What Is Self-Care?
We’ve all heard about self-care, but what is it exactly?
Our society has become hyper-focused on physical health, exercising, and eating right, but not so much on the importance of tending to your mind and soul. It’s only recently that mental health even became an accepted topic of conversation, and the essential component to mental and emotional health is the practice of self-care.
What does self-care look like, then? Is it going to the spa, getting manicures, and indulging in Sunday brunch with your girlfriends?
Or does it go much deeper than that? To a place of taking a respite from the outside world. To taking deliberate action to find deep replenishment on a soul level. Of learning to mentally and emotionally care for yourself.
I think of self-care as the routines we use to nurture our relationship with ourselves. How can we know how we’re feeling if we don’t take the time to process our emotions and experiences and check in with ourselves? Self-care is developing the capacity to love, accept, connect, and care for yourself, from the inside out.
When practiced often, it becomes a way to know yourself on a deep level, to grow your confidence, self-worth, and compassion. When you learn how to nourish your soul, you replenish your vitality. Self-care is knowing how to fill your cup. It’s finding your own medicine.
So, to get started, ask yourself: What activities make me feel good? Some examples could be:
· Clean living space
· Being outdoors
· Listening to music
· Cooking your favorite meal
· Petting your dog/cat
· Comfy clothes
· Bath with candles
· Treating yourself
What's Your Medicine?
What’s your medicine? If it’s journaling, get a beautiful notebook or journal to start recording your thoughts and feelings. Do you enjoy reading? Go to the local library or get a few reads from Amazon. Feel like cooking a comforting meal? Go to the store and get everything you need to treat yourself to your favorite meal.
When you know what brings comfort and healing to you mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, you will always have activities you can use to make yourself feel good. Once you have an idea of what those things are, you can create a small area or a self-care basket in your home to hold the items you use to relieve, inspire, or soothe you. Things like candles, essential oils, dark chocolate, a stack of books to read, or a fresh journal waiting to be used. It will become your self-care toolkit, available to you any time you need to use it. Other times you could put on a cozy outfit, turn on your favorite music, or run a replenishing bath. Self-care doesn’t have to be time consuming, and it doesn’t have to cost money.
One of my favorite rituals is putting a favorite meal in the crockpot, taking a long bath with candles and soothing music, using oils and lotions on my skin for a self-massage, putting on a comfy outfit, and then enjoying my meal. Afterwards I’ll watch a movie (probably a rom-com) or get cozy with a book.
What makes self-care so elusive is that we aren’t scheduling time for it. We fill our to-do lists and planners with all of the important things like that work meeting, soccer practice, or appointment at the DMV, but rarely do we look at our calendars and see two hours set aside on a Sunday for self-care. We may tell ourselves that we’ll do it when we have some free time, but the irony is that in this fast-paced world we never seem to find any free time.
We have to learn how to carve out time for ourselves in the form of self-care. Whether it’s one evening a week, or every morning as part of a morning routine. Taking thirty minutes in the early morning hours before the rest of the house is up can make a huge difference in the rest of your day. Get a cup of coffee or tea, put on some soft music, and light a candle. Get your journal and check-in with how you’re feeling, how you’d like to feel, and what you want your day to look like. Think of a few things you’re grateful for. Have a few minutes of quiet reflection. Maybe do some stretching or take a little walk around the neighborhood.
It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture. Sometimes the tiny, daily habits we incorporate into our routine become the best self-care practices. We become so nourished by them, that on days when we miss them, we can feel the difference in how we’re showing up in the world. We start to discover that we’re better when we make the time to care for ourselves first.
Everyone’s life is different, full of different commitments, but I encourage you to look for the pockets of time you have available. Your break at work, those thirty minutes when the kids are in the bath, early in the morning, or later in the evening when the house is quiet. What are your pockets of time? Start by finding one and filling it with some form of self-care. It doesn’t have to take very long.
Letting Go of Guilt
One of your biggest obstacles to self-care might be overcoming the guilt of taking time for yourself. Women are trained to give of themselves freely to everyone around them while denying the same care to themselves. Society tells us that if you are left drained and worn-out at the end of the day with nothing left for yourself, then you are an ideal woman. I can’t begin to tell you how damaging and completely backwards it is to feel selfish about taking time for yourself. The only way you can nourish the world around you is to first give yourself the medicine you need to nourish your soul.
When you take the time to love and care for yourself, that love can flow out into the world around you. Practicing self-care allows you to give the best of you, not what’s left of you.