If you have been feeling a lack of interest, motivation, or energy; cognitive weariness; emotional exhaustion; or physical fatigue, you may be suffering from the effects of burnout.
For many of us, the ongoing pandemic and resulting added life stressors have had a significant impact on our collective mental health. According to the World Health Organization, in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic alone, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25%. Being susceptible to mental exhaustion and burnout is even higher for social justice and human rights activists, as we put pressure on ourselves to have a significant impact on the world around us and often have an emotional investment in the outcomes of our work.
If you have been feeling a lack of interest, motivation, or energy; cognitive weariness; emotional exhaustion; or physical fatigue, you may be suffering from the effects of burnout. First, know that you’re not alone and many other advocates, policymakers, and community leaders across the nation have been experiencing similar feelings. Second, there are small and attainable actions that you can take to practice self-care. .
Self-care activities are generally broken down into seven different types: Emotional, Physical, Mental, Social, Spiritual, Practical, and Professional. Doing activities in each of these different categories can help fill your cup in different ways and the best practice is to take some time to do one or more of each. Before we dive into each activity, it should be noted that it is recommended to start small and to make sure that each of your self-care goals is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.
Emotional: actions we take to connect with our emotions and process them in a healthy way.
Examples of Emotional Self-Care Activities:
- Seeing a therapist, spiritual mentor, or other counselor
- Creating art
- Playing music
- Sharing gratitudes
Physical: any activity you deliberately engage in to enhance your physical well-being.
Examples of Physical Self-Care Activities:
- Being active (going for a walk, a bike ride, taking a fitness class, etc.)
- Staying hydrated
- Taking a relaxing bubble bath
- Getting a massage
Mental: anything you do to stimulate your mind and cultivate a healthy psyche.
Examples of Mental Self-Care Activities:
- Reading a book
- Solving a puzzle
- Playing chess or a board game
- Going to a museum
Social: any activity that nurture our relationships with others.
Examples of Social Self Care Activities:
- Having brunch with friends
- Going on a date
- Calling a loved one
- Writing a card and mailing it to a loved one
- Cuddling with a furry friend
Spiritual: activities you engage in to connect with and nurture your soul. Spiritual self-care does not have to be religious, although for some it is.
Examples of Spiritual Self-Care Activities:
- Going to a place of worship
- Being in nature
- Dedicating time for self-reflection
- Volunteering for a cause you care about
Practical: actions you take to fulfill your core needs and reduce stress.
Examples of Practical Self-Care Activities:
- Organizing your email inbox
- Tidying your living space
- Meeting with a financial advisor
- Setting out your clothes
- Limiting cell phone use
Professional: activities that support feeling balanced and fulfilled in your career.
Examples of Professional Self-Care Activities:
- Setting a calendar reminder to take a lunch break and not eating in front of your computer
- Setting your phone to Do Not Disturb at the end of your workday
- Scheduling time to return emails
- Taking ownership of your schedule by scheduling holds/blocks for you to process and work.
- Going off video for a portion of your zoom filled meeting days
- Taking time to go outside to breathe or walk during your workday
- Taking courses, attending conferences, or working with a mentor to develop your skills and support your desired career path
- Taking a mental health (or sick) day when you need it
If looking at the above list of self-care activities feels overwhelming, especially when life has felt more challenging today than it was before and it can be a struggle to hold it all together, remember, the most important aspect of self-care is starting small and slowly building upon these activities. A small change such as taking five deep breaths before your first sip of coffee or tea in the morning can be an amazing first step in your self-care journey. Also, as you continue to incorporate self-care into your day-to-day life, you’ll most likely find that you become more productive during the day and can continue to incorporate more and more activities.
Check out the documents below to help you take the first steps in creating a self-care plan. In addition to a self care plan template, you will find a sample completed plan to help you get started.