There is so much talk and advice nowadays around the concept of self care. The importance and necessity of taking time to ensure we are supported cannot be overstated, but often, the idea of self care or self love can conjure ideas and perceptions of indulgence or extravagance. Often we see self care and self love as being time consuming, requiring us to block time in our day to take part in a physical effort like yoga, pilates or strength training, or ensuring that we make time to mentally disconnect through meditation or isolating ourselves from stimulus. The idea of self care has morphed in many ways to equate to just another thing we have to do in our busy lives and hastily gets added to our already overwhelming to-do lists. When we speak about self care as just another task, it can quickly get pushed to the back burner, something we will attend to when everything else is taken care of. It becomes less of a daily ritual that we build within our day, to another requirement that we measure ourselves against to determine how well or hard we are working on ourselves.
Taking care of our bodies and minds is essential, important and necessary. We must build time within our day to make these elements priorities and strive to move them from tasks we have to remember to do, to daily habits and rituals that become integral parts of the fabric of our daily lives. It is not easy to build those habits, but it’s essential, and the rewards and benefits to our peace of mind and stability will be acutely felt when a consistent practice is established. But there is more to self care than building a positive and supportive physical and mental practice. It involves setting limits and thresholds that determine what you are willing to accept and invite into your life.
First, we must learn to say No. No to the things we don’t want to do, no to the nights we don’t feel like participating in, no to the friend that constantly drains us. Saying no doesn’t have to be cruel, rude or mean. It is a commitment to ourselves to only engage with what we are capable of doing. Saying no means not stretching ourselves too thin or overcommitting because we are worried about offending someone. Saying no means prioritizing things in our life and listening to our bodies when they tell us to slow down. It is easy to get caught up in ensuring that we satisfy the needs of everyone else, but we can’t function at our most optimal level if we don’t say no to the commitments, events or people that take our energy and don’t help to replenish it.
We also must work to be okay with being by ourselves. Often we overcommit in order to fill our days and nights with activity because we are scared about being alone. But being alone gives us the time to check back in and re-centre ourselves. If forces us to deal with our thoughts and emotions without distraction, and while this can be daunting and scary, facing ourselves full-on enhances our relationships both with others and ourselves. Self care is about moving forward in abundance, joy, optimism and health. We can only achieve this when we strive to clear the clutter, when we can look at ourselves and be okay with where we have been and where we are right now. To stop the personal judging and accept the person we are; embracing the perceived flaws and rejoicing in our gifts. Being by ourself and truly accepting who we are, is one of the greatest acts of self care that we can give ourselves.
Just as important, we must make it a priority to engage with things that bring us pleasure, just for the pure fun of it. Playing an instrument, reading a juicy novel or running with our favourite playlist on repeat. Exercise and meditation have become frequent messages in media that are the key to self care, but we forget that engaging in activities “just because” is so powerful to our overall health as well. Feeling good comes when we allow ourselves to live, when we give ourselves the warranted permission to laugh, relax and do something for no particular reason. Running a bubble bath or indulging with a favourite food can feel so good, but we sometimes forget to savour it. We have to make a concerted effort to take a breath, relax and do something just for fun.
Our lives can pull us into many unrelated directions, causing stress and friction that only hurts our health. It is so important to develop and practice a routine of self care and love to help support us in maintaining health and overall wellbeing. Being prudent in our health regime through diet, exercise and sleep is so important, but striving to also look at other areas that support self care is crucial. Learning to say no, being okay with ourselves and engaging in activities for no other reason than “just because we want to” are additional ways that can support our drive to love and care for ourselves. In this way, we can become the version of ourself that is who we are truly meant to be.