Why we put off self-care, and what we can do about it.
Are you holding out for your vacation? Are you grinding away while telling yourself you don’t have time for self-care until you’re able to completely get away? There’s another way.
Self-care is truly essential if we want to have wellness, feel a sense of balance in our lives or be high performers. Research coming out now demonstrates how crucial sleep and recovery are to performance and resilience (Germain, 2016; Pedersen, 2015)
Self-care could be exercise, taking time for yourself, going for a walk, getting a massage, going for a hike, taking a vacation, getting your favorite drink at the local coffee shop; but self-care still gets a bad rap. It’s seen as an indulgence or a reward after working hard. It’s seen as time consuming, expensive and a chore. I can admit that it’s often one of the first things cut from my day when I get busy or overwhelmed; but that’s exactly when I need it the most.
My preferred recovery activities include going to the gym, reading novels, getting massages, and walking in nature, and good chocolate. These activities all take time or money (or both). When I think of the time or money I need to allocate to actually do the self-care I know I enjoy and need, it can just add to the overwhelm I’m feeling. It feels like a frivolous use of my time (which could be spent building my business or spending time with family) or money (which could be spent building my business or helping my family). Then I become trapped in the all or none fallacy, believing if I can’t “do it right” then I shouldn’t bother fitting in self-care at all.
Self-care is one of the things where knowing better doesn’t necessarily lead to us doing better. To have balance, to be a high performer, to be able to give to others, we need to practice self-care. So what are we to do?
To combat barriers (excuses) to engaging in self-care, I recommend the strategy of micro dosing.
In medicine, a minimum effective dose is the lowest dosage of a medication that provides a clinically significant response. In self-care, a minimum effective dose might be a 20 minute walk, a 30 min bubble bath, 2 hour nap, or a 60 minute workout. If that’s the minimum effective dose, what’s the point of trying if I can’t set aside the full allotted time?
In medicine, the concept of micro dosing is gaining popularity. A micro dose is a “sub therapeutic” dose of medication. This dose isn’t high enough to produce noticeable changes, but still has a cellular impact. Applying this principle to self-care, a micro dose might not produce the same noticeable positive impacts that a traditional “dose” of self-care would, but still has a positive impact on your body. It’s more effective to do a microdose of self-care than to do no self-care at all.
The beauty of microdosing self-care is that any recovery strategy can be microdosed.
Therapeutic Dose: 60 minutes of meditation in the morning.
Microdose: doing a mindful breathing check in at red lights.
Microdose: spending five minutes mindfully enjoying your morning coffee.
Therapeutic Dose: a 75 minute yoga class.
Microdose: a 15 minute yoga video.
Microdose: do 1 yoga pose and hold for 5 breaths.
Therapeutic Dose: full 60 minute massage.
Microdose: 15 minute massage.
Microdose: 5 minutes of progressive muscle relaxation focusing on your neck and shoulders.
Therapeutic Dose: bubble bath.
Microdose: lavender essential oils .
Therapeutic Dose: A good night’s sleep.
Microdose: a high quality nap.
Microdose: 2 minutes of rhythmic breathing.
The true power in microdosing self-care is the compound effects of multiple microdoses spread throughout the day. Maybe I can’t go for a massage as often as I would like, but I can take better care of my body if I do 5 minutes of progressive muscle relaxation 1-3 times per day for my neck and shoulders than if I do nothing.
The best sort of microdose is the kind that’s portable. When you are brainstorming ways you can microdose your self-care strategies, try to think of strategies that don’t require equipment. For example, a 15 minute chair massage as a microdose for a full body massage still requires you to set aside time and money to actually go do it. Whereas progressive muscle relaxation can be done on your own at any time.
What are your preferred self-care strategies? How could you start to microdose them?
Davis-Laack, P (2016, February 8). 5 Myths About Resilience. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/pauladavislaack/2016/08/29/resilience-requires-recharging-5-ways-to-unplug-when-youre-short-on-time/#3e347b9525a0.
Forman, T (2017, December 13). Self-Care Is Not An Indulgence. It's A Discipline. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tamiforman/2017/12/13/self-care-is-not-an-indulgence-its-a-discipline/#6b6a30cfee0c.
Germain, A., & Dretsch, M. (2016). Sleep and Resilience-A Call for Prevention and Intervention. Sleep, 39(5), 963-5.
Pedersen, E. R., et.al. (2015). Increasing resilience through promotion of healthy sleep among service members. Military medicine, 180(1), 4-6.
Scharff, C. (2015, January 22). Recovery and Resilience Connection. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201501/recovery-and-resilience-connection.
Tewari, T., & Mukherjee, S. (2010). Microdosing: concept, application and relevance. Perspectives in clinical research, 1(2), 61-3.
Wiest, B. (2019, January 26). This Is What 'Self-Care' REALLY Means, Because It's Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake.. Retrieved from https://thoughtcatalog.com/brianna-wiest/2017/11/this-is-what-self-care-really-means-because-its-not-all-salt-baths-and-chocolate-cake/..