When I first encountered it, self care was a term I distinctly recall leaving me both bewildered and frustrated. What does it mean? How do I do it? Is it not sort of a waste of time?
The concept of conducting acts of care acts towards myself was a slow one to translate into my day to day life. I remember asking for examples of it when it was introduced to me and instead of considering what my own could be, I just latched on to one that seemed most doable and tried to implement it. It was forced, I wasn't connected to it and the action was being carried out merely to tick a box and be able to say I was self-caring.
After significant practice, exploration and improved understanding, self care has become an increasingly important undertaking for me. And I'm still learning about it. I've found that it needs to be continuous, and while it never necessitates a grandiose affair, it absolutely requires regular attention regardless how 'busy' we may believe ourselves to be. I'm learning that you cannot do all the things you want to do and be the person you want to be without making time for self care. And I've learned that it can come in a variety of forms for each of us.
If we want to grow and ultimately thrive, we need to find out what the definition of self care could be for us. We need to become self aware and identify what it is that will fulfil our needs, what is going to allow us to recharge and how can we cultivate a consistent habit of self care in our own daily lives.
Self care gives us the opportunity to build ourselves up to a strength that'll protect us from crumbling down. It deserves priority and investment from us so we can combat energy drain, burn-out and stress. Of course, it may feel uncomfortable, we may worry about being selfish or wasting our time but I guarantee that time given to self care is never going to be time squandered. As the quotes go 'you cannot pour from an empty cup' and another favourite of mine, 'if your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.'
Self care is paramount to us being the individuals we genuinely want to be, I wholeheartedly believe this. So with all that being said, here's some suggestions to kick start it.
If we entertain a value of busyness, we're likely to be deficient in rest. Self care encourages that we value our own energy reserves instead and realise that we cannot do everything. We can't be everywhere, we can't take on every single task and we can't expect ourselves to have unlimited resources. We need to rest. Resting doesn't necessarily mean sitting on our bottoms doing nothing though, so we need to explore how we rest best. What is it that we can we do to feel relaxed and rejuvenated? From naps to baths to just having a few minutes sitting down, this can ask different things of each of us. Our job is to simply find out a feasible favourite of these options and gently incorporate them into our days.
Likewise, we might find that we're actually just lacking care towards activities we enjoy. For some reason, it can come naturally to us to minimise the importance of activities that we actually like as though their importance is insignificant in comparison to doing 'grown-up', boring or stressful things. We think we 'should' be doing x,y,z, so allowing ourselves to read a book or dance around our rooms or run around with our pets seems somewhat pedestrian. Yet, these are the things that are most likely to actually recharge us. For me, I know I found it weird that sometimes self care was all scented candles and a chilled out playlist and others it was blaring drum and bass and doing a round or ten on my punching bag.. but the results spoke for themselves. Our needs change and as such, our self care needs to be flexible to suit. These activities that feel good are so important and a crucial component of our self care.
Humans are social creatures. We inherently seek connection, social involvement and inclusion. When we feel down, our instinct can occasionally be to isolate and bury ourselves a million miles away from the world. For whatever reason, we don't want to be around people or we don't want people to have to deal with us, but in reality, by doing this we end up depriving ourselves and others of our interaction. Self care can sometimes just arise in the form of reaching out. It can be a conversation, a joke, a quip, whatever. Sometimes we just need to connect to other people and let ourselves be a part of something and get outside of ourselves. Cutting off from the world does not nourish our needs, it pushes us away from our answers. Interacting encourages expression and when we do this we show compassion towards ourselves as thinking, feeling, sociable beings.
Sorrynotsorry to all the procrastinators out there (myself included) but sometimes self care can even be in how we manage our time. Leaving ourselves short, putting important stuff on the long finger and ignoring certain time constraints rarely fail to put us under unnecessary pressure. When we avoid dealing with the things we need to do or spend our time ruminating in negative practices, we leave ourselves short for what actually matters. I'm not going to pretend I'm the most organised person by any means, but I would suggest that self care becomes a part of our organisation. Self care in our time management gives us those beautiful moments of 'Thanks, Past Me' - you know the ones where having laid out our clothes the night before means we won't be sprinting for the train? Or tidying our room means we're not behind in laundry and run out of clothes? Those moments of satisfaction are so worth it, yet instead it's as though we prefer to runaround like headless chickens getting stressed out and in a hurry because we didn't give our schedules that little splatter of self care. Learn from these anxiety instilling disorganised messes - they're not worth it!
For some of us, we thrive on growth, learning and development. When we're not stimulated it can feel as though we're doing ourselves a disservice. Our self care can kick in here by nurturing our need for knowledge. When we give ourselves the freedom to learn, we open up our own worlds. But denying ourselves this because we 'don't have time', 'can't focus/concentrate/be a*sed' doesn't really do our self care any favours. Knowing ourselves and what matters most to us guides our self care practiceS. If learning is important to us, then without question, learning is the self caring thing to do.
For those of us with a creative streak, I think our self care is incomplete without nurturing this innate urge to create. As with any talent, passion or desire, I believe that giving our creativity a place of importance in our time is a prerequisite for self care. Creativity burns within us, it's a consistent flow of energy and to stifle this is to deprive ourselves of the reward it offers. If we endeavour to make self care a value in our lives then we commit to our creative compulsions; we write, we compose, we draw, we craft, we dance, we do whatever it is that lights our souls on fire because we understand that these are the things that bring us alive.
Self care is an honest process of discovering the areas of our life which we neglect in favour of hardship, negativity or self-deprecating. It permits us to nourish what we need most from ourselves and in so doing, creates a practice that optimises our experience, energy and potential. Self care is a crucial part of supporting ourselves and exercising genuine compassion in our own lives and towards others.
We're not invincible, unfeeling things - we need to remember that caring for ourselves is not an option, it's an incredible necessity that continually grows in worth and benefit the more we commit to it.
When we make time to explore who we are and what we need from ourselves, we take our responsibility of self care seriously. In doing this, we get to show up and give ourselves the best chance we can.
'Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others'