Healthy self-care involves stepping out of the hustle and bustle of life to tend to one’s physical and emotional needs. Self-care is important because the human body requires rest. Think of the body as an organic machine. Cars require oil changes. Computers need reboots. And the human body must de-stress.
Although the word self-care sounds sound selfish, don’t be misled. Tending to one’s self-care needs is just the opposite. In fact, practicing healthy self-care may be one of the most unselfish things we do. The primary goals of caring for ourself are twofold. First, self-care allows us to function better. Second, once we are in a healthy place, we are better equipped to tend to the needs of others.
The Self-Care Map, Infographic and Printable
Maintaining a steady rhythm of self-care is an ongoing journey and not a one-time event. In this post, you’ll find two self-care infographics. The first is presented as a map and the second as an ordered list. Both are included because managing stress is not a one and done deal. New stressors arise each week. This means we must revise and finetune our self-care plan on a continual basis.
Caring for You by Acting on What You Know
Knowing about good self-care on an intellectual level is not enough. I once heard a speaker say that most people could significantly improve their lives simply by simply acting upon what they already know. I think he is right! So even if you think, I already know this, keep reading. The goal is not to know about self-care but to truly KNOW it—on a deep, experiential level.
Two different self-care infographics are included so you can refer to the one that fits your unique learning style best. Now, let’s dive into exactly why caring for ourselves matters so much!
A Simple Self-Care Metaphor
If you’ve ever traveled by plane, then you’re probably familiar with the standard emergency protocol. If the cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks drop. Airline flyers are instructed to put on their masks first, before helping other passengers. This might be the most obvious example of how self-care is unselfish in a counterintuitive way.
As a dad to four amazing girls, my natural tendency is to assure my kids are safe. Equipping my oxygen mask first goes against my daddy instincts. I want to help my kids! But this rule has a logical reason. If I don’t care for myself, I risk losing consciousness. If this happens, then our whole family is in trouble. Self-care is a lot like an oxygen mask. We tend to our own mental and emotional needs in order to better care for others.Self-care is like an oxygen mask. We tend to our needs first in order to better care for others. Click To Tweet
The Power of Caring for You
Most self-care is not this dramatic. Yet, even when the stakes are lower, tending to our needs just makes sense. One reason is that attitudes are contagious. Thanks to mirror neurons—transmitters that fire both when an action is performed and observed—we easily influence the attitudes of others. If you doubt this, then try a simple experiment. The next time a baby smiles at you, try not to smile back—I dare you. Chance are, you’ll find yourself wearing a huge grin before you know what happened. That’s the power of mirror neurons at work!
How to Recharge Fast
Now, let’s examine how attitudes are used to influence others on a more practical level. A few years ago, I returned from work utterly exhausted. Before walking in the door, I thought to myself, I’d like to go into our bedroom, turn on our television, crash on our kingsize bed, and vege out. But all this changed the moment I opened the door.
My three and four-year-old daughters raced to greet me with squeals of delight and enormous hugs. Jenny, my amazing wife, paused her work to wrap her arms around me too. Our embrace, however, was quickly interrupted as the girls tugged me into the back yard. This was followed by pleas to push them on the swing, along with more squeals of joy. Soon, I was chatting, laughing, and having a blast!
Wow! Where did all this energy come from, I wondered. Today I know. Mirror neurons are the original Red Bull. While a shot of caffeine is nice, nothing energizes us quite like spending time around other enthusiastic people. You and I cannot give to others something we don’t possess ourselves. This is why self-care is so important.
Tending to our self-care needs helps us feel great. It also allows us to energize, encourage, and support those who matter most! To care for others well, we must recharge first. And, if you’re a busy parent, you’ll need to recharge fast. So keep reading. This post will guide you on the journey!
Care for You and Energize Others
One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from Ray Tucker. Ray says, “There are two types of leaders, those who generate energy and those who consume energy. Be a leader who generates energy.” This statement is incredibly versatile. Husbands, wives, parents, coaches, teachers, and mentors are all leaders. If you fall into one of these categories, you will either generate energy or consume energy. The only question is, Which type of leader you will be?There are two types of leaders, those who generate energy and those who consume energy. Be a leader who generates energy. ~Ray Tucker Click To Tweet
Self-Care Allows You to Be the Thermostat
At ITHRIVE320, one of our 15 core principles says, “Be the thermostat and not the thermometer.” Thermometers change with the environment. During our gorgeous Minnesota Summers, the thermometer is warm. During our long, cold winters, the thermometer runs cold. The surrounding weather determines its state.
