You hear a lot about "self care" these days, but what does it really mean? There is a lot of confusion over what self care is, what it involves, and how it's beneficial. You need to understand what it is before you can begin to practice it correctly and benefit from it. Today we are going to talk about what self care is (and what it isn't).
What is self-care?
Self-care is any task that helps us to take care of ourselves. It can relate to any of our Five Thriving Points, but usually involves these four: Body, Spirit, Emotions, and Mindset.
When you practice self-care on a regular basis, every aspect of your life can improve. However, while it’s a simple enough concept, it can be difficult to put into practice. It’s also easy to confuse what self-care is. Put simply, it’s treating yourself well and giving yourself (Body/Spirit/Mindset/Emotions) what you need.
What isn’t self-care?
Self care isn't indulging in something bad for you. (Not a lot of it, anyway.) A piece of cheesecake to indulge yourself? No problem, as long as it's once in a while. Indulging every day? No. Don't use those kinds of rewards all the time. Mix it up: have a food/sweet treat every so often, but then alternate with other ways to have self-care: enjoying some time with a good book, relaxing for a weekend, etc. Indulgence can be a great occasional self-care practice, but on a daily basis it’s going to do a lot more harm than good.
So, it’s about finding a balance and not over-indulging in anything just because you think you deserve it. You might want to live off a diet of chocolate and cake, but the body needs healthy nutrition to function properly.
Self-care also isn’t doing things you think you should do, or that other people say you should do. It’s about making improvements for you, not your parents, your partner or anyone else tells you to do. It’s an individual practice, and that means it's different for everyone. When you add self-care to your routine, it should be focused solely on your own desires. (Which is a big change for most women. We're told from birth that we should live to please/serve others.)
A simple self-care checklist
In order to ensure your self-care routine is effective, it’s a good idea to follow a basic checklist. Think about:
• What you want to improve
• Why you want to improve it
• The type of self-care you need most
• Creating a no list
• Starting out gradually
Figuring out what you want to improve first and why you want to improve it is a crucial step. Remember, self-care only works if you’re doing it for you and nobody else. This doesn’t mean it’s a selfish act, however. It simply means you care about yourself enough to put yourself first, so you can be happier, healthier, and able to do more for others. (We can't help others without making sure our reservoir is at 100%)
Think about the type of self-care you need to focus on first. Physical and emotional self-care tend to be the most common types to start with. So, look at ensuring you’re getting enough sleep, eating healthy and getting regular exercise. Getting lots of sunlight helps, too. It can be harder in the winter, but even a 15 minute walk during the day can help.
Creating a “no” list can also help you to get started. This allows you to determine the things you don’t want to do or don’t like doing. It can include tasks such as not checking your phone right before bed or switching off from technology for an hour a day.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure you’re starting out gradually. It’s tempting to try and address everything with your new self-care routine. However, this can become overwhelming so it’s best to focus on one or two things at a time.
As you can see, self-care isn’t just about doing what you want. You need to focus on the things your mind, body, and spirit need. Knowing the difference between what self-care is and what it isn’t, will help you to establish the most effective routine.
June 24, 2018 - Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover, MA
I held a workshop yesterday at the UUCiA - "Activism for Introverts: 9 Ways that Anyone Can Change the World" - and it was uplifting and encouraging to see so many people who want to make the world a better place.
This talk is taken from my upcoming book with the same title.
If you would like information about speaking to your group, please click here to contact me.
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L. Shay Bradham is a writer, author, activist, and public speaker who lives near Boston, MA.