Self-care. Self-care. Self-care. This fashionable word is thrown around like confetti nowadays, and is being marketed to women in particular. But what is it?
Self-care requires taking a holistic approach to life; caring for ourselves in all regards. It is part of a pro-active strategy to prevent burn-out. In its most simplest form it is classed as any intentional act taken to meet an individual’s physical, mental, spiritual or emotional needs.
As soon as you type ‘self-care’ into a search engine you will be inundated with an abundance of activities you can incorporate into building your own self-care routine: manicures, massage, hot bubble baths, picking flowers, reading a book, getting acupuncture, walking … But what is the real meaning of self-care?
I wanted to write this blog because I, like many women I know, find it relatively tricky to allow myself to practice self-care on a regular basis.
I feel that investing time in taking care of my own body and mind should fall behind the needs of everyone else and in all honesty, upon hearing the phrase self-care I immediately feel queasy. But why is this? Why don’t we payas much attention to ourselves as we do to other people? Self-care is a concept that is largely misunderstood and as a result of this a number of myths have developed surrounding it, for example; self-care is selfish and we have to earn the right to practice it. NO! It is myths such as these that are partially to blame for our inability to practice sustainable self-care and so it is crucial we remember they are just that – myths. There are other barriers that can make long-term self-care tricky though, including anxiety, stress, your inner critic, others being critical of your choices, feeling like you don’t have the time…
So, what if we try and modify our view of self-care in order to try and overcome some of these barriers to self-care?
I want to use the following analogy to explain what I mean by this. It is taken from a book called Boundaries: How to Draw the Line in Your Head, Heart and Home (Miller & Lambert, 2018): “…remember when you get on a plane how the flight attendants tell you – in case of emergency – to put on your own oxygen mask first, before helping others?” This is a practical example of self-care but the principle remains the same in everyday life – self-care is not about ignoring the needs of others; it’s about not ignoring yourself. It’s about boundaries, not just bath bombs (not that there’s anything wrong with bath bombs!). Self-care consists of establishing limits for yourself and having boundaries that you can communicate and stick to. Ironically, when we take the time to meet our own needs we will feel recharged and have more energy to give to others, and we will have the nourishment we need to achieve great things.
In reality self-care can be hard and difficult to embrace at first.
Sometimes it can feel selfish. Sometimes we might not want to do it. But, self-care is a necessity and ultimately it is about self-preservation. It will mean different things to you at different times in your life. If something big is going on (i.e. a break up, a house move) you may need to take care of yourself in a gentler way, but if things are going well for you the best self-care might be to challenge yourself a little! Self-care is a personal journey, no-one else’s way is the right way for you so it is important to learn what YOU need and become self-aware.
Remember, you are deserving of a little of your time and energy, just as much as anyone else around you.
Written by: Charlotte Rainey, Cherished Volunteer