Nowadays, we hear as much about “self-care” as we do about fad diets and fitness routines. Our wellness|life coach|fitness|spiritual gurus on Instagram talk about it every day. They urge us to take time for ourselves, to do nice things for ourselves, and to love ourselves, because it’s good for us. And we deserve it! Which is all true. But, it easily becomes an item on a checklist of things we try to squeeze into our busy lives. In an age of striving for minimal effort with maximum results, we tell ourselves we’re implementing self-care with banal activities. For instance, when we sit down for a glass of wine after a 12-hour workday. Or, when we splurge on an expensive pair of shoes, and justify the purchase because we’re not feeling good about ourselves. In the right context, these things could be considered self-care. But in reality, they’re mostly coping mechanisms we use because we don’t prioritize what it means to *actually* care for ourselves.
Ok, then what IS self-care?
Self-care is the yin to the yang of a society that is always pushing for more. It’s about creating a healthy balance and boundaries in our lives. To do this, we need to overhaul our mindset and adjust our priorities. When we’re so committed to our careers, and wrapped up in caring for our families, it often feels selfish to put our needs first. So we go into overdrive, and trivialize the importance of setting aside quality time for ourselves. After all, there are people that need us! We have a job to do! The problem with this is that the more we deplete our ourselves, the less we have to give. I don’t know about you, but if I’m counting on someone to get something done for me, I’d prefer them to be healthy, well rested, and feeling good.
How to Create Space for Self-Care
The first thing to realize is that taking care of yourself is YOUR responsibility. If you’re waiting for someone to hand you a book of time-off vouchers, it’s never going to happen. So, you can start by recognizing when you’re feeling diminished, and then make a point to set aside quality time for yourself- and STICK TO IT. This will require learning how to say “no.” The people that need you will be okay. And, you don’t need to justify your decisions to anyone. You have other plans for your time. That’s enough. Setting boundaries is a good exercise because we lead by example when it comes to teaching other people how we want to be treated. And when you do set time aside for yourself, be sure to disconnect from the daily chatter: emails, phone calls, to-do lists. This is your time. If you don’t respect it, no one else is going to.
Examples of Self-Care
Developing healthy self-care habits is important. It’s not self-care if you use your time doing something that ultimately isn’t good for your well being. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid things like alcohol, or foods that are bad for you, etc. Just remember it’s about balance. That being said, there are so many ways to take care of yourself. It doesn’t have to be a magical day at the spa. (But it definitely could be!) Think of things that make you feel the most like yourself. That is what is going to recharge you. Maybe it’s a night out dancing, or lunch with friends, reading a book by yourself, or working on a creative project that you’ve wanted to give a try. Do what makes YOU come alive.
Taking care of yourself isn’t something that you should reserve for when you’re feeling burned out. It should be a regular part of your life. If you make it happen on a consistent basis, there are so many benefits. You will get to know yourself better, and boost your self-confidence. You’ll develop a healthy work-life balance and learn how to manage stress effectively. Your personal relationships will have an opportunity to flourish. You’ll feel better, and your health will improve.
So, now that you know what to do- get to it! It’s time to take your happiness into your own hands.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman