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Creating a Self-Care Plan

By Casey Divane Castle, LCSW, BC-TMH

Creating a Self-Care Plan | Your Family Wellness Village | By Casey Divane Castle, LCSW, BC-TMH

Self-care is not selfish. While many of us can agree with this, we also live in a society where the idea of resting or taking care of ourselves is viewed as selfish, putting ourselves before others, or sometimes even being lazy. Now I understand where that is coming from and like all of life, we need to balance taking care of ourselves with caring about others in our lives. As a therapist, I see so many people who have put themselves last for so long or taken care of others for so long that they feel incredibly burnt out and have nothing left to give. For some, this comes from the training of past generations, where it was encouraged for wives to focus on taking care of their husbands and children, and for others, this comes from the capitalist nation we live in, where companies often encourage its workers to work harder, pit against each other about who is doing the best, which creates a workforce that works all the time, even through breaks, PTO, and off hours. Focusing solely on productivity, work, and efficiency is not sustainable in the long run.

What we typically see in our society are people trying to juggle all the things in their lives and if they have energy left at the end, maybe they’ll try to fit in a bit of self-care. The problem with that is when we’re not taking care of ourselves, we’re not recharging our batteries, and we’re not refilling our cup. It is imperative to recognize that living by this model leaves us with nothing but fumes by the end of the day. Additionally, the more we lose steam, the less and less effectively we end up showing up for ourselves and others. I can’t tell you how many people I work with who focus on the idea that “I have to take care of the kids, I have to take care of my spouse, my house, my parents, my job, etc.” However, what if we turn that on its head? Imagine for a minute. What would your life be like if you chose to focus on your own self-care first? Might you be able to ensure that your cup stays full? Might you have more bandwidth to show up better in every area of your life because you aren’t always running yourself into the ground? This may be a novel idea for you, and you may be unsure of where to start. Here is a quick guide to help you create an unselfish self-care plan that works for you.

Creating a Self-Care Plan

One of the exercises that I love to have clients do is actually sit down and write out a self-care plan. Not only does this provide space to really examine what self-care we are already doing and how effective it is, it also helps us plan ahead of time and identify the tools we know help support us in our moments of stress or crisis. This preventative plan is much more effective than trying to figure out what tools we should use when we are already overwhelmed. Additionally, by writing out a self-care plan it helps provide accountability towards actually doing the action items of self-care that we’ve identified.

  • Part One - First We Plan!

Below I have included a link to my previous post where I outlined the 8 areas of self-care, with some examples for each category. I recommend coming up with your own 2-3 action items for each of those areas, making sure to focus on self-care that is impactful for you.

As you create your list, here are a couple tips to keep in mind. Start with what you are already doing or have done in the past that you know works for you, then add in 1-2 new ideas to supplement as needed. No need to reinvent the wheel and have 24 brand new things to try to tackle – it just isn’t sustainable. Additionally, if there are activities that provide self-care in multiple areas, use them. For example, running can be physical self-care, emotional self-care, and even social self-care if you run with a group. Also, make sure that you pay attention to frequency. While some self-care items like sleep should clearly be daily activities, make sure that you aren’t overloading yourself with too many daily or weekly self-care activities or you’ll end up swamped. It’s important to have a variety of activities; some will be daily, while others may be on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. Some activities will take up more time, while others may be only minutes at a time.

  • Part Two - Then The Plan Gets Messed Up

Once you’ve gotten through your list of self-care activities, the second part of creating a self-care plan is looking at what barriers are getting in the way of doing self-care. We all know how life rarely works out exactly as planned, so it is important to look at what may come up that prevents you from completing your self-care. This can look like time, money, resources, childcare, energy, motivation, and so many other things. Be honest with yourself and take some time to think about and write down all the obstacles to completing your self-care.

  • Part Three - So We Make a New Plan!

Once you’ve gone through and figured out what your barriers are, it’s time to pivot and rework the plan and start brainstorming about how you can overcome those obstacles. As you look at each barrier, think about what would specifically help you overcome it. For example, for someone who has established they need 8 hours of sleep for self-care: Let’s say that you get off of work, have dinner, and then relax in front of the TV to unwind at night, but some nights you get caught up in binge watching your favorite show and all of the sudden it is 1 am. In this example, binge watching TV shows is the barrier to getting 8 hours of sleep. Strategies to overcome that barrier may look like setting an alarm to turn off the TV at a certain time… or not watching TV on nights where you work the next morning… or setting a timer on your TV to automatically shut off… or watching a movie instead of TV since it has a finite length.

  • The Grand Finale! You made it!

Now that you have your plan written down, make sure to keep this somewhere where you can regularly see it and remind yourself of the things you are working on! Pick one of the self-care items that you have outlined and start establishing it as part of your routine this week.

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