It’s fair to say that the term ‘self-care’ is a buzzword at the moment. Everybody and their yoga-loving best friend are using it, and you’ll see it hashtagged across social media. Do a simple search for #selfcare on Instagram and you’ll find more than 772 thousand posts. There’s pictures of inspirational quotes, healthy smoothies, paleo food, workout poses, shots of the environment and pictures of bubble baths. It’s a lot to take in, so what actually is self-care?
To put it succinctly, self-care is the ability to set aside time where you intentionally care for yourself.
In the hustle and bustle of living, we can find it difficult to pause and listen to our bodies. When we practice self-care, we acknowledge the fact that our body and mind need a moment to catch up. Instead of burning the candle at both ends, and running from one thing to the next, we stop and do something that revitalises the soul.
Why do we need to practice self-care?
If you’re living and breathing, you need to practice self-care. While the term itself may be new, the act of taking care of yourself is vital to a person’s wellbeing and is an innate (although not always easy) part of being human. Say for instance, you got home from work last night. You took a run around the block, made a healthy dinner and then put your feet up and watched the TV. Congratulations—you just practiced self-care!
You know that your body needs exercise, nutritious food and rest to function. By choosing to do activities that implement this, you actively cared for yourself and re-charged for the following day’s activities.
Self-care isn’t just a ‘trend’, something for the super spiritual or just a common practice for people who have come through counselling. It is a human practice that we all know we need, but often struggle to do.
How do I practice self-care?
The first step is carving out time for yourself. Some people call it ‘me’ time, others just say, ‘I need some space’ or ‘I need to stop for awhile’. In any case, self-care requires an intentional effort to be kind to yourself.
The second step comes when you listen to your body. What does it need? What is your mind saying? If you are fatigued, you may need a really good nap and an afternoon off. If you feel anxious and lonely, spending time with a friend over coffee could be the solution you are looking for. Are you exhausted and stressed? You might try practicing mindfulness, yoga or meditation each morning, and this could revitalise your days. Or if the routine of sleep—eat—work—repeat is sapping you of happiness, a night out with some friends could be what you need to break the cycle.
Step three is simply this—do it. It’s not always easy to practice self-care. We live in a culture than demands an all-or-nothing attitude when it comes to working, and any rest is seen as lazy. But when we don’t practice self-care, we burn out. It starts with stress and exhaustion, and ends in isolation, depression, extreme physical fatigue and the inability to properly function. It is possible to overcome burn out, many people, including myself, have done so before. But by learning to practice self-care, you avoid this and enable yourself to live a more sustainable, healthy and happier life.
Self-care sounds boring. Why am I even reading this?
Ah, yes. Self-care may not be your ‘thing’ and everything I’ve talked about may sound pointless, but think of it this way: your life is like a cup. Our days are spent pouring out our time and energy for other people. Simple activities like going to work, making dinner, making sure the kids are dressed, or going grocery shopping are drops, but when they all pour out together, we’re left with a near-empty glass.
Self-care is the refilling of your cup.
There is no set method of self-care, which is great because we all experience wellness differently! A paleo diet and a work out regime may refuel you, but for someone else, a walk around the block, 10 minutes of meditation and a coffee could be what they need. Be creative with your self-care. Say ‘no’ to things and guard your time and energy wisely.
The world will keep spinning when you stop, and it will be there to jump back into when you feel ready. So take some time to self-care, and see how it revitalises your life.
Here are some suggestions on ways you can practice self-care. Do you have some other ideas? Let us know in the comments below!
- Colouring in
- Exercise (running, walking)
- Yoga or pilates
- Eating nutritious food
- Taking a nap
- Reading a good book
- Spending time with friends
- Spending time with your spouse or partner
- Splurging and eating something yummy
- Taking a bubble bath
- Watching sports on TV
- Taking a hike
- Sitting by the ocean
- Taking photos, writing poetry or doing something creative
- Saying ‘no’
- Taking up a new hobby
- Going to counselling
- Watch your favourite TV show or movie
- Playing with your pet
This was published by WatersedgeCounselling on June 3, 2016. Read it here.