Self-care. It’s the buzzworthy phrase of the year that’s more than just a trend.
This year, 72 percent of millennial women surveyed said self-care and mental health were their priorities, trumping the more traditional physical and financial goals, according to the wellness tech company Shine.
“Self-care is not a new concept, but it’s gaining traction especially with millennials as people realize you do deserve to take care of yourself,” says marriage and family therapist Rebecca Hirsch of Symmetry Counseling, a Chicago practice with couples, individual and family counseling.
Care of ourselves sometimes gets lost in the daily demands of life. Hirsch says many of her clients are floored when they realize how long it’s been since they were alone with their thoughts or took a moment to check in with themselves.
“We are constantly connected. It can be exhausting,” Hirsch says. “We listen to a podcast on our commute to work. We work through lunch. We spread ourselves so thin. We’re constantly giving all day.”
Self-care can mean disconnecting from those external stimuli and instead focusing on internal needs.
“There has been this wave of deprioritizing ourselves. People are so much busier and burnt out. There are so many more distractions. We’re multitasking and juggling. Self-care has to be a part of life,” says Cindy Dooley, co-founder of The Well North Shore.
The critical importance of self-care led Dooley, her husband and their three business partners to open The Well North Shore earlier this year. The meeting and event space offers health, well-being, spirituality and wellness resources focusing on the mind, body and spirit.
“Self-care is different for everyone. It’s whatever makes you feel whole, full, like yourself. Going for a walk, taking an exercise class, getting coffee with a friend. That is self-care,” Dooley says.
Secure yourself first
When it comes to self-care, Dooley says to visualize the instructions given on airplane. Should a safety issue arise, people are instructed to put on their own oxygen masks first before helping others. Self-care, she explains, is much the same.
“I’m a busy mom with three kids. I know it’s easy to get your tank down to empty. When I’m practicing self-care, I’m a better mother, wife and worker,” she says.
Learn to say no
Be intentional with what you add to your day or your life
Take a deep breath
Determine what’s good for you and just for you
In Hirsch’s practice, she often has to explain to clients that self-care isn’t selfish or self-indulgent.
“I recommend practicing self-care to every client, whether an individual or a couple,” Hirsch says. “It helps you to be a whole person, and you bring that wholeness into your other relationships. You can better fulfill your obligations and better function as an individual. This has carryovers to not only your mental and emotional well-being, but physical well-being.”
“Self-care is learning how to say ‘no’ to those around you and put up boundaries,” Hirsch adds. “It’s asking yourself, ‘Will seeing friends add fuel to my tank or take away from it?’ ‘Do I spend my Sunday hanging out by myself in my apartment, relaxing and getting ready for the week, or do I go out with my friends for a Sunday fun day?’”
Carve out time for yourself
Self-care professionals stress the importance of finding the time to focus inward.
“Try taking five minutes a day for some deep breathing. See what that does for your life and go from there,” Dooley says.
Hirsch adds, “What would your day look like if you took 15 minutes for yourself, even if it was only to be alone with your thoughts?”
“It could be one thing or several little things you do for you, as long as it’s intentional and adding to your life,” she says.