Some people act like a thermometer. When life goes their way, their attitude is cheerful. However, when things go haywire—as they always do—worry, fear, and sorrow set in.
Fortunately, even during our cold Minnesota winters, our home is always a toasty 70 degrees. This, of course, is due to our thermostat, which sets the temperature of our home. Some people are like a thermostat. Regardless of their circumstances, they remain friendly, hopeful, and optimistic. Instead of being dragged down by the negative attitudes of others, thermostats set the tone of the room. The positive attitude of these inspiring leaders elevates the moods of everyone they connect with!
In this post, we’ll examine eight quick and easy self-care wins. These strategies will help you tend to your own mental and emotional needs so you can elevate your attitude, and care for others. Whether you are a spouse seeking to influence your partner, a parent longing to raise happy kids, or a leader who wants to create an optimistic atmosphere for your organization, these self-care strategies are for you!
The Ultimate Self-Care Infographic
Use the self-care infographic below to get a broad overview of eight strategies for recharging fast. Then, keeep reading for deeper insights into each powerful self-care idea!
Now, let’s dive deeper into each of these powerful self-care strategies.
Self-Care Idea 1: Sip Your Coffee Slowly
As you have probably guessed, I love coffee. There is nothing better than sipping a good cop-o-joe. Especially on a cold winter morning. But have you ever had one of those days when you are in such a rush that you down your coffee fast—so fast that you hardly taste it?
I’ve done this far more than I care to admit—which is why this particular self-care strategy is so important. Of course, this idea isn’t really about coffee. In fact, you don’t even have to be a coffee drinker to use it to your advantage. The goal is to be fully present and truly enjoy the things we love.
- If you like tea, then sip that as you immerse yourself in the moment.
- If you’re a reader, don’t rush through your next book. Envelope yourself in the experience.
- Perhaps you love the outdoors. Great! Be present and soak in every sight, sound, and cool breeze!
The statement “Sip your coffee slowly” is a way of reminding myself to be mindful. Mindfulness is the art of enjoying each second to its fullest. For me, this happens early in the morning, before the rest of my family is awake. No matter how chaotic or stressful the rest of your day may be, sip your coffee slowly. Remind yourself that you are safe and healthy. At this moment, life is good!To reduce stress, sip your coffee slowly. Pause to savor the beverage and thoroughly enjoy the moment! Click To Tweet
Self-Care Action Step:
Download one of these free self-care posters and hang it where you will see it often. Sometimes we have slow in order to go fast. So sip your coffee (or another favorite beverage slowly), recharge fast, then dive into your day! We’ve included printable self-care posters for both coffee aficionados and non coffee drinkers, below!
Self-Care Idea 2: Use Your Reset Button
If you grew up playing the original Nintendo Entertainment System, you probably remember the marvelous reset button. Did a game of Super Mario Brothers go wrong? No worries. Just press the reset button, and you have the opportunity to turn things around!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if life came with a reset button too?
While why shouldn’t it? After all, Monopoly has a Get Out of Jail Free card. Golf has mulligans. And you and I should be allowed an occasional do-over too.
My amazing wife, Jenny, knows of a mom who will catch herself with a bad attitude. Then, she yells out, “Plot twist,” and turns her attitude around. She does this because yelling the words “Plot twist!” makes her smile. She also discovered that she has the ability to take charge of her emotions. And you do too!
In life, so many things are outside of our control. Fortunately, our attitude isn’t one of them. This simple self-care strategy is about taking 100 percent responsibility for our attitude and actions. Whether you call this particular coping skill a rest button, a do-over, a plot twist, or a get out of jail free card, the important thing is that you recognize when you’re in a downward spiral. Then, step away from the situation. Take time to experience your negative emotions if you need to. But don’t get stuck in them. Use your reset button to spiral back up.For a quick self-care win, use your reset button. Announce "Plot twist!" or "Do over!" Then, restart with a positive attitude. Click To Tweet
Self-Care Idea 3: Squash A.N.T.’s Fast
Ants are pesky creatures that invade our homes. And A.N.T.’s is an acronym for automatic negative thoughts. These are self-defeating ways of thinking that pull us down. Automatic negative thoughts focus on the worst possible outcome. The esteemed therapist Albert Ellis used words like awfulizing and catastrophizing to describe this downward thought spiral.
