Self-Care……..What do you think and feel when you read those two words?
When I think of self-care I feel enthusiastic. But, I realize this is not the case for everyone. When the word self-care is mentioned, I have heard people (mostly women) ask, “What is self-care?” I have heard women say, “I am not good at self-care.” I’ve heard other women say, “It’s not realistic to take care of myself. I am a mother. I work full-time…” For some women, self-care is just one more thing to do and if it’s not done, it’s one more area in their lives to feel badly about. This is not the point of self-care and so before self-care becomes even more of a hot topic, let’s be careful not to taint it with shame and false ideas of what it is. Instead, let’s take these concerns and questions and expand our idea of it so we can easily and effortlessly fit it into our lives. My guess is self-care is already a part of many of our lives.
What is self-care?
Self-care is any act that we do that promotes well-being. I highlight any because self-care doesn’t just mean yoga and meditation, although these are good self-care practices. I have had long stretches where I didn’t feel like I took good care of myself. When this has happened, I would usually have an impulse to give myself a pedicure. First, I use a foot file on the bottom of my feet. Then, I use a handmade scrub of either salt or sugar with olive oil and scrub. From here, I rinse with warm water and massage my feet with lavender foot lotion. Before I start walking around I make sure to put on soft, comfy socks to keep them smooth. This is self-care.
Here’s a (partial) list of other self-care rituals:
- Walking /Hiking
- Physical activity
- Lunch dates with friends
- Mindful breathing
- Dancing in your living room
- A few minutes soaking in the sunshine
- Lighting candles and sitting in the dark
- Lighting incense
- Making a cup of tea
But, I’m not good at self-care
As you can see from the partial list above, many of these rituals do not take up a lot of time or may be things we are doing already. I first learned the ritual of self-care (before it was a trend or had a name) spending weekends at my dads. There, I listened to classical music, drank hot tea by the space heater, took baths in the claw tub and drew pictures. These rituals still bring me comfort today. When someone says they are not good at self-care my insides crumble a little bit. What I hear is shame and doubt- as if self-care is something we have to be good at. We don’t. We just simply have to do it or recognize the many ways we already are doing it.
When we want to change our eating habits one of the ways to do this is to begin a food diary. This kind of documentation facilitates self-awareness and change doesn’t happen without awareness. In the same way as changing our eating habits, we can start a self-care diary to become aware of how we take of ourselves or how we don’t. If I were to begin a self-care diary today, here is what it might look like:
Ways I took care of myself today~
- Slept in
- Picked up the house after having a big dinner last night (and for me staying organized and keeping a clean house makes me feel good)
- Did 25 minutes of yoga
- Started Deepak & Oprah’s 21-Day meditation program
- Finished writing this article
What I think is important to understand is self-care is anything that gives you some space and room in your life, in your body, in your mind, and in your self. We all need space and thrive in it. Without space in all of these areas we will feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed is unmotivating and so of course, just the idea of self-care will make us angry or fill us with shame because we just can’t seem to do it.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes said in her book Women Who Run With the Wolves, “The modern woman is a blur of activity. She is pressured to be all things to all people.” I have a feeling most of us (in this case, women) resonate with this, which brings me to the next common obstacle about self-care…..
Self-Care is not realistic.
Self-care is not realistic for many of us if we are looking at it through a narrow lens. As previously stated, self-care is any act that promotes well-being, or if that’s too overwhelming of a definition—any act that just brings us a tiny bit of peace and space so that blur of activity stills for a moment. Recently, I listened to a woman share an example of how self-care is not realistic, especially for women with children. Sometimes her son needs help with homework and for her, helping him is important—more important than taking time out for herself. What I heard from this example was the conflict behind the experience. The issue here is not taking care of our child or taking care of our self. The issue is the mind creating a conflict between the two. We, as women, do this a lot. When we have conflict we are not at peace. We are in distress. And, why do we do create conflict in our minds? I think it’s because of what Clarissa said above, we try to be all things to all people— and, now the world also wants us to be all things to ourselves. Many of us respond, Oh, hell no.
But, you know what. We know this is what we have to do and for some of us it’s what we want to do. It’s time to take that old metaphor we know so well about putting on our oxygen masks first and apply it directly to our lives. We, especially have to do this if we are in conflict about what we do for others and what we do for ourselves. And, here’s a twist— we don’t have to pick one over the other. We can have both at the same time. Returning to the example of the woman wanting to help her son—if helping her child is her commitment, then there is no need for conflict. The way to not have conflict is to be mindful about our commitments. When we are mindful and conscious about our choices and commitments we are at ease. This is self-care. What is not self-care is beating ourselves up about what we should be doing when we are doing something that is important to us.
If our argument is that self-care is not realistic, but on some level we do sense the value in taking care of ourselves then we need to make it realistic for ourselves. We need to find the space to fit it into our lives, even if it’s 5 minutes of coloring. Any action we take toward taking care of our self will not only benefit our selves, but our families, our friends and any one or thing we come in contact with.
Why is Self-Care Important?
Just like self-care is more than just sitting in meditation or doing yoga poses on our mats, self-care is important for reasons we may not fully comprehend. Sure, our self-care practices will make us start to feel better inside our bodies and minds. But, what is really happening is we are building a relationship with our selves, which can be the best relationship we will ever have. I see self-care as an opening into the deeper world of our souls. Our souls know who and what we are. Our souls carry what is true and real about ourselves, and I believe we can consciously live here in our souls, which means we will live in a more authentic way—the ultimate in self-care. For this to happen we need to start digging our tunnel inside of ourselves and create a self-care plan for our selves. This is a good start.
Creating Your Self-Care Plan
I am available to help you develop a self-care plan starting with taking a self-care inventory. I am also available to help you stay with your plan and help guide you deeper into your relationship with your self. If you have questions or are interested in setting up a time for your self-care assessment, call/text @ 612-405-8053 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to the Self-Care & Discovery Consultations Tab on this site.