Updated: Sep 29, 2022
Written by: Andrea Holt, LMFT, Certified Addiction Specialist, Certified EMDR Clinician
Self-care has a bad name. Face it, we roll our eyes. We groan. Please do not make me put another thing on my to-do list. But in reality, we need to be focusing on wellness more than ever. We are collectively maxed out.
How can we practice self-care differently? How do we talk about this vital concept without making it feel like such a cumbersome burden? How do we attend to this topic without making ourselves, and others, feel guilty for not doing it “right” or “enough?”
I learned several years ago that we needed to think and speak differently about wellness. This realization hit me hard as I was training family practice resident physicians about the importance of taking care of themselves during residency. I watched their eyes glaze over. I suspect some of them were quite annoyed by my suggestion. Others likely perceived me as out of touch (an accurate perception in that moment frankly). Here I am suggesting that they “make time” for self-care. Groan. Make time from where you ask? I did not realize how impossible that ask was.
The idea that we have to build in time for that hour-long massage, gym workout, pedicure or yoga class can feel daunting. And it can be logistically impossible in some circumstances. What might happen if we shifted our thinking to encourage small doses of wellness? Can we take bite-sized breaks a few times throughout the day to boost productivity? Yes. Yes, we can, and we would likely feel better if we did. Science says we are more productive when we take regular breaks.
It turns out we do not need to engage in lengthy activities to increase our sense of wellness. Is an occasional massage good for us? Undoubtedly. However, we need more attainable wellness activities for the day-to-day maintenance of our emotional and physical health.
Let’s start to prioritize 5-minute screen breaks, take a few moments to step outside and feel the temperature and find time for short physical bursts of energy. We may not have time for a long workout but can we build in 10 minutes of Pilates somewhere in the day? What about 5 minutes of stretching? I recently started walking in place for 5 minutes between sessions or meetings on my solidly booked days. It is astonishing how much this small effort has helped my energy level, especially in the afternoon.
Establishing a gratitude practice can also significantly help our wellbeing. Noticing small wins during the day. Looking for something that went well. Appreciating a piece of nature that we witness. These efforts are small and the rewards add up to be significant.
Vacations are lovely, certainly restorative and yet not something most of us can do frequently. But, can we opt to work a half day, take a random mid-week day off with no plans or schedule a long lunch? These smaller chunks of time stepping away from work are restorative in their own right.
I challenge all of us to rethink what we mean when we say “self-care.” Doing so will make it more attainable and hopefully it will feel less like a chore. Often, it seems as if self-care is a mythical fantasy concept just out of reach. It does not have to be. Let’s make it an achievable reality by managing our expectations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ANDREA HOLT, LMFT
Wellness Leader + Educator | Integrated Care Program Manager | Owner + Therapist, Personal Growth, LLC | Designing, delivering, and scaling innovative corporate wellness strategies to improve employee experience - Follow her