According to an article on www.NBCnews.com, roughly 85% of the things people worry about never happen. Because most of our worry is useless squashing A.N.T.’s is a powerful self-care tool. But this doesn’t mean acting like life is all rainbows and unicorn. Obviously, it’s not. And jumping from one end of the spectrum to the opposite extreme is rarely useful. Albert Ellis founded Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, or REBT for short. This amazing style of therapy has the word rational is built into its name.
When sad things happen, human beings need to grieve. And if someone tries to harm us or our family, anger may be the most appropriate response. Negative emotions—like anger, sadness, fear, and frustration—all serve a purpose. The key is not to get stuck in them. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” I like the old King James version that uses the words sound mind. God calls us to sound-minded thinking. These thoughts are neither overly optimistic nor pessimistic. Instead, sound-minded thoughts are in alignment with reality and with God’s word.
How to Practice Sounded-Minded Thinking
To squash A.N.T.s follow these steps.
- First, learn to identify your automatic negative thoughts. The next time you feel sad, mad, fearful, or frustrated, pause, and see if you can identify the specific thought attached to the emotion. Trust me, it’s there. Practice this often as it will help you to become more aware of your A.N.T.s
- Next, try one of these two reframes.
- Ask, How else can I think about this? List as many ideas as you can and pick an alternative that is closely aligned with reality.
- Think to yourself, What’s good about this situation? Perhaps it’s an opportunity for learning and growth. Maybe it caused you to realize you are stronger and more capable than you knew. It may have provided motivation for you to expand your skills, increase your circle of influence, or try something new.
- Once you find a positive reframe, use it often. Whenever you catch your thoughts bending toward the negative, squash those A.N.T.S. fast!
This simple self-care strategy is powerful. So be sure to experiment with it and see how well it works for you.To reduce stress, squash ANTs fast. Identify automatic negative thoughts. Then, replace them with positive alternatives. Click To Tweet
Self-Care Idea 4: Pay Down Your Sleep Debt
The young couple traversed to the pastor’s hunting cabin for a weekend getaway. Their marriage was on the rocks and this wise pastor knew they needed to connect. The plan was for this couple to escape the monotonous routine of life and simply enjoy time in one another’s presence.
The pastor warned the couple the cabin was somewhat rustic. “There is no t.v. so be sure to bring plenty of board games, a good book, be prepared to go on walks, and bond.” After two nights, the pastor checked-in with the couple by phone.
“Honestly pastor,” the husband replied, “The two of us haven’t spent as much time together as we hoped. Once we got away from the kids, we kind of crashed. We sleep, wake up for a few hours, and then go right back to bed. I’m sorry. This isn’t the connection experience you told us to have.”
How do you think the pastor responded? Was he mad? Furious perhaps?
Remember, I said this was a wise pastor, and he was overjoyed! This pastor understands the true value of self-care. The human body needs rest. For most adults, a good night’s sleep is somewhere between 7-9 hours. Because everyone’s biology is different, the amount of time varies slightly. What doesn’t change is our need for rest.Are you getting enough sleep? For most adults, this is between 7-9 hours of uninterrupted rest! Click To Tweet
Self-Care and Sleeplessness
I’ll always remember the week our daughter Addison was born. The day of her birth was amazing. I could not have been prouder. That was the day I became a daddy to the third of our four biological daughters. I’ll be honest though, the days that followed were rough.
Addison was a poor sleeper. And soon, both my amazing wife and I built up a massive sleep debt. On Saturday morning, I offered to take all three girls to tennis lessons so Jenny could rest. My father-in-law, who was either looking for something to do or who may have been slightly worried about my state of mind, came along. During the lessons, two of our friends came to see baby Addison, who was snuggled in my arms. “Awww, she’s so cute. What’s her name?” they asked.
That’s when my mind went completely blank. It was such an odd feeling. I knew my daughter’s name. Jenny and I chose this name months before Addison’s birth. We talked about baby Addison. Jenny made up songs that included her name. And I never had trouble remembering what to call her before.
