we cannot get enough time to look after ourselves. Well, Green suggests we need to take a bit more control here – and this is where the strategic thinking comes into place. Plan for the things that work for you – and them begin to embed them into your lifestyle. This really resonated with me, as a busy person who often feels a bit out of control of making sure I get enough of these basics. So I will be taking up her challenge, and creating a strategic wellbeing plan that tries to nourish my physical, mindful, connected and learning self.
On a deeper level, as we touched on above, psychological wellbeing also depends on us feeling like we make a contribution to the world around us and have a positive impact. This may require more thinking, depending on your priorities and what you consider to be important – but it is an important part of us feeling connected to something greater and more meaningful than ourselves. We explored Purpose as a Wellbeing Theme in Term 3 last year, in the midst of all those COVID lockdowns, and you can find much wisdom in this article published on the Hive.
So, rather than JUST opening the wine or running the bath (because sometimes these are needed too!) try spending some time thinking more strategically about self-care, and work to ritualise some practices that will make you feel good long-term… and not just in the moment.
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