Picture it: It’s 8:30 in the morning and you’re on your way to work. You’re exhausted,
you’re fed-up and you feel like the ending stream of daily life is never going to end.
Sound familiar? Welcome to what most of the population feels every day and almost
nobody talks about.
We often hear in the media that self-care is important but ever since the term
became a buzzword almost every industry on earth has come forward with the
must-have products plans and programs and it leaves most people with spinning
questions more than solid answers as to what they actually need to be both healthy
Let’s take a moment to break down exactly what self-care is.
Self-care is more than just actions. It’s also a perspective and equally to that it’s an
approach. In its most simple tenets, it’s the ability to know one’s state of being and
to take actions that promote the optimal flow of one’s life to promote both health and
When we think of things like health and wellness we often conjure images of the gym
and smoothies but in reality, health and wellness are actually two different things.
Health is the optimal function and flow of one’s body and wellness is the optimal
quality of one’s life experiences. Sometimes we get both of these and sometimes,
such as in the case of chronic illness, we may only get one (for now).
When we approach the idea of taking better care of ourselves we need to break down
what our actual situation is. I invite you to follow me through these three steps and
together we can build you a pretty solid, simple, and affordable plan to get you into a
better state of wellness and hopefully health as well.
Step One: State of Being
Right now, let’s just get a baseline for where you’re at. I like to call this a check-in
and it’s fairly simple to do. Ready? Okay here we go!
First sit in a comfortable position and in a quiet space. Next, just become aware of
your body – the way that you’re sitting, the feeling of the seat beneath you, the
temperature of the air that you’re breathing and allow yourself to settle into that.
Now I’d like you to ask yourself how you’re doing, is there tension in your body (if so,
where?), take a note within yourself as to whether it’s mental, emotional, physical or
even spiritual stress.
When you’re done try to jot down a few key pointers with what you discovered about
your current state of being.
The reason this kind of check-in is important is that it helps you to be aware of what’s
going on within you as well as things like your energy levels, your stress levels,
physical tension and your general emotional state. You can use this daily exercise
as a foundation on which to base a whole bunch of your self care decisions. Why
write it down? Well it’s not just so that you have notes. The act of turning your
internal experience into something tangible that you can hold in your hands helps
with processing your state of being in a way that is far easier to understand because
it pulls it all apart rather than just being one big solid block of blah. This is one of the
reasons why journaling can be such a therapeutic tool for many.
Step Two: Needs Assessment
Once you have an idea of what you have going on within you in any given moment
(or as a trend over several days, weeks, or months) you can get a much better and
clearer idea of what type of activities to add to your daily routine to help you get into
the best possible you.
Ideally to increase flow you need to both bring in what is lacking and remove what is
blocking. A very simple example of this is if you’re chronically tired (which is the end
result of the lack of flow in this example) then you are likely under-slept (lacking) and
perhaps this is because your bedroom is a complete disaster (blockage). The way to
increase flow to correct this imbalance would be to make sure that your sleeping
environment is conducive to rest, relaxation and restoration which usually means
de-cluttering, organizing and perhaps coming up with some simple changes with
things like lighting and how accessible your social media account is to you when
you’re trying to get some shut eye.
You can run this needs assessment over every single thing on the list you created
from our state of being exercise. It can take practice and some trial and error to
figure out exactly what you need but if you can remember the flow = bringing in what
is lacking – removing what is blocking formula it’ll get you pretty far in your self-care
Step Three: Creating a Plan
It’s important to remember when creating any kind of routine that adding too much at
once can lead to poor results. It’s also important to note that it doesn’t have to be
complicated. I’m a big fan of simplicity.
In the beginning shoot for a 3 part routine which consists of one small (no longer
than 5-10 minutes) activity in the morning, one during the day and one before bed.
An example that I can give you from my own life, at the beginning of my self-care
journey, was this: Every morning I woke up, closed my eyes and did my check-in; at
lunch time I took another 5 minutes just to do some deep breathing and some
muscle relaxation exercises and in the evening I walked up and down my hallway.
The reason that I chose to take 5 minutes at lunch time for deep breathing and
muscle relaxation was because that was often my highest point of stress during the
day. I had added this very simple exercise to my routine because at the time I was
so out of shape and diabetic and was working hard to get all of that under control.
Over time I slowly added and removed various things from my daily routine. I can’t
stress how important that daily check-in is in all of this because our needs do change
- especially as you bring yourself into a more optimal state of being within your life
Once you get into this routine it’s almost hard not to continue it because the results
often appear quickly and have a lasting impact when they’re continued. That said,
life happens and sometimes life REALLY happens leaving us tired all over again. It’s
in the hardest moments that all of our daily activities shake up and our schedules get
So, here’s some ideas to help you get through these challenging parts:
1) On a day where you’re feeling really good and have noticed improvements
because of your self-care plan, write a letter of encouragement to yourself and
seal it in an envelope. Open it only when you notice that your routine has
taken a nosedive.
2) Create a B Plan. A B Plan is a plan that is lighter or less strenuous than your
usual daily plan for when everything has become too much.
3) Understand that self-care can also be rest and recovery. Check-in with
yourself to see if taking a day or two off from your usual routine is what would
be the most helpful.
You Got This
Remember earlier when I said that self-care is more than just actions and that it’s
also an approach and a perspective? Here’s the deal with all of that. When we get
to really truly know ourselves and our daily state of being we naturally approach life
differently. This in turn helps to shift our perspective. You can definitely achieve a
better quality of life and similarly to the you have had the power all along my dear
moment in the Wizard of Oz everything that you need to get this going is within you.
Most of us know that we need something – we may just not know what that is until we
Matthew Stapley is a public speaker, interfaith minister, teacher and medium in
Ottawa, Canada. He is an expert in self-acceptance, grief, self-care and spiritual
development. You can find him at www.MatthewStapley.com