Self-care has become quite the buzzword. It peppers social media feeds as people display activities, quotes, foods, etc., that reflect their “self-care” lifestyle. Numerous books and magazine articles are dedicated to this trending topic. The amount of information is overwhelming. Will you benefit from self care or is it just “one more thing” to add to your to do list that leaves you feeling guilty? If you have been on the fence about the idea of self-care, this article will review its benefits and a few ways to incorporate a little extra self love into your life.
The Importance of Self-Care
Self-Care has mixed connotations. Is it selfish or self love? Consider a radical approach- self-care is way to insist you matter, you are worthy of care; thus a declaration of self-love. This may seem counterintuitive to what many of us were taught (hence radical), and may be especially hard for women. However, when you tend to yourself what emerges is a person who is vibrant, healthy, passionate, and loving. From this state of being, health is improved, sense of purpose becomes clearer, relationships thrive, and so much more.
American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist Audre Lorde summed it up beautifully, “Caring for myself is not self indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” By taking care of yourself, you are
encouraging a more empowered narrative, creating a life from a position of good energy and creativity. The ripple effect of this type of action, no matter how small or large, positively impacts those closest to you on many levels.
The Meaning of Self-Care
So, what is self care? Despite it being “the thing to do”, self care is not a trend. It’s a practice of noticing…paying attention to your own thoughts and feelings and taking care of you, regularly. Self-care can be any practice that helps you become the version of yourself for which you are striving. It’s recognizing when you are out of alignment and self correcting. It’s an opportunity for change. It’s getting to know yourself and cultivating powerful mind management skills. It is real and uneventful (managing debt, cooking healthy, daily movement, waking up earlier to self assess, journal…). It can cost nothing or be as extravagant as you want. It’s anything that brings you into the present moment on purpose, helps you connect to your heart, notice your feelings, observe your thoughts, and generates self respect.
The Benefits Are Boundless
The long-term benefits of self-care practices are invaluable. Here are a few examples of the possibilities:
• Increased self-awareness
• Ability to give more
• Increased self-esteem
• Feeling of empowerment
• Weight loss
• Increased productivity
• Improved health and wellbeing
It starts by committing every day to a practice that, over time, will give you the desired outcome. Start small, 15 mins a day and add from there. It’s important to have faith and patience. While you may not feel immediate changes, when you do, it will be meaningful and sustainable.
Designing Your Routine: What Is Your Goal?
The first step is coming up with your goal. It may be clear or just a feeling that something needs to change. Start by asking yourself how you want to feel. This could be emotional (calm, happy, comfortable, satisfied…) or physical (fit, firm, flexible, light, ease of movement…). To help with this exercise use your five senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch) to imagine what this looks like for you. Write it out as clearly and vividly as possible.
Once you become clear on your goal (e.g., changing your job, feeling more energized, finding a partner, eating healthier), write it out. What is your WHY? It helps to keep the WY handy, in plain sight, so you can refer to it on those days your reserve is weak. If you are a visual person, utilize images and color or create a vision board that represents your desires.
Upon waking in the morning and every night before going to bed, look at your goal and your WHY, read it out loud to yourself. Write it on a post-it note and stick it to your computer. Place it in strategic places to help keep the energy
flowing in the right direction. Your thoughts are powerful. Tapping into that power to create change will help keep the momentum going. If you find you need to make tweaks to your goal, that’s ok.
Now that you have your goal, what self-care practices do you need to incorporate into your life that will help you achieve your goal? In ancient forms of medicine, any illness or discontentment is an indication of disharmony within the body, mind, and spirit. You respond well to change when you nourish these different aspects of yourself. Here are some ideas of self-care practices for each expression:
• Detach from technology a few hours a day.
• Surround yourself with people who are stimulating. • Learn to meditate.
• Start a new hobby.
• Read 10 pages a day on a topic that expands your growth.
• Start a savings account.
• Wake up earlier.
• Go out dancing.
• Take a warm bath.
• Get a massage.
• Take a cooking class for healthy eating.
• Learn breath work.
• Laugh more.
• Go walking in nature.
• Keep a gratitude journal.
• Find a mentor.
• Perform random act of kindness each day.
Choose one to two things to start. If this list is not related to your goal, choose something that is more related to your goal. Do it for a short period of time, 10-15 minutes, so its not overwhelming. Doing too much at the start, often creates discouragement, setting you up for failure. There is nothing wrong with failure, but the goal here is small change to support your overall wellbeing. Start small, sustain a small change; it leads to big change down the road.
An Example of A Self-Care Routine
Goal: To develop self awareness. Why: I want to FEEL me.
Keep in mind these practices add to your life in a way that allows you to know yourself better. Self awareness and self care are at the heart of health and wellbeing. Keeping a practice of self care increases self esteem and supports overall confidence, empowerment and love. A simple self care routine might look like this:
• 20 minutes to myself upon rising to listen to my body, notice how I feel, journal my thoughts and choose the ones I want for the day.
• 5 minutes of deep belly breathing 2x daily
• Take a short walk 3x week.
• Put it on a calendar and honor it.
The research says, creating a new habit takes 21-267 days. That wide range in time reflects the tremendous variance in human nature. So for at least 30-days experiment with your
chosen self-care practices. Reassess at the end of the 30 day experiment. How do you feel? What has changed? What is still the same? Is this good? Do you want to keep it? Why, why not? Integrate what is working. Is it time to add something else? If yes, then decide what is next. If not, honor your decision and enjoy where you are now. Change can be difficult. Self awareness, self growth takes time. Enjoy the small stuff! add more when you are ready.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Think about finding someone to hold you accountable. It can be a friend, coworker or family member who will check-in with you to see how you are doing with your progress. Left to our own devices, it’s easy to let self-care practices fall by the wayside. However, if you have someone to hold you accountable, it’s easier to stick to your commitment.
Put your self care practices on your calendar. Every night, plan out your schedule or simply review it for the next day. This should take a few quick minutes and it helps to mentally start preparing yourself for a good day, full of purpose.
Be Flexible, Make It Work for You
You can plan and vision board all you want but sometimes life happens and the unexpected can occur. This is where it’s important to allow space for changes or adjustments to be made when it comes to your self-care practices. Also, keep in mind that a practice implemented during the summer
might not work as well during the winter. Be flexible and creative, and always make it work for you.
Despite its trending status, self-care is not a new concept. In ancient traditions self-care is a way of being, a way of life. Rising with the sun, praying, taking time for reflection and sharing everything with others was just normal life. In the modern world self-care practices are a way to connect and harmonize with the world, instilling strength and resilience. Although the world is quite different, your core needs are the same. Establish a self-care routine for yourself today, reap the benefits today and tomorrow…