I have always been passionate about psychological self-care. It is something that feels much bigger than any other type of self-care.
Not entirely sure how this term came about or how old it is. But when I first stumbled upon it, I felt like 'psychological self-care' is exactly the term I tried to describe when I wanted to say that self-care is more than bubble baths. Iowa's Area Education Agency defines psychological self-care as follows:
"Psychological Self-Care involves learning, thinking, and growing. Psychological self-care activities might include personal and professional development."
Personal and professional development are part of self-care routine for me. I believe we need to learn, grow and dream for as long as we live.
The moment we stop and decide that we know it all, well, from that moment, we commence the countdown to our demise. Sounds a bit morbid, doesn't it?
Why do I strongly believe that?
Because as humans, we should never stop evolving.
Life is not about achieving a certain goal or goals and then sitting down and frolicking in our past successes.
It's about constantly pushing ourselves, creating new dreams and goals and going after them. No matter how old we are.
So, based on my love of psychological self-care and personal development, I have written this article with five go-to easily applicable ideas on how to keep yourself moving forward. Always.
1. Journalling and reflecting
Journalling is one of the easiest way to improve your psychological self-care.
You don't need much, apart from your pen and paper.
Writing things that are bothering you and reflecting on them is thought to help with clearing your mind and letting those annoying thoughts settle, at least for some time.
According to PsychCentral, there is scientific evidence to suggest that journalling has certain health benefits.
Clears up thoughts and feelings
Serves as a free counsellor/coach
Science-based Greater Good Magazine by University of California, Berkeley also points out that journalling is like a trusted confidant, who you can share your most sacred thoughts with.
And PositivePsychology.com reminds us that it's more beneficial to engage in effective journalling, rather than simply putting words on paper. Effective journalling is about writing your thoughts with a specific agenda in mind, for instance, to help you clarify something, plan and expand on your goals, or apply analytics reasoning to a certain problem, challenge.
The Center for Journal Therapy offers a very easy to remember acronym - WRITE - to help us best utilise all the potential of journalling for the overall wellbeing.
W hat topic? - what would you like to write, go deeper about?
R eview/reflect - take a deep breath and see what comes up. How do you feel? What do you think?
I nvestigate - probe your thoughts and feeling and keep writing. Reread what you wrote and continue.
T ime yourself - give yourself a set amount of time, so that you know not to procrastinate. Use a Pomodoro technique or a simple timer. Write for 5 - 15 minutes.
E xit smart - reread what you've written. Analyse or jot down any immediate reflections, write any follow up actions.
2. Leaving thoughtful feedback or comments
I truly believe that engaging with other people, be it bloggers, authors or professionals online, is a form of psychological self-care. Coming up with thoughtful and considerate feedback that goes beyond 'I love it', is a great way to improve communication skills and overall knowledge of your inner thoughts and potentially the subject you are commenting on.
My approach might seem bizarre, but humour me and hear me out. Leaving feedback or comments that are thought through will help to enhance your cognitive skills. But you can deepen this exercise even further by asking yourself a question 'why' every time you do it.
It's especially beneficial if no other thoughts but 'I love it!' come to mind when you are about to leave a comment. Ask yourself why you love it. What is so special about this book, thought, idea, etc. If the answer is 'because it resonates with me' - ask why yet again. You'll turn it into a self-analysis which might bring further psychological benefits.
"An unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates
Why do I like this comment?
It resonates with me.
Because the author touches upon subjects that are of interest to me.
Because they help me to reflect about things.
Because in my day-today I don't have an opportunity to slow down and think about those things.
The Why is a very powerful question. It could lead to a lot of knowledge and reflection. Because the more you ask the more exciting answers you may come up with, usually absolutely unrelated to your original questions.
But that's precisely the beauty of this question. It leads to unexpected insights and revelations. 5 Why's is a very popular technique within professional development, business and user experience industries to aid problem solving.
