Self-Care: The Relationship with Yourself
Self-Care. Self-Care. Self-Care. It has almost become a buzz word. So, has it lost its meaning and intention? I hope not!
No matter how indulgent, fancy, or simplistic the term may sound, no matter how often we make a joke about how we need to go for a vacation for self-care, it simply is.... Critical. Period. Double period. So why do we wait till we need an extreme version of self-care such as a cruise, a spa weekend, or a complete disconnect from others to feel we have truly earned a self-care activity? In other words, why do we wait so long?
Ok, so now consider this. When we have a busy day, we are tending to various tasks, and then we are alerted to the fact that we have a full bladder. Yikes! Do we wait to meet that body need? Do we say to ourselves: “Oh, I can wait a few days,” “I can do that next week or next month,” “I should tough it out,” or “I shouldn’t be so wimpy.” That would be ludicrous! Well, so is putting off out mental health self-care tasks. We understand that a full bladder is a physiological function that needs to be tended to. Well, news for you, so is the stress that our brain and nervous system are experiencing. It just cannot wait! The brain needs just as much regular check-ins as our bladder.
Are you feeling guilty? Feel like self-care = selfishness? Brené Brown cites masses of research that shows the importance of self-care, including allowing ourselves to experience our feelings of vulnerability without shame. And yes, she says, feeling vulnerable is part of caring for yourself. Maybe you need to look at why you are not allowing yourself to want better? Why aren’t you a priority? Are there themes of shame in your past? Are you questioning your worth and value? This needs to be looked at as it may lead to your downfall.
So, you want to function at a consistent level physically, emotionally, and mentally eh? Well, self-care is the only way to ensure we are at our best—no short cuts. Sure, we can put it off, we can deny, blame, and shame ourselves, and make excuses, but why wait until our brain is ready to implode or explode? Does that seriously make sense? If you are in guilt mode about doing self-care, then ok, are you any good to others if you are working on fumes? Are you giving freely if you are depriving your physiology of proper functioning?
Consider the following:
Don’t kid yourself. Workaholism or the busy-mindset is not a virtue. It is not pretty when you are exhausted and irritable. A work-life or task-self balance is key. You are not useful to anyone if you are emotionally and physically spent.
Stop existing and start living. You have a responsibility to care for your own health, and the good news is we are response-able!
Benefits, benefits, benefits. If you don’t already know (or as a good reminder), self-care improves your physical health. You are more productive, improved concentration, improved immunity (fewer colds and flu)—enhanced self-esteem. We gain increased self-knowledge, self-understanding. We have improved stamina, passion, and inspiration augmented empathy, healthy relationships with yourself and with others. Are this enough reasons?
Small but meaningful self-care tasks. If you are task-focused, then bring it on. Here are some short but meaningful self-care activities: a short walk, breathing exercises, laugh at a joke or fun memory, say ‘No,’ stop overthinking, and put away the self-critic thoughts.
Self-Compassion is a requirement. The first step to genuine self-care is to recognize that self-compassion is a crucial part of your emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. Self-compassion involves managing the best you can, without criticizing or punishing yourself for not doing things exactly the way you imagine you should be doing them. Watch if you are telling yourself that you are in 'self-pity' or being 'self-centered.' Is it really true? What would you advise a friend?
Not all self-care activities are equal. It is important to note that not everything that feels good is self-care. Unhealthy coping mechanisms such as food, alcohol, and risk-taking activities may be tempting to escape our stressors but consider the cost. Remember, those self-destructive activities may help us to regulate challenging emotions, but the relief is temporary, and the price could be high. There is a difference between self-care activities and unhealthy coping mechanisms; your body will know the difference.
Yes, you ALWAYS have time for some self-care. Yup, it’s true. You always have time. You have time to sit for 5 minutes and notice your breath. You have time to notice how the floor feels beneath your feet. You have time to see colours around you and see what one you like the best. You have time to notice the sounds of nature and the touch of something comforting. The brain uses our 5 senses to feel safe, so please, help it out.
My two MUST knows:
Make sure your self-care is explicitly designed for you. There are many different self-care practices. No one type of activity will suit everyone. One person may like hanging with friends and going out on the town, but another enjoys the solitude of a good movie or book. Some like yoga, others running. Some benefit from an excellent fine wine, others time in a garden. Don’t let others shame you on your own personal self-care style. Find your self-care blueprint.
Self -Attunement. Are you checking in with yourself? Are you noticing what is going on in your body? What is your emotional and physical battery level? Are you running low? Do you have enough battery life to keep going, or do you need a re-charge? If we don’t check the level of our tank, we may not notice when we have no gas left. If your self battery is at 20%, can you do that 60% activity? Successful self-care is done proactively, not reactively.
“The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself” ~ Steve Maraboli