What Self Care Really Means and Where to Start
“Take care of yourself!” Sounds simple enough, right? For many of us, self care is a complex and even difficult task. If you were raised to put others before yourself, or if you had a traumatic or abusive upbringing, self care - real self care - can feel completely foreign. It goes wayyyyy beyond the prescribed bubble bath and chocolate blogger recommendations that have been all too common in the last few years. So let’s talk about self care for real.
What Self Care Means
Self care means doing what it takes to live healthily - in every area of life. And this is no small feat. Sure, a bubble bath is great… But it isn’t going to undo years of stress and draining habits. I like to look at self care as a program. It is something you must participate in regularly in order for it to do any good. Here are some examples of REAL, health-promoting self care:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating nourishing foods
- Laughing often
- Limiting your screen time (and wearing blue-light blocking glasses)
- Days off
- Sticking up for yourself
- Keeping a clean home
- Music (listening, playing, or performing)
This is just a sampling of some really high quality self care options, but hopefully you can see they all go much deeper than a one-time occurrence. (YES, you can take a bubble bath to relax or plan an awesome vacation and call it self care. AND the most powerful dial-movers are going to be what you do day in and day out on a regular basis.) If looking at that list feels overwhelming to you, I get it. Lots of us are exhausted, scheduled to the max, and moving mountains in our daily lives. Self care can just seem like another chore on top of it all. Yet, implementing quality self care tactics into your life will make everything much easier once you get it going. Let’s talk about how.
Where to Start with Self Care
The best way to get into some good self care is to start with a Self Care Mindset. Essentially, it begins with a simple question: Is this good for my well-being? Use this question as a filter for how you plan your activities, meals, time off, and relationships. Once you start looking through the self care lens, I think the “drains” in your life will become much more evident. Here are some examples:
- You’ve been killing it at the gym since January 1. You wake up every morning at 5am six days per week. When you commit to working out, it’s all or nothing. Let’s approach this gym lifestyle with a self-care mindset: “Is [waking up this early and working out religiously] good for my well-being?” Depending on your age, fitness level, and metabolic type, the answer might be “Yep!” If you are feeling run-down, struggling to get out of bed, insatiably hungry, and extra emotional, you might want to re-assess your workout routine. Maybe try three days per week instead of six. Or maybe take a rest week. Remember, your self-care activities should be making you feel better, not worse!
- You’ve got a new friend in your life who wants to hang out often. You can apply the self-care filter here too. “Is [insert person’s name] good for my well-being?” If, after you spend time with this person, you feel uplifted, empowered, and happy, the answer is hell yes! If you feel drained, angry, or low after hanging out, the answer is nope.
- The Netflix. It calls. It all started when you got hooked on a series. Every night after dinner, you’d head to the couch to unwind and watch your show. It felt like a much-needed brain break after a long day. When that show ended, you started another. Then another. Now, the TV is on every night, no matter what. You start going to bed later and later and are feeling pretty tired in the mornings. This is a perfect example of how self-care can morph. What started out as something healthy turned into a drain on your battery. The question still applies: “Is [Netflix] good for my well-being? Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no. You get to decide as your own self-care expert.
Why Self Care is Important
Does your phone work when the battery is dead?
Neither do you. The more drained we are, the less ability we have to manage our emotions, think clearly, be productive, or maintain calm. When we make space in our lives to plug in and re-set, we are making sure that we can participate in society from a healthy place.
As you probably noticed from this article, the layers of self-care go deep. We are discussing the seven pillars of self-care (mental, emotional, physical, environmental, recreational, social, and spiritual) in our weekly e-mails. We will be specific about each one and how each area affects your life. Sign up for those love letters here if you wish to receive them!
Does this give you a clearer picture of self care? I sure hope so. We’ll be back with more on the blog in a couple weeks!
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