If someone asked you what your definition of self care is, what would you answer?
Is self care about being aware of illness and ailments, regularly getting your nails done and your hair cut and using sun screen? Or does self care have a deeper meaning to you?
Unfortunately many people struggle to understand what self care is really all about. Beyond doing the necessary to keep them selves functioning, they make little investment in proactive and ongoing self care. Often it’s only once they become stressed, ill or overwhelmed that they are then forced into taking self care measures.
But self care should be a daily deposit into your bank of well being.
It’s not something you can do sporadically and expect to feel ‘reset’ for the next 6 months. It needs to be a practice that you continually make an effort towards because, without a regular dose of self care, you end up shortchanging yourself, and everyone else in your life too.
As hard as you try, you can’t keep giving to the world if you’re not putting essential time and caring back into yourself.
What Is Self Care?
Self care extends beyond keeping well, eating healthy and exercising. It also includes taking enough rest, processing emotions, setting loving boundaries (for you and others), and honouring an intrinsic sense of value in oneself.
Without being mindful of all the areas of self care, and without commitment to nurturing each aspect, there will always be a sense of imbalance, that then permeates other areas of your life.
You can’t expect to do well at work, if you haven’t given yourself the gift of adequate sleep and it’s difficult to be relaxed and patient with your children, if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by everything you’re trying to do.
You’re not just your body, and you’re not just your mind or soul. You’re a complex, wonderful, multifaceted creation that needs regular, ongoing, holistic maintenance.
It’s also important to recognise that self care is not the same as self indulgence. Often people confuse the two terms and while self indulgences, such as buying that gorgeous pair of new shoes or treating yourself to an assortment of your favourite high end chocolates can feel good, these types of treats don’t actually do a lot to feed your soul and get you back into balance.
Likewise, self care can also sometimes be mixed up with self love but self love is more about a feeling, an acceptance and appreciation of oneself, where as self care is an actionable practice and true self care should de-stress, nurture, refuel and re-balance.
Why It’s Not Always Easy To Practice Self Care
One thing that often stops us from practicing self care is the belief that giving oneself too much time and attention is selfish.
We are taught as children to think of others, to share, to make friends and not be self centered.
As adults, carrying an ingrained need to not be that child that our parents warned us about being, we can take those guidelines to the extreme, always putting others first, giving all of ourselves and leaving no time to do and be who we are, and doing whatever it takes to make and keep relationships with everyone, except ourselves.
A lack of self care can also stem from feeling unworthy or undeserving of the time and attention, with others being much more valuable and important to care about. Women particularly struggle with this feeling, especially as mothers caring for children. Our natural instinct is to nurture our loved ones with everything we have, but without refueling our soul we soon run empty and then everyone suffers.
It can also be difficult to foster self care when it means focusing on oneself, paying attention to wants and needs and dealing with thoughts, feelings and desires that might not always be comfortable to face.
Not taking enough personal time, not setting clear boundaries (so that you are constantly busy tending to and entertaining others) is a great way to avoid facing the more difficult stuff in your life.
The only problem is that this strategy won’t make your problems go away. They’ll either just wait for you to notice further down the track, or start making a lot more noise until you can’t possibly ignore them.
Self Care Starts Now!
If self care has been at the bottom of your ever expanding ‘to do’ list, it’s time to start focusing on you now.
Carve out some you time, give yourself some space and discover what it is that you want and need most to feel nurtured, balances and re-charged.
So, let’s be practical here and give you some starting points for making self care investments:
- Talk with a good friend or a close family member about the things that are important to you.
- Take time in nature for a walk, run, or even an outdoor nap.
- Calm the mind and body with yoga, meditation or breathing exercises.
- Eat good quality, fresh, healthy food that nurtures your body and tastes great.
- Follow a regular and enjoyable exercise routine (self care is not forcing yourself to do exercise you hate).
- Get the right amount of deep, totally peaceful sleep.
- Immerse yourself in creative outlets such as music, painting, writing, or crafts.
- Set boundaries so you have enough you time to actually make good use of and do the things you want to do.
- Practice saying no to things that do not serve you, including activities, friendships and work expectations.
- Write a personal journal or a gratitude journal to reflect on what’s important to you, and what you are thankful for.
Ready to start investing in you?
Take a piece of paper and write down 3 things you will do each week as a self care deposit. Put your list somewhere that you will see it every day, like the bathroom mirror, and then be sure to make the time to do those 3 things during the week. Within just a few weeks, you’ll really notice a difference in your sense of well being.
Still don’t feel sure about how to get started with self care? I can help you with that. Just get in touch via my Contact page to discuss coaching options.