It’s that time of year when everyone makes resolutions in an effort to improve their lives: save money, lose weight, start exercising, stop eating at Sneaky Dee’s, etc. Even though I rarely stick with them I’m still a fan of the feeling of renewal and rebirth that comes with resolutions. But this year I decided to do a little something different. This year I decided that I wanted to really work on loving myself… and not just with a battery operated device. My resolution for 2014 is to practice self care at least twice a week.

Self care is about actively engaging in something that will benefit you emotionally, physically or mentally. I first learned about it when I was going through a period of depression but have since found that self care is most commonly practiced by nurses, social workers, psychologists and basically anyone whose job it is to show non-stop care and compassion for others.

No matter what your profession is, it can be hard to remember to make time for self-care. We live in an increasingly fast-paced world where people are expected to be constantly plugged in and socially active. Nowadays people who regularly work 14 hour days are seen as virtuous instead of insane. The concept of taking time to do something solely for your own benefit can feel unnatural and almost selfish, but it’s not. In fact, not to get all Oprah on you but by taking care of yourself FIRST you’re actually more able to be your Best You. Self care can help you feel energized and refreshed instead of overstretched and bursting with stress.

So where do you start? When I decided that I wanted to practice self care I had to be honest with myself. For years I felt that the easiest way to unwind was to sit on the couch and watch some TV. This could also be combined with ordering a pizza. Essentially, I am your basic North American couch potato. But the truth is that my trusty pizza-TV combo doesn’t really benefit me. Neither does browsing Tumblr or Pinterest for hours. So here are some suggestions for self care that can actually be helpful:

·      Go for a walk without your iPod. Just walk. Listen to the wind rustle through the trees and dogs barking as they play. Realize that the city isn’t really that noisy after all.

·      Take a hot bubble bath. If you want to feel extra fancy, use a scented bubble bath or oil. Lose yourself in the bubbles.

·      Unplug. Turn off your computer, phone and tablet and just be. Meditate, paint, or do whatever you want, just enjoy the feeling of total peace and quiet.

·      Give yourself a facial or a manicure. It’s more about feeling good than looking good.

·      If you can afford it, get a full body massage. Afterwards you will feel so relaxed that you might actually float home.

·      Keep a journal. Whatever’s going on in your life, write it down and get it out. Then close the book and move on to something else.

·      Do some kind of physical exercise. Most people would suggest yoga for obvious reasons but I think people can benefit equally from a round with a punching bag. Personally my favourite part of exercise is the post-workout shower.

So far I’ve found all of these activities to be incredibly beneficial. Instituting a regular practice of self care takes some getting used to, but I truly believe that before you can take care of others, you need to take care of yourself.