Practicing practical self-care can be a task that gets easily forgotten. Putting everyone else’s needs above your own and the daily stressors with work, life, and social connections creates roadblocks in remembering to take care of and cherish the relationship we have with ourselves – the most important relationship we will have in our life. Dr. Shainna Ali, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, author, and presenter of Community Education Programs at CHWB talked with us about how to prioritize practical self-care in our daily lives.
CHWB: What is your definition of self-care and what does it look like?
Dr. Shainna: It’s important to realize that the role of the self is paramount to this. I always encourage folks to think about what self-care means to them, because the definition looks different for each person. But the definition that I use is that self-care is recognizing and tending to your needs in the current context. There are lots of different needs that we might have, and paying attention to where our needs are and how we can meet them – that is the engaged practice of self-care. Something that can help us over the course of our lives is developing our self-care kit. For some, that’s literal. For others, it’s a mental list. We want to know the different dimensions of wellness and where our needs live.
CHWB: What are the benefits of self-care?
Dr. Shainna: When you’re investing in yourself, you’re better able to show up in different spaces for you and others. At work, within the community, your family and loved ones – those are all places where practicing self-care for you has benefits for others. The benefits are so broad, if I think about individual benefits, of course, it’s better for mood regulation, decreasing mental health ailments, reducing stress, just to name a few. There are also physical benefits to lowering blood pressure and feeling the healing process has been associated with self-care. But also, interpersonally we’re better able to communicate.
CHWB: From your experience, and time working with others, is practicing self-care something that takes practice? And if so, how do we become better self-care advocates?
Dr. Shainna: Absolutely. There’s a reason I use the word, practice. I rarely say self-care by itself because it requires an engaged action and there are behavioral things that you’re actually doing, not just the thought. True self-care happens with a behavioral asset, so it’s something that needs to be exerted and therefore, practiced. I think most people approach self-care as “I took this class, I ate this way today, and I’m good for some time.” I wish it worked that way or was that easy. It’s an active practice, right? As our needs change and the world around us changes, so does our definition of self-care. It allows us to continue to learn and grow.
CHWB: So, it’s not just saying, one Saturday, every month, I’m going to do a self-care day. It’s really an active practice in your everyday life, right?
Dr. Shainna: Yes. And you know, I don’t want to put down the moments that some people recognize as self-care because it does look different for everyone. Like, going on vacation to Hawaii, right? That’s an indulgent self-care act. Now, am I going to do that every day? Or again, in another decade? Probably not. So, it’s just important that in context, exercising every day, going to bed at a certain time, deep breathing – those are all self-care practices that we can expect on a day-to-day versus some of the bigger moments.
CHWB: Is there a magic formula for how we balance and prioritize the obligations in our life like our jobs, families, social connections, self-care?
Dr. Shainna: I love this question, because it’s one that we are deep diving into during the self-care series I’m teaching at the Center in September. So, I do believe there’s a formula, but it changes as we and the world around us also changes. Is part of our self-care practice looking at this formula the same today as it was last year? Is it the same next year? It’s about the formula in the present. Analyzing where you are in life, your needs, and the world around you. The method that I use and a sneak peek, and what we’ll be utilizing in the series in September is to expand our holistic view of wellness. Not only to see what our general needs are, but to focus on what our specific and current prioritized needs are as well.
An example I use is that if someone just got a new diagnosis, and it can be anything physical, mental – that will cause your self-care priority to be spotlighted on your health. It doesn’t mean that your social, spiritual, or even occupational wellbeing doesn’t matter anymore, it means that your formula is going to adapt and prioritize your health.
I have found this to be such an empowering approach to self-care because it’s really understanding and exploring who you are, your needs, and realizing which practices of self-care will better help you.
Next Steps You Can Take for Practicing Self-Care
Dr. Shainna Ali is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, educator, author, and advocate in helping individuals recognize the importance of fostering mental wellbeing. This September, Dr. Shainna will be leading a four-part series at the Center for Health & Wellbeing designed to empower participants to dig deep into self-care and learn research-based steps to prioritize wellbeing. The self-help, four-part series is free and open-the-public. Register HERE.
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