We are just under one week into the new year and as we eagerly welcome 2021 with open arms and hearts, most of us have already whipped out our vision boards and committed to resolutions. The ever-popular weight loss goals, business start-ups, and house de-cluttering plans has been set for the next 360 days. However, how many people actually commit to self-care? Self-care refers to any action that promotes and/or protects one’s mental and physical well-being, especially during periods of stress or adversity. Self-care is the necessary first step to achieving and maintaining all other goals and resolutions. Notably, most resolutions and goals tend to lack longevity because we quickly lose stamina and become overwhelmed. Self-care ensures that there are actions in place to minimize stress to help you push through and continue to make choices in your best interest. Specifically, self-care increases your chances of choosing a salad over a burger, taking a walk over nap, advertising your business over binge watching Netflix, and cleaning out your closet over going to the mall.
Here are a few suggestions to help you accomplish your goals this year.
First, practice solitude. Solitude is the ability to be with and know yourself. In a society where we have to do more, and busyness is glorified, this can be difficult. During this time, I encourage you to spend some time in silence and to be alone in your thoughts - away from everyone, music, television and more importantly, your cell phone. Imagine just dedicating a time to yourself to be present, aware, and appreciative of you. I encourage you to use this time to draw closer to your God, to listen intently to hear what He wants to say to you, and to allow Him to speak to you. Set aside time for solitude daily by arranging a specific time and place and allow yourself to witness the productivity and creativity that will follow as you listen to God and tap into your given talents.
Second, be grateful. While we often come to believe that we need more, appreciation for what we have can prove to be the ultimate form of self-care. During these difficult times, it is so easy to become overwhelmed by all that has been lost and what little remains. However, I encourage you to change and challenge your perspective and take inventory of what you have. Allow yourself to be amazed at all things that we still possess and things that we can still obtain. For myself, I am so grateful for family, friends (albeit-6ft away), health, spirituality, time to pursue my passion – just to name a few. I encourage you to start a gratitude journal in which each day you joy down things you are thankful for. Share your gratitude with others and the impact that they have had on you. Such acts can open doors for kindness and connection.
Lastly, create boundaries. Often, we tend to take on more than we can reasonably bear as we try to do things for others, which leads to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. We allow fears of rejection and isolation from others to seep into our thoughts and guide us to unhealthy interactions and relationships. Therefore, I encourage you to set boundaries to protect yourself from over-exertion. Learn to say “no,” “I can’t,” and “not today.” I know that this may be easier said than done in a lot of situations, especially as we are more accessible now than ever before thanks to the virtual space. However, learning to accept what you can and reject when necessary for the sake of self-preservation will minimize your stress levels, prevent others from taking advantage of you, and free up time and opportunity for you to pursue other interests. Essentially, boundary setting teaches others how to treat you and reminds you to be kind to yourself.
Ultimately, as we welcome in the new year with new goals, we are aware of our shortcomings. We know we are not perfect, but we strive to become better. However, in our strive for betterment, we have to remember to take care of ourselves. Self-care is the foundation on which we reach our potential. If you find that you are significantly struggling with self-care, remember you are not alone. Touching base with others can help to remind you to be kind to yourself. I also encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional if you feel particularly overwhelmed or depressed. You deserve to be physically and mentally healthy so in 2021, remember to be comfortable with solitude, be grateful, and set safe boundaries.