The first time I was asked what I did for self-care, I drew a blank. I love to travel, which felt like it kind of fitted into the self-care category – but my therapist at the time wanted to know what I did on a daily/weekly basis, to indulge in, take care of, or to treat myself.
Part of me felt like I should absolutely know the answer to this question – we keep hearing how important self-care is in order to stay connected to oneself, but had I found things which could fit into this category? No, it seemed I had not.
After spending some time dwelling on this, I could scrape a few things together – like I went for a wax and a facial every 6 weeks… This apparently is NOT self-care, this is basic maintenance and falls into grooming.
Keeping your hair neat with regular trips to the stylist? Same thing!
Pedicure? Yip, same deal
Physio for my dodgy hip? This falls into medical and still isn’t really self-care.
While I was doing these things for myself, they always had a purpose – true self-care is about doing something with no real purpose other than to be with yourself, doing something which feeds your body, mind and soul.
So what is true self-care, and why is it important?
In general terms, self-care includes all those things we do that are good for ourselves, but we need to be mindful that WE are the ones benefiting. It is so easy as women to consider everyone in our equations for life, so what can feel like self-care on one hand, could turn into an obligation or resentment on the other, because suddenly it’s about someone/everyone else.
Similarly with the stuff that needs to happen anyway, like a haircut or a wax – these things have to be done (if that’s how you roll), they aren’t there for pure indulgence or joy.
I have yet to meet someone who has an infinite amount of love, care and compassion for everyone around them. In fact, I thought I was one of those people – until I burned out…
Our bodies, minds and souls need to feel like they also matter, we need to feel like our needs are being considered (and hopefully met on more occasions than not) and like there is space to be who we truly are, without feeling the weight of duty or obligation. The way we do this, is by finding the time and the things which feed us.
Types of Self-Care
There are many different things you can do for self-care, but if you are hitting a blank then take a look at these 5 categories, for inspiration.
Yes, it’s important to be healthy, so I’m not speaking here about what you need to do to maintain a level of health that is good for you. Some people get immense well-being from different forms of physical exercise – for example, I run to keep fit, but I do yoga because it’s like a treat for my body, mind and spirit.
Reconnecting with an old friend or making one-on-one time with friends falls into this category. Remember that this isn’t about seeing others out of obligation, but rather choosing interactions that you know will feed your need for connection and community.
*Note: it goes without saying that time needs to be created for this, without kids or partners! Yes it’s hard, but self-care is important, just as YOU are important. The benefits far outweigh the admin of finding a sitter or telling your partner to make their own dinner.
Some people are extremely sensitive to touch, sound or body sensations. Having a relaxing massage, having a long, hot bath or lying alone listening to your favourite music would fall into this category.
Taking the time to connect with your God, Higher Power or Universe is another type of self-care you can indulge in. This can manifest in so many different ways, from a daily meditation practice to a gratitude journal or if you’re creative, going out with the sole intention of drawing/photographing everything which inspires you.
Getting in touch with your emotions
Pushing unpleasant emotions down has become an art in our society (even applauded), but the thing about pushing emotions down, is that they don’t go away – they just wait for another time to make themselves known. Journaling or taking time to process the emotions from an event is considered self-care!
Why should you engage in self-care?
You can only be the best version of yourself, if you are feeling cared for and nourished. We cannot rely solely on our partners, our children, our friends or our families to do this for us! It is our responsibility as adults, to make sure that we are nourishing ourselves in the ways we need.
In my experience, neglecting my own self-care resulted in a slow decay in my own energy, patience, empathy and compassion. Resentment is probably the first to show up. We start resenting those around us for not doing more, being more or considering us more. My therapist once told me; “If faced with guilt or resentment, choose guilt every time because resentment is soul death”. I live by that to this day!
You can also have feelings of depression, disconnection and very low levels of energy. We can become inpatient, judgemental and critical of others. Feelings of not being valued or considered are also common – but if we cannot value or consider our own needs, how do we teach our children and partners to value us?
A lack of self-care is very common if you tend towards co-dependency, if you’re a parent, if you grew up in a family where one parent played the martyr or where the practice of self-care was not evident.
So what are some of YOUR self-care practices?
I love taking long, hot baths and going to the movies on my own. The whole process of choosing a movie that I want to see (not having to consider anyone else) and the feelings of empowerment going all on my own, feed my soul in a way that no wax or facial ever could.