I hear people use the term “self-care” all the time, but what does it really mean?

When we are practicing self-care we are engaging or disengaging in ways that are truly restorative to mind, body, and spirit. Often people confuse self-comfort (sometimes called self-soothing) with self-care and wonder why they are not refreshed after an evening spent binge-watching Netflix.

The true test of whether something is contributing to your self-care is the outcome: does this activity (or lack of activity) provide genuine rejuvenation? How do you feel during and after the activity? Self-care will lower stress levels and give back energy, focus, productivity, and emotional reserves.

Foundational self-care revolves around eating nutritionally healthy food, getting adequate sleep, and moving your body. Neglect in these areas will certainly undermine your wellness, but self-care involves more than just meeting those basic needs. Common self-care practices include time in nature, prayer, meditation, journalling, meaningful connection with others, and/or artistic or creative pursuits. Therapy is often an integral part of a self-care regimen because it allows space for supported emotional processing and for thoughtful reflection.

My work seems to be taking over my life. How can I create a better work-life balance?

Creating margin and time to rest is essential to maintain work-life balance and establishing boundaries is the best way to ensure that work doesn’t continue to take over your life.

Boundaries on your time: Work will expand to fill whatever time it is allotted and so you need to set reasonable time limits on your working hours, especially if you find yourself in a career that doesn’t have a fixed work day.

Boundaries on your technology: Another common challenge in creating balance in our work schedules is the way that technology – primarily the smartphone – has made it possible to be accessible 24/7. However, just because this is possible, it doesn’t mean that it is beneficial. Technology is a tool to be managed; it should not manage us. If you find yourself compulsively checking work emails, consider blocking the notifications so that you are not alerted each time an email arrives in your inbox. Decide in advance when you will check your email and how much time you will allow for that part of your work.

When it comes to managing your work, you have the power to make changes through the implementation of boundaries. Taking action that will protect your time and accessibility will bring more life back into your work-life balance.