What is Self-Care, Really?
Self-care is such a buzz word right now. You see it as you scroll through social media, your friends are talking about it, and it is probably being encouraged at work, as well. Is it really as important as it seems? The answer is, unequivocally, yes. Consistent self-care practices have been shown to reduce stress, improve sleep, and improve a sense of overall wellbeing. This is all great news but means nothing if we don’t know how to apply it to our lives. So, what does self-care really mean?
Self-care is not about relaxing, being happy or being productive. It’s not about turning off, shutting down, or avoiding. It’s not about being selfish, hobbies, or exercise. Self-care looks different for everyone. While your self-care routines might include some of the aforementioned, self-care is really about nourishment.
Nourishment is defined as “the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition”. ‘Other substances’ can be tangible or intangible. The way that sun and water nourish a plant and breast milk and skin-to-skin contact nourishes a baby; self-care should nourish your psychological, emotional, and physical health. Self-care should leave you feeling recharged, refreshed, and more connected to and appreciative of yourself.
Finding Self-Care That Works
This is a process of experimentation, trial and error. You can try out different self-care strategies to nourish your mental, emotional and physical health. There may even be overlap. Yoga is great for your physical health but also emphasises breathing and mindfulness which are excellent for your psychological health, as well. You can search for different ideas on Pinterest or Google, but remember that what is self-care for one person might not be self-care for you. Check in with yourself after you try a self-care strategy out. Do you feel recharged or drained? Do you feel competent or discouraged? Do you feel lighter or heavier (emotionally and psychologically)? Only keep the activities after which you feel nourished!
Check in with yourself to see what you are needing in the now. What was helpful last week might not be what you need right now. Understand that your self-care needs will change as you grow, experience new challenges, and transition through different life stages. Be flexible.
Self-care does not have to be this big, revolutionary, and time-consuming practice in your life. It can be as simple as making sure you are getting the recommended amount of water daily or spending 5 minutes when you wake up reviewing the day ahead. That’s not to say that we can’t think big when it comes to self-care – just be honest, realistic and gentle with yourself about what you need to feel nourished.
Give it Time
Like most things in life, it takes time before we see results. Self-care is no different. When you find something small that nourishes you, start including it daily. Give it about two weeks and reflect on how you feel. Keep practicing self-care, the more you practice the better you will get and the better you will feel.