It’s a scenario many of us are all too familiar with. You get home from your busy-as-usual day and are exhausted just thinking about the whirlwind that is your evening routine: making dinner, wrangling the kids, answering emails and prepping to do it all again tomorrow. By the end of the night, you have just enough energy left to turn on the television and turn off your brain while you scroll mindlessly through your phone.
If this is ringing a bell, it sounds like you could use a healthy dose of self-care. When was the last time you made time for yourself, anyway? With winter weather forcing the majority of us to hibernate indoors this season, practicing and prioritizing self-care can be a challenge. Here’s how you can stay motivated to take care of yourself when it’s cold outside.
What is self-care?
“Self-care encompasses looking after yourself mentally, spiritually and physically,” said Dr. Pieter Strauss, wellness lead with Sparkling Hill Resort & Spa in Vernon, B.C. Whatever act that you deem fulfilling physically, mentally or spiritually falls into the definition.
“Many people think of self-care as getting a facial or a manicure,” said Kerry Werner, KurSpa manager at Sparkling Hill. “But it doesn’t have to mean going to the spa. It’s just about carving out time in the day for yourself, even if it’s just settling into a favourite chair to read. It’s self-maintenance, not self-indulgence.”
Why is it important?
Self-care seems especially critical these days. “We’re getting busier and busier as we work to catch up on all the information coming at us through our phones and at work. We’ve got stress coming at us all the time,” said Werner. “People are getting burnt out because they’re always “on.” They realize they have to do something to take care of themselves because they can’t maintain that pace.”
Self-care is a restorative act, one that allows us to reenergize ourselves. “Self-care improves happiness and helps with health. It provides longevity,” said Dr. Strauss.
“If you’re not taking care of yourself or recharging or maintaining your own self or filling your own cup, it’s very hard to take care of others,” added Werner.
That said, it’s not just about, say, having a fit body. Instead, it’s about taking the time to recharge and reflect or slow down to think: am I living my life as I want to? What do I want next?
And while self-care is important on a daily basis year-round, in the wintertime, it’s even more critical. “Sometimes we need more self-care in the winter because summertime takes care of itself,” said Dr. Strauss. “In the summer, for instance, we might walk to the postbox instead of driving there.”
So while we might generally not be outside as much—taking in nature through a walk could very much be one way to practice self-care—our winter hibernation habits can hinder fully practicing self-care methods. For example, we’re not getting vitamin D from the sun when we’re inside more often, or we might turn to devices such as the television and our phones rather than trying to visit with our families and connect with them.
At the same time, our self-care needs may increase as we get older. “As you age, you may need more conscious self-care because your body is breaking down. You may not be taking as good care of yourself—maybe you’re not eating well or you’re alone more since your partner passed away. So self-care becomes very important,” said Dr. Strauss.
How to practice self-care?
Here are some ways to practice self-care physically, mentally and spiritually.
Physically: This involves exercising regularly, eating well and hydrating yourself properly. Exercise also doesn’t have to be gruelling; it doesn’t have to be a 10-kilometre run. Dr. Strauss even suggests stretching as a way of taking care of yourself, especially since as we age, increased flexibility can offset age-related falls.
Mentally: “Maybe it’s just turning off your phone to read a book, or meditating or journal writing,” said Werner. “It doesn’t have to be expensive or over the top.”
Spiritually: With spiritual self-care, Dr. Strauss said it’s about creating connections with others, and it’s often a pleasurable part of taking care of yourself. He hugs his wife for 90 seconds straight every day. “What happens in that hug is an enormous amount of communication. You can’t be mad at each other or distant if you hug. And in your brain, the oxytocin hormone releases giving you a sense of belonging and bonding which is a crucial aspect of self-care.” For those living alone, Dr. Strauss suggests investing in massage therapy to fill these needs.
How to prioritize it
But when your to-do list runneth over, aren’t more self-oriented items on your to-do list such as hitting a spin class the first thing to get cut?
While scheduling your self-care activity into your calendar helps, when it comes to fitness, Werner suggests finding a workout buddy. “It’s been shown that you’re more accountable to be there for somebody else compared to if it’s just yourself,” said Werner.
Dr. Strauss suggests positive reinforcement in the form of a fridge calendar. Find a bright marker and check off the days you’ve practiced self-care. “Then you’re motivated by the checkmarks and it becomes more and more frequent because you’ve done self-behavioural modification,” he says.
Self-care can also be cumulative, and you can gain results from small acts of self-care you’ve performed throughout the day.
“In the end, it’s important for you to find what your self-care is,” said Werner.
If you’re interested in taking time away to practice self-care, visit Sparkling Hill to learn about their wellness getaway offers.