But at that moment, it was useless. I felt all the blood in my body rush to my face out of embarrassment. The information was there and I couldn’t access it. I sheepishly looked up at my father-in-law. “I’m sorry,” I said. “You’re going to have to help me with this one.”
That was when I experienced the mind-blowing impact of a severe sleep deficit!
The Sleep-Deficit Impact:
Sleep deprivation can make us moody, forgetful, prone to accidents, throws our balance off, lowers one’s sex drive, and makes it difficult to concentrate. Quite obviously, none of these things are ingredients for success. So if you find yourself exhausted, pay off your sleep debt fast. Sometimes a good night’s rest is enough to make the entire world seem like a brighter place. Although this idea is simple, don’t underestimate the power of this self-care strategy.To feel better, pay down your sleep debt. Catching up on sleep makes everything feel brighter! Click To Tweet
Self-Care Idea 5: Phone a Cheerful Friend
Phoning a friend is one of three life-lines in the popular game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Phoning a cheerful friend is also an excellent stress management skill. You and I are biopsychosocial beings. This is a fancy way of saying our biology (our physical body) connects to our psychology (our thoughts), which ties to our sociology (our relationships). In simple terms, people are a lot like spaghetti. Everything intertwines with everything else.
Because attitudes are contagious, when we spend time around happy people, our attitude naturally lifts. This bond can be with a spouse, a family member, or a close friend. The important thing is to maintain strong connections with other adults who have an infectious enthusiasm for life. Not only is this a powerful self-care strategy. It’s also a lot of fun too!To recharge fast, phone a cheerful friend. Associate with people who carry an infectious enthusiasm for life. Click To Tweet
Self-Care Idea 6: Get Active
This next self-care strategy is all about joining the movement, movement. Exercise is powerful! One study concludes, “Exercise appears to be an effective treatment for depression, improving depressive symptoms to a comparable extent as pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy.” The catch is that depression will cause a person to want to do anything but exercise.
When true depression hits, closing the curtains, staying in bed, and doing anything but exercising feels best. So don’t wait to dive into this potent stress management tool. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that we get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. This means about 21 minutes of moderate physical activity a day—which is more than doable!
For married couples, walking together is a great way to connect with each other while also taking care of one’s own self-care needs. You also might try stacking these self-care ideas by walking with a friend, for an even more powerful stress-reducing experience.Get active! Aerobic activity reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. It's also a great way to care for you! Click To Tweet
Self-Care Idea 7: Smile Gently
Not only are attitudes contagious, so are smiles. And smiling is important because it impacts our attitude. During my Junior year of high school, my mom gave me a copy of Dale Carnegie’s masterpiece, How to Win Friends and Influences People. Then, she took things a step further, by offering to pay me $10 every time I read the book. Not only was this idea genius, but her plan worked beautifully.
That book became my go-to resource when I was in a bind. Not only was this a great way to earn $10, but it also taught me a ton about people. If you’re not familiar with this book, you should know it has a key summary statement at the end of each chapter. One chapter, in particular, stands out, as the summary is simply, “Smile.”
Apparently, Carnegie believed a smile is so powerful it stands on its own. I think he’s right! As previously mentioned, our biology, psychology, and social relationships all intertwine. A genuine smile is a biological act that sends a message to our brain that says, “It’s time to feel happier now.”
Of course, when others see us smile, they are more likely to smile back and interact with us in positive ways. Smiling is included on this self-care list because it’s an excellent way to recharge fast. Although smiling is not a cure-all for years of pent-up stress, it is an excellent way to break out of negativity and to begin an upward spiral.To recharge fast, start with a smile. A soft, warm smile tells the brain, "It's time to feel happier!" Click To Tweet
Self-Care Idea 8: Breathe Deeply
As a marriage and family therapist, I’ve taught deep breathing to young children, using simple props like a pinwheel and a bubble wand. I’ve also taught these same skills to adults in a domestic violence offenders program. Whether you are three-years-old, thirty, or live to be a hundred, deep breathing works!
The amygdala is the body’s emergency response system. This tiny, almond-shaped portion of our brain is responsible for our emergency fight or flight mode. The amygdala’s job is to keep our body safe. And while it’s a life-saver in true emergencies (such as a fire or if a vehicle is speeding toward us), the amygdala can also wreak havoc in relationships.