And going back to my original suggestion to leave thoughtful comments as a form of psychological self-care. Once you start asking yourself why you want to leave a comment or a feedback, your world will expand beyond imagination. Because unless you know why you want to do something, there is no point in doing it at all.
This might not sound like a self-care tip, but trust me, it is. Coaching is the way to untangle your thoughts without bothering your loved ones. It's the best option to get some clarity, learn new tips and tricks and improve your overall wellbeing.
A coach is someone who is passionate about helping others. He or she could help you to identify your goals and then create actionable steps to achieve them. I would always recommend that you find someone who has extensively studied the subject and who is accredited by their professional bodies.
"Coaching conversations help a person focus attention on their desired goals." - Coaching psychology manual.
However, if all you need is someone to task to, you might also consider finding a coach or a mentor that you find online, but who you click with. Bear in mind that nowadays all the coaches, professional or not, offer a no obligation free tasting call. This is to ensure that your potential coach and you are on the same wavelength. If you don't feel like this person is right for you, you just say so and don't go with him or her.
I have had an experience working with a spiritual coach at one point in my life. She was an acquaintance of an acquaintance, but I decided to go with her after one free session. I must admit, she was not very professionally aware, but she was a good listener. By talking to her, or more precisely at her, I have managed to untangle certain thoughts that have been bothering me for months.
Whether you go for professionally trained coaching psychologist, a life coach or a mentor, make sure the person is a right suit for you.
4. Lifelong education
Learning something new and specific at any age is exhilarating. But constantly learning something new is also good for your brain. Numerous studies have shown that neuroplasticity continues to play an important role in our brain for as long as we continue to push ourselves by learning something new.
"Neuroplasticity is the continuous adaptation of synaptic networks to the requirements from internal external environment. It is the basis of learning." - Jürg Kesselring
Research at UC Irvine also shows that lifelong learning can help our brain stay healthy and limit cognitive and memory decline. One of the paper author's, Christine Gall, says that:
"Staying mentally active as we age can keep neuronal BDNF signaling at a constant rate, which may limit memory and cognitive decline.”
And experimental psychologists, Professor Zoe Kourtzi suggest something very reassuring for those of us who are not getting younger: "if older people have really good attentive abilities they can learn as fast as younger people.”
So next time you look for something to occupy yourself with, why not try to acquire a new knowledge altogether or learn a new language? You will do a lot of good for your psychological self-care as well as help your brain to stay healthy.
5. Complex books
There are books, and there are books. Some are for entertainment and general escapism. Some are to push our boundaries and motivate us. Others are to teach us to think differently, to expand our understanding of things we already know or go even deeper and learn something new and specific.
When we consciously choose to read something a bit more complicated than our average read, we practice a muscle that could help us in future to achieve our goals. We are also expanding our understanding and our horizons and training ourselves to be more attentive and, shall we say, thoughtful.
Kate Veatch: Are you reading the dictionary?
White Goodman: Oh, you caught me. I like to break a mental sweat too. -
We don't need to follow White Goodman's example and read a dictionary just to break mental sweat. Instead, we could choose a book that is slightly above our usual reading preference. We also don't need to read it all, cover to cover in one sitting. We could, instead, choose to read a few pages at a time or a chapter, depending how the book is structured.
The best way to read a complex book is by choosing what you want to learn from it and trying to find your answers. It's about deep reading, not scanning, skimming or reading for pleasure.
"Deep reading benefits include developing a richer understanding of a topic, increasing your ability to pay attention itself, and enhanced creative thinking." - Brad Stulberg
Reading more complicated books or articles and engaging in deep reading could help you increase your vocabulary, deepen your knowledge and train your attention. The latter is very important, as if we tame our attention, if we make it do what we want and when we want - the sky is the limit.
It does not really matter what tools you are using to enhance your psychological self-care. As long as you are doing something to push your boundaries and keep your brain active, the chances are you are on the right path and your body and mind will thank you for all your efforts.