Think back to a time when you were overwhelmed. Did you receive some well-meaning advice to "just breathe" and take better care of yourself? Maybe drink a glass of water or go for a walk? Although the intentions of the advice-giver were pure, you might have experienced increased stress, anxiety, or even isolation. This is because the simplest things that you can do to care for yourself can feel impossible if you're not used to taking care of yourself in the first place. Drinking a glass of water and going for a walk might be the last things on the list when you become more intentional about prioritizing self-care. Intentional self-care means viewing self-care as a process rather than a rare event when you've reached your wit's end.
The Consequences of Not Prioritizing Self-Care
Not prioritizing self-care, or not understanding how to prioritize it, is an unfortunate reality for so many of us. The results?
Increased anxiety and depression
Brain fog or distractibility
Irritability or anger
Decreased empathy and compassion for others and self
Not taking proper care of yourself can also lead to long-term health issues like heart disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, autoimmune diseases, and so much more.
The remedy? It's time to get serious about your self-care process, which requires some backtracking to the Four Basic Human Needs.
The Four Basic Human Needs and the Self-Care Process
The Four Basic Human Needs is based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a motivational theory in psychology consisting of a five-tier hierarchical model of human needs, often depicted as a pyramid. The idea behind this hierarchy model is that the needs on the bottom need to be met first before a person can satisfy other needs. The Four Needs, listed in the correct hierarchy (and with some examples), are as follows:
Physiological: your relationship with food, how comfortable/secure your home environment is, sleep, and rest.
Safety: taking care of your mental health, how secure you feel in your community, access to health insurance, and income stability.
Love/belonging: how accepted and loved you feel in your relationships with others, your ability to engage in activities that bring you joy, your level of self-acceptance, and self-love.
Esteem: Your ability to set and achieve goals and make decisions about your life, supportive/encouraging relationships, and your level of self-respect.
An example of the Four Basic Needs: You decide to join a gym, an act that can easily nurture your needs for love/belonging and esteem. However, suppose you are struggling to meet your physiological or safety needs. In that case, it will be hard for you to follow through with that gym membership. Your lack of follow-through has zero to do with you being lazy or unmotivated; you are not ready for that step physically and emotionally. To consider another perspective, maybe you get that gym membership, start working out regularly, and even feel a little better. However, you're still putting off meeting those physiological or safety needs. Whatever initial progress you made starts to slip away. In both cases, you feel frustrated and defeated, leading to potential negative-self talk and self-sabotage. All of which makes it harder for you to care for yourself appropriately. This example is why self-care is a process that quite literally builds on itself while building you at the same time.
Putting The Process of Self-Care Into Practice
Now that you know self-care is a process and how the Four Basic Needs fit into that model, it's time to put it into practice! Here is a step-by-step guide on how to implement your self-care process:
Be fluid and patient with yourself: Reverting to the gym membership example, what if you skip some of your initial needs and commit to exercising regularly? Maybe that experience opens you up to ways to care for your physiological and safety needs as you learn how to care for yourself besides exercise. Self-care isn't always a linear process. Treat this journey with fluidity and be patient with yourself as you flow in and out of the experience.
Take inventory: Consider where you are right now regarding each of the Four Basic Needs and decide which areas need the most care.
Draw a roadmap: Now that you are more aware of what needs your attention, you can create a plan to take better care of yourself. Your plan should include a long-term goal (yearly or biyearly), short-term goals (monthly), and small daily habits that inch your way down the road toward your goals.
Check-in with yourself often: Regularly assessing your progress and feelings about your self-care process is instrumental in helping you feel successful. There are so many ways to care for yourself, so if one way isn't working, it's essential to figure it out quickly so you can readjust and keep moving.
Final Thoughts: This is All Easier Said Than Done
Just like taking care of others, taking care of ourselves can be difficult, especially when we're used to putting ourselves last. But, it is doable and vital for your health and well-being. You deserve a life that isn't constantly spinning in overwhelm mode. You have the power to turn that mode off by asking yourself how you're meeting your needs now and using that as a point of reference to start making small everyday changes. You will be surprised at how much these small changes can add up.
One of the most complex parts of the self-care process is getting started. For help creating your self-care roadmap, please reach out to the St. Andrew's Family Fitness Plus Fitness Department by filling out the online Starting Point Survey by clicking here. One of our certified Personal Trainers will work with you to create your roadmap and provide gentle accountability to help you move forward.