Self-care has become quite the buzzword. Hashtags such as #selfcare or #selfcaresunday pepper 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. It’s overwhelming, with the amount of information available, to figure out what this is really about and if it’s something you can truly benefit from. If you have been on the fence about the idea of self-care, we will go over what it really means and how to incorporate it into your life in a way that meets you where you’re at—the lasting benefits outweigh any reason why you would not at least give it a try.
The Importance of Self-Care
The topic of “self-care” has mixed connotations depending on how you view it. A radical approach is to consider self-care as way to insist that you matter and are worthy of care; a declaration of self-love. This may seem counterintuitive compared to what many of us were taught (hence radical), and this is 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, relationships thrive, health is improved, sense of purpose becomes clearer, and the list goes on.
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? One thing it is not is a trend, at least in it’s true context. It can be any practice that helps you to become the version of yourself that you are striving for or meant to be. It’s recognizing when your life is out of alignment and seeing this as an opportunity for change. It’s getting to know yourself and cultivating powerful choice-making skills. It can be real and uneventful (managing debt, cooking healthy, waking up earlier). It can cost nothing or be extravagant as you want. It’s anything that makes you feel good.
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
- Higher self-esteem
- Feeling of empowerment
- Weight loss
- Increased productivity
- Improved health and wellbeing
To get from where you’re at now to where you want to be may seem daunting. It starts by committing every day to a practice that over time will give you the desired outcome. It’s important to have faith and patience that though you may not feel immediate changes, when you do, it will be meaningful and sustaining.
Designing Your Routine: What Is Your Goal?
The first step is coming up with your goal. It may be pretty clear for you or maybe it’s more of a feeling that something needs to change and you’re not sure what that is right now. Start by asking yourself how you want to feel. To help with this exercise use your five senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch) to imagine what this looks like for you. If you like to journal, 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) make sure you have it written out and maybe include the reason why you want to achieve this. If you are a visual person, utilize images and color or create a vision board that represents what you are working towards.
Upon waking in the morning and every night before going to bed, look at your goal or 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 and 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 pranayama or 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 from each category; it can be something more related to your goal. Start with something easy. If you try to do too much at the start, you might become discouraged if you are not able to stick to it.
An Example of A Self-Care Routine
Goal: To invite more happiness and freedom into my life in a way that is in alignment with who I am.
- Tongue Scraping
- Drink 4-6 oz of warm water
- 10- to 15-minute walk
- Journal (include positive experience)
During the Day:
- 1-2 cups of ginger tea
- Random act of kindness
- Do something that makes me happy
- Read 10 pages of inspirational book
- Write in gratitude journal three new things
During the Week
- Self-abhyanga 2-3 times per week
- Exercise 2-3 times
This routine may seem a bit more “advanced” for some. Most concerning might be the time commitment it would take to fit all this in! Keep in mind these practices add to your life in a way that allows you more time to do things you really want to do, partially because you are more productive. A simpler self-care routine might look like this:
- Wake up a half hour earlier
- Meditate for 20 minutes
- Take a short walk
For at least 21-days incorporate new self-care practices into your daily life and as these become integrated you may find yourself ready to add more in time.
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 to the wayside. However, if you have someone to hold you accountable, it’s easier to stick to the commitment you made and why.
Another helpful tip is to put everything into a 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. Rather than having a specific name, it was considered a way of life amongst ancient traditions. Rising with the sun, praying, making offerings and being social were a way to harmonize with the world, instilling strength and resilience. It’s a different world now, but your core needs are the same. Establish a self-care routine for yourself today and start to reap the benefits.