By Venée M. Hummel, LCSW
February’s famous unofficial holiday brings with it a season emphasizing love. In the midst of Valentine’s Day candy hearts and cards, it is important to remember that you are deserving and needing of giving and receiving love from yourself. The very concept of loving yourself can seem broad, unattainable, and even selfish. Being kind to yourself involves self-awareness and self-care.
The idea of self-care often conjures up examples such as:
While these acts very well can be self-care activities for some, I want to offer up a more robust framework for self-care.
What is self-care?
Self-care is a proactive, preventative practice that occurs on a regular basis in order to lessen the effects of both daily stress and inevitable, unexpected larger stressors. When you engage in self-care activities regularly and intentionally, it is like putting money into emergency savings or a “rainy-day fund.” The practice of saving money will not prevent stressful events from happening (like an unexpected medical expense or car problems), however it will help lessen the impact and setback of the stressor because you had more resources saved up.
The activities that are considered self-care are different for people and happen across a variety of domains.
A helpful acronym for self-care and the variety that it encompasses is RESPECT.
Recreational: Playing/watching sports, board games, TV shows and movies, hunting, reading
Emotional: Connecting with trusted friends and family, journaling, giving yourself positive praise and affirmations, allowing time and space to cry when needed
Spiritual: Time in prayer and/or meditation; time spent at your place of worship; reading scripture, devotionals, and/or other religious literature; allowing yourself to be reflective; a mindful nature walk
Physical: Getting enough sleep, eating healthy/regularly, exercise, outdoor walks, playing sports, making time for medical appointments (to include preventative care), taking time for physical intimacy with yourself and/or your partner, getting massages
Employment and Educational: Leaving work on time, saying no sometimes to extra responsibilities, engage in the activities that you love most about your work, sign up for a class that interests you at a local college or online, volunteer for a cause that you are passionate about, listen to podcasts that strike your interest and foster learning
Community: Spending time with others whose company you enjoy, having friends over for dinner or a game night, going to a community event and meeting people, staying in contact with important family and friends
Tasks: Preparing a meal, organizing a cluttered space, washing the car, completing errands like grocery shopping, cleaning, meal prepping for the week, gardening, creating lists and reminders
How do I do self-care?
Engaging in self-care is a multi-step process. For that, I have another helpful acronym courtesy of “Zero to Three” (2007), which can help you incorporate self-care more regularly and intentionally into your life: CARE.
Consider your needs
Arrange your schedule
Resolve to follow through
Prioritizing your needs and attending to your physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and relational well-being is truly an act of love, kindness, and compassion. In doing so, you are practicing self-awareness and emphasizing your worth, which in turn can help boost self-esteem. This Valentine’s Day, give yourself the gift of self-care with love and intentionality, because gifts given with those two ingredients really are the best kind.
Cohen Military Family Clinic