Long-term self-care planning
Many people can easily sit down and make a “to-do” list; however, it is much harder to think about making a “to-do” list about self-care. There is no “one-size-fits-all” self-care plan. There is a common thread to all self-care plans. You must make a commitment to attend to all parts of your life. This includes physical and psychological health, emotional and spiritual needs, and relationships. As you develop a self-care plan, you will need to think about what you value and need as a part of your daily life. You will also need to consider strategies you can use when you face a crisis along the way. Think of your self-care plan as a roadmap. There is maintenance that must be done along the way. There must be fun activities and rest stops along the way. Here are some steps to guide you on your self-care road map: 1. Think about how you cope with stress in your life right now. Identify the coping strategies you currently use and whether they are helpful. Replace unhelpful strategies with more helpful ones. For example, you may cope with a bad day at work by coming home and complaining about it. Instead, try something like mindful meditation. Complaining about something does not usually produce a solution and cannot reduce your tension and blood pressure. Mindful meditation may not produce a solution either, but it can reduce your tension and blood pressure. As you begin your self-care plan, make it a goal to decrease or eliminate at least one negative coping strategy you have identified. 2. Identify the things you are currently doing for self-care in your life. Praise yourself for the good things you are already doing. Then try to detect whether there is an imbalance in the areas in which you practice self-care. For example, maybe you do well in the area of spiritual health but do not do enough in the area of physical health. Write down some ideas for things you can do to help balance all the areas of self-care. Think about strategies that can go along with those ideas that will help you stay motivated. Make a note of items you can add to your self-care practice. As you note them try to be sure each domain of self-care is represented. 3. Begin to add self-care practices while getting rid of obstacles in your way. Think about new activities that are important to your well-being and that you can commit to doing on a regular basis to take care of yourself. At the same time, think about possible barriers that could get in the way of implementing or maintaining these new activities. List several obstacles that you anticipate will get in your way. Then focus on how you can address them. Write these solutions down. If you have chosen to limit or eliminate a negative coping strategy that you currently use, note this as well. Revise your list as the demands of your personal and professional life change. 4. Be prepared for emergencies. Times of extreme stress may be uncommon. However, it is still important to plan what you will do under extremely trying circumstances in your life. If you plan out ideas before you are faced with a crisis, you will be much better prepared to handle it. Think about an emergency self-care plan in the same way you would prepare for other possible emergency situations. You will then be much more prepared with tools and ideas when a major stressor hits you in life. 5. Make a commitment to yourself. Take a moment to think things over and then make your personal commitment to your own self-care. You deserve it. If commitments are challenging for you, then first take some time to explore your reservations. Do you tend to put the needs of others first? Your self-care is essential to your well-being, but it is also a necessary element for you to be effective and successful in honoring your professional and personal commitments. Preparing a plan is important. It identifies your goals and the strategies to achieve them. Ultimately though, your success in implementing your plan is based on the level of commitment you make to your self-care. 6. Share your plan with others. Remember that friends, family and others can be good additional resources. You can exchange new ideas with people and they can provide support and encouragement. You can even take your commitment further by joining or starting an online discussion group where people can share ideas and support. 7. Follow your plan. You have identified the core elements of your personal self-care plan. Now, the final step is to implement your plan and keep track of how you are doing. Keep track of your progress. This will help you recognize your successes and address any problems you may not have anticipated. Remember that you can revise your plan as needed.