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“I just don’t have enough time for myself.” How many times have you said that to yourself? How often do you find yourself daydreaming of escaping your reality? It’s likely that you’re not taking the time to take care of yourself. I’m not just talking about your physical appearance; self-care runs much deeper than that.

Finding balance is not an easy task, and if you ask me, it’s an ongoing battle. If someone tells me they live the perfect life, I’m inclined to ask them if they’re a robot. We’re all juggling many different things while trying to be good parents, siblings, children, partners, spouses, employees and professionals, but to be truly good at any of those roles, we must take care of ourselves first. After all, how can we take care of others if we, ourselves, are not well?

Self-care is more than just unwinding in a warm bubble bath, but making the time for that is a pretty good start. And that’s just it: making time. Self-care is taking the steps to ensure that you’re feeling good both mentally and physically. Putting in a little bit of work each day will go a long way the long run. It may not be possible to take a vacation every 3 months, but it is possible to stop and take some deep breaths a few times a day.

Self-care isn’t always pretty, either. It’s facing whatever ugliness that is holding you back from being the best version of yourself – a well-functioning one. It could be anything from going to the gym three times a week (because inactivity is beginning to take a toll on your physical health), to cutting out the negative person that always seems to bring you down. The key is to do something good for yourself.

I could write on and on and on about self care, but in the spirit of not being overwhelming, I’ve decided to break down some tips on self-care into several articles, to be posted throughout the next few weeks.

Like anything else you’re trying to achieve, setting a goal on what exactly you’re aiming for with your self-care is a good practice to have after you figure out what it is you actually want. It is key to be realistic with yourself; like all other goals, don’t set self-care goals you know that you can’t achieve. To make goal setting less overwhelming and actually achievable, I like to use the SMART approach:  A SMART goal is specific (S), measurable (M), attainable (A), realistic/relevant (R) , and timely (T).

Ask yourself:

(S) What exactly is it that I want to achieve?

(M) What will I see, hear or feel when I achieve it? What is the concrete evidence?

(A)Do I have the resources to achieve my goal?

(R)Why do I want to achieve this goal? Does it seem relevant or realistic for me?

(T) What time period do I want to get this done in?

You can tweak your goals as you go. Remember that this plan has to work for you. If something doesn’t feel right, make some adjustments and take it from there.

Here is an example of how a SMART goal:

(S) I want to become more mindful and relaxed before I start each day. I would like to do that by meditating for 20 minutes before work, 3 times a week

(M) I will make a short journal entry each day, describing how my day went, and whether I meditated in the morning.

(A) I will go to bed 20 minutes earlier the night before and wake up 20 minutes earlier in the morning to make time for my meditation. I will stream my meditation tape on the mobile streaming app.

(R) I don’t have very many coping skills to deal with stress. Meditation would be a quick way to help alleviate stress in the moment.

(T) I will check in once a week to ensure that I have met my meditation goals for the week.

I encourage you to try this, no matter how big or small your self-care goals!

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