Integrative Psychotherapist Allison Yura often finds herself reminding her patients of one thing: We all need to take care of ourselves first, if we want to be fully present for others.

“I talk a lot about self-care and how a lot of people think it’s selfish. They want to know how they can take this time for themselves when they have 1,000 other things to do,” Allison says.

Think of a car, she tells patients. “It has a job to get us from place to place, and we depend on it. But the car can’t function if we ignore the check engine light or let the gas gauge dip below E.”

Self-care is especially important for caregivers—whether they’re looking out for an elderly parent, a child, siblings, or other loved ones. It’s also important during the holidays, when many of us feel extra pressure and stress to make this often-chaotic time of year special.

“If you feel run down and like you’re not living your best life, it reduces your ability to care for others,” Allison says, adding that roughly 80 percent of the patients she sees struggle to prioritize their own health.

You know yourself best, but Allison encourages people to watch out for:

  • Getting angry quickly

  • Feeling frustrated or irritated easily

  • Changes in sleep or appetite

  • Muscle tension

  • Headaches

  • Hair and skin changes

  • Digestive issues

  • Behavior changes, such as not wanting to do the things you like or doing them in excess

  • Changes in energy levels

  • Getting sick—colds, flu

“Check in with yourself and ask whether you feel like yourself. Are you happy with the way you feel today?” Allison says.

If not, take time to focus inward. It doesn’t have to be a lot—even 15 minutes can make a difference. Setting boundaries helps, too.

“Where do we stop saying yes to everything?” Allison asks. “When we’re feeling stressed, we’re taking money out of a bank account that’s already at zero. Self-care is like putting money back in the bank.”

Here are 12 easy ways (some free!) to incorporate self-care into your daily life. You may be able to do some of them every day, while others you can reserve for special occasions:

  1. Relax with a bath at night

  2. Go to movie

  3. Plan a date night

  4. Think about what is fun for you—and do it

  5. Schedule a therapy session

  6. Book a massage

  7. Treat yourself to acupuncture

  8. Take a walk

  9. Give yourself a manicure (or go for one)

  10. Do yoga or make time for the gym

  11. Enjoy lunch with a friend

  12. Write what you’re thankful for in a gratitude journal at end of the day

“We’re so used to taking care of others, and we live in a society that really values being there and being everything for everyone. Self-care is the missing ingredient to do that well,” Allison says. “Self-care keeps us going. It helps us continue to do the things we want to do, while being more in tune with what we need and when we need it.”

What are you doing to take care of yourself today? If you have questions about prioritizing your own mental health, please call us at (312) 276-1212.

Yin and Yang
A seed sprouts from the earth and grows toward the sky - yang. Reaching its full height, it weakens and falls to the earth – yin.