The amygdala’s job isn’t to think logically, but to act quickly. In fact, when the amygdala is activated, the frontal cortex (or critical thinking part of our brain) shuts off. The amygdala’s function is to quickly get us out of harm’s way. However, problems arise when the amygdala activates when there is no real danger around. This is why when people are “triggered,” they are far more likely to say things they later regret.
Slow, deep breaths are one of the fasts ways to turn off the body’s emergency response system and exit fight or flight mode.
Deep Breathing Self-Care
Practicing deep breathing self-care can be as simple as inhaling through your nose, filling your lungs to capacity, and exhaling through your mouth. When stressed, you and I tend to breathe short, shallow breaths from our chest. Long, deep breaths send signals to the amygdala that we are OK, and there is no need to activate.
To supercharge this self-care activity, you’ll want to find a calm, quiet place. Then, close your eyes, sit up straight, relax your shoulders, and shut your eyes. With each breath, picture the life-giving oxygen entering and leaving your lungs. Although breathing deeply is simple, it truly is a powerful way to recharge fast!Breathe deeply. Slow breaths turn off the body's emergency response system and are excellent self-care! Click To Tweet
Stress Management in Extreme Times
Extreme times call for extreme self-care. Stress is cumulative, which means it builds over time. Some people pack in the stress, like a barrel of gunpowder. Then, a small upset sparks an explosion. This may manifest in a river of tears, a burst of rage, or in acting out of character. A second, far better option, is to practice extreme self-care. This means taking that gunpowder like stress and releasing it thought the day. Imagine a barrel of gun-power spread over a large parking lot. When ignited, instead of a boom, there is only a sizzle and a poof.
Extreme self-care doesn’t mean we never experience negative emotions. Sadness, anger, and anxiety all serve a purpose. The goal is not to eliminate these feelings. Instead, it’s to prevent stress-buildup. Replace emotional explosions with a sizzle and a poof allows us to better care for the ones we love. As we have seen, healthy self-care is not selfish. It allows us to truly care for our spouse, our family, and those who matter most!Stress is cumulative, which means it builds up over time. Extreme times call for extreme self-care. Click To Tweet
Reduce Stress and Recharge Fast—Live Presentation
My amazing wife, Jenny, and I hosted a live webinar where we dove into these 8 self-care wins. If you prefer to watch and listen or want to dive deeper into this important topic, then be sure to check out our 8 Quick and Easy Self-Care Wins presentation, below. This snippet was part of our Elevate Your Love webinar. We focused on ways couples can increase peace and love in their relationship by taking care of themselves first. This way they can tend to their marriage and connect to their spouse with joy!
Diving Deeper into Healthy Coping Skills and Caring for You
In this post, we examined 10 powerful self-care strategies, also known as positive coping skills. To dive even deeper, here are 8 self-care questions for reflection and discussion.
- How does the idea of caring for yourself so that you can care for others resonate with you? Do you agree, disagree, or have a slightly different view, and why?
- How do you know when you are stressed? What does stress-overwhelm look and feel like for you?
- Which of the 8 self-care ideas presented resonated with you the most?
- What stress management strategies would you add to this list?
- How will you practice extreme self-care and take your coping skills to the next level? Be sure to get as specific as you can with this one.
- On a scale of 1-10, (with 10 being completely overwhelmed and a 1 feeling like you are relaxing on a tropical island) how would you rate your level of stress right now?
- What specifically did you do to care for yourself today?
- Do you have a go-to coping skill for times you need to recharge fast? If so, what is it?
- What will you do to help your kids learn and practice healthy coping?
- What advice would you give to someone feeling stress out an overwhelmed? How good are you at following this wisdom yourself?
In addition to reflecting on the stress management questions, feel free to add to the conversation by answering any or all of them in the comments below. We would love to hear your thoughts on healthy self-care!
Finally, dive deeper into self-care with one-on-one coaching. Schedule a free 45-minute call here to find out more about what coaching is and to see if it’s right for you. On this call, we’ll examine where you are now, where you want to go, and put together an action plan of quick wins for the week. Finally, we’ll explore if ongoing coaching is a good fit and other alternatives for long-term growth. You’ve got nothing to lose. So why not schedule a FREE coaching call and supercharge your growth today!