Every time we speak to audiences about our work we start by saying this: Our approach to self-care is different from any other advice you’ve received. Ours is different for 2 reasons:
- We believe connecting with your values is the best way to approach self-care.
- Our work is based on research! It’s not just advice.
What does research say about values?
Valued living – or living your life in line with your values – improves our mental and physical health and our ability to cope effectively with stress. For example, research shows that when people couch their goals in their values, they release fewer stress hormones and are more resilient in reaching their goals. They are able to persevere through challenges longer than others who do not select goals that match their values.
This is partially what makes connecting with our values so powerful – we can follow through with our preferred way of living, even in the face of obstacles!
How do I know what my core values are?
“Okay,” you think “I’m sold on the idea that core values are important – but how do I know what my core values are?”
Some of us will know our values easily. Some of us, however, might need to do a bit of leg work to figure out what our core values are. That’s okay! You might not have really ever thought about them, your life might be focused on other people, or you might just have a hectic life (like most helping professionals), with little time for self-reflection.
We recommend that everyone, even if you think you know your core values quite well, regularly revisit and evaluate those values. Your core values are not likely to change – but which core values you focus on and prioritize might change as you move through various seasons of life.
There are two ways to figure out your values.
The deductive method uses worksheets, checklists, and descriptions of core values. It’s like looking through a catalogue of values and seeing which ones fit you.
The inductive method uses your own observations of your life experience, reactions, emotions, and body sensations to generate ideas about what values are core to you
Combining deductive and inductive methods is the most comprehensive way to figure out your core values. It helps to have a list as a stepping stone but we have to evaluate whether those values really fit for us.
Linking Values to Your Self Care
“Alright… values are good and there are some ways to figure out mine… What does this have to do with self care?”
Self care is anything you do that replenishes your professional and/or personal self. Research shows that living closely with our values is satisfying and provides us with a sense of vitality. This is important because research also tells us that the more we experience positive emotions, the more we build our ability to respond flexibly and creatively to stressors. In contrast, being disconnected from our values leads to living on autopilot, feeling numb, and wondering why we don’t feel good when our life is good “on paper.” Using your core values to guide your self care choices maximizes the chance your self-care will be satisfying and rejuvenating.
Being disconnected from values can lead to living on autopilot, feeling numb, and wondering why we don’t feel good when our life is good ” on paper”
How do you decide what effective self care looks like for you? What can you do to replenish and nourish your self? Look to your values and choose to engage in behaviours, activities, and ways of thinking that move you closer to those values.
Typical advice for professional self care provides a lengthy checklist of activities and suggests you choose some to engage in: running, having a bath, coffee with a friend, reading a book, or going to church. Checklists encourage us to individualize by choosing activities we enjoy. But you can go even further by choosing to move toward your core values.
What that looks like will be different for all of us. There is no one way to do self care, just like there are no mandatory core values.
For some of us, self care will mean running, having a bath, coffee with a friend, reading a book, or going to church. For others self care will be paying our bills, playing with our children, or volunteering. Self-care might also be taking a necessary medication, getting enough sleep, or going to therapy. There are endless possibilities!
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