What do you think of when you hear the term 'self-care?' Do you imagine a candle-lit scene complete with essential oils, dreamy music, and a bubble bath? Or do you think of a self-care day, playing hooky from work, and lounging on the couch with Netflix?
The phrase 'self-care' has become nearly as ubiquitous as it is challenging to make time to do. Yet the importance of self-care cannot be overstated as it is through the practices of self-love that you preserve the vitality, focus, and effectiveness of your goodself.
Self-care doesn't have to entail luxury, though- it can be as simple as saying 'no' when you need to, prioritizing tasks, or making your internal dialogue kinder.
Many times our resistance to self-care comes back to our beliefs about it. If we believe that self-care necessitates a self-pitying attitude or indulgence, we may tend to avoid it. Yet self-pity and indulgence have little to do with day-to-day self-care practice.
When you take the time and energy to make sure you are nourishing yourself, and your energy levels are high, only then are you able to serve others. You can't pour from an empty cup, as the saying goes. Yet many of us fail to grasp this rationale until the vessel of our energy is indeed empty. I have heard people endlessly declare that they 'can't' make time to care for themselves. But what I have learned over the years- about myself and others- is that 'can't' could often be replaced by 'won't.' If we see self-care as something selfish and morally wrong, we're less likely to prioritize it.
Because keeping your well-being intact is so vital, we must take a look at the versatile ways it is achievable. Earlier, we imagine self-care as a home spa day or a relaxing Netflix binge, but self-care takes many forms, and plenty of those are not time-intensive. Self-care can become a built-in feature of how you handle business day-to-day once you recognize what you need and how to get there.
Regina loved her mother-in-law, Mona, and appreciated all the help and babysitting she provided for Regina and her husband, Mark's three young children. But, sometimes, Mona got a little too involved in how Regina and Mark parented their children and other personal affairs of their relationship. After some time, Regina noticed that whenever Mona had been in the home for a whole day, she felt exhausted and irritable. When she finally recognized how Mona had been crossing some of her boundaries, she decided to have an honest and compassionate talk with her.
Much to her surprise, Regina found that her mother-in-law took her perspective reasonably well and was more respectful of her boundaries in the future, which protected Regina's energy resources. This example is self-care. Notice that it didn't require a solo vacation (though that would be nice!) or even any significant expense. She merely protected her energy from being drained or imbalanced as a preventative measure.
Defining and guarding your boundaries rates at the top of the list for self-care and self-preservation. After all, your boundaries are what determine what your self is.
Dr. Kristina Neff, Ph.D., a compassion researcher, suggests that a central component to caring for yourself is in self-compassion. Neff says, "Even when you have high self-esteem, however, you can't necessarily keep it. Your self-esteem is likely to fly out the window the next time you blow a big work assignment, can't zip up your pants anymore, or don't get invited to that big party."
She then declares the antidote to this problem: self-compassion. Self-compassion acts as a self-regulatory behavior that allows us to acknowledge our state of imperfection while loving ourselves just the same. Compassion can even help us to achieve goals that may fall into our self-care category. For instance, many people may wish to lose a little weight or improve their health and eating habits. Unfortunately, it's common to try and use self-criticism and judgment to achieve these results.
Research shows, however, that individuals who treat themselves with compassion and self-judgment are more likely to achieve weight-loss and health goals.
Now we've seen that self-care can be as simple as setting and maintaining boundaries, nipping negative self-talk, and practicing self-compassion. But when you're ready to shower yourself with a little extra attention, it can be an excellent idea to implement a self-care day.
Whether you have an abundance of time and resources or are feeling a degree of scarcity, here are three ideas to weave into any self- care day to boost your internal reservoir to overflowing:
1) Work with what you have now: If you're a mother of 3 with two jobs, it may be unrealistic to suggest taking a full weekday off for pleasure and rest. In situations like these, build self-loving activities into your day. Engage in sensory pleasures like feeling the breeze as you walk out to your car, listening to uplifting music on your way to work, stopping to briefly smell flowers or enjoy the sunshine and breeze, or sitting outside on lunch hour.
2) Focus on balance: What may be self-care to one person may feel like a drain to you. Say your coworker gets up at three AM to make time for exercise, meditation, and a gourmet breakfast- great! Maybe that works for him. If this routine leaves you tired and burnt-out by midday, take smaller steps to wellness. Some days self-care might look like a home-made plant-based salad, and on other days you might just need to indulge in a burger. It's all about balance.
3) Tend to your body: If you're one of the 129.38 million full-time employees in the USA, chances are your body takes a back seat to your daily mental requirements. Modern life can be extremely logical, requiring hours in front of the computer, commuting in vehicles, or stationary at a desk. It is crucial to infuse some movement into your body and your day. Get up and do 5 minutes of stretching or yoga, take a quick jog after work, or best yet, have a private dance party this evening at home. Body care can include anything from manicures and pedicures, a one-hour massage session, staying hydrated, or having sensual time with your partner.
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