What's this Self-Care thing all about?
How many of us really know what ‘self-care’ means? Why is it important, and how do I know if I am ‘doing it’? It is possible that it has become such a catch phrase that it is has lost much of it’s meaning and intention. In fact, I worry that it can be a phrase we throw around, full of unhelpful justifications and excuse: “I ate an entire chocolate cake- but that was self care, right?”; “Last night’s bottle of wine- self-care, of course!”; “I can’t afford self-care!”. Alternatively, self-care practices can be full of obligation and dread: I ‘should’ be doing (insert obligatory self care practice here). Perhaps it is time we look more closely at what the concept means, and how it might fit for you.
The intention of self-care is to participate in an activity, action, or behaviour that re-energizes, soothes, or honours YOU. Simply put, it should refuel and recharge you, not leave you depleted and anxious. It does not need to be costly, take huge amounts of time, or be indulgent. Activities like spa days, vacations, or extravagant dinners out on the town can be self-care practices, but they can also be stressful and expensive practices. Ask yourself: Is this enhancing me- my mood, experience, energy, or perspective? If it is not, then it is not an effective self-care practice. If you notice your inner thoughts are filled with ‘shoulds’ (I should enjoy this more; I shouldn’t be doing this; I shouldn’t be spending this money; I should expect….) then perhaps that particular activity is not quite right for you.
So, what’s the point?
The stresses of daily life can be wearing. Demands at work. Demands from family. Demands from friends. Expectations of ourselves. Chores. Socializing.. Unexpected events. Weather. All of it can add up, and pull our energy in a thousand different directions and leaving us depleted and lost. Suddenly (or sometimes, not so suddenly) we lose touch with ourselves and our own needs. Find it difficult to imagine doing something that is about you, and not about others? I find that many people experience guilt when they start looking inward- this does not have to be a barrier though! It can be a good indicator that it is time to find a way to get back to yourself. I talk about self-care with each client I see, because the world demands so much from us and sometimes we need permission to take a little back for ourselves.
Let’s start with the basics
Self-care is so many different things, but sometimes we just have to start with the simple basics. Start connecting with your basic needs- feel tired? Try taking a nap, or go to bed earlier to give yourself the gift of rest. Hungry? Rather than pushing through (and often forgetting to eat, altogether, as the busyness of the day sweeps us away), take a moment to have a snack. Sore muscles? A few minutes of stretching might help. Perhaps you need a moment to just breathe deeply. Take a shower. It just starts with acknowledging you are important to your experience. Different days require different kinds of self-care. Have you been spending a lot of time with others, and feel tired and a little overwhelmed? A night home alone might be just what you need. Or maybe you have been shut off from the world, caught up in the responsibilities of life- time for connection! Listen to your favourite song. Read. Sit in the sun. Walk. Run. The possibilities are endless and unique as the person pursuing them. No matter what you need in the moment- be in the moment. Notice if what you are doing is refueling you- if it isn’t, try something new. Self-care is about re-energizing yourself so that you can be a part of the world, not so you can escape it. Does it feel foreign and a bit awkward, but still good? Maybe this is you finding your way back to your heart after being a stranger for a long time…. Introduce yourself, and stay with that moment. You deserve it.