I understand self-care as finding a balance between our different needs. It's about caring for our whole selves (physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, whatever it may be).
We have to meet our needs in order to stay in good shape - physically, mentally and emotionally - so that we can be the person we want to be and be able to do those things important to us.
It's the equivalent of feeding & watering our plants so they can grow strong and beautiful, and produce the blossoms and/or fruit that they're here to produce.
If we just keep doing and forget about our state of being, we may start running on empty and will drive ourselves into exhaustion. I hear it so often, and I've experienced it myself.
So how I think about self-care is in terms of being attuned to our needs and making time and space to meet them, nourishing ourselves on all levels.
This can take many forms, and it really depends on what resonates with you. It could be a really good nap you need, or an adventurous trip to a gallery to feed your soul. A trip abroad to satisfy your lust for adventure, or a week off at home, taking walks, enjoying good food with friends, and curling up on the couch with a great book.
There are different levels of needs - but since you are one person, they are all connected. This means, looking after yourself physically will positively impact your mental and emotional health, and vice versa.
Sometimes we're quite out of touch with our needs, because we can be so narrowly focused on achievement. Forgetting that getting our needs met will actually help us achieve what really matters to us.
A good question to pinpoint your physical needs is:
- If my body could speak, what would it tell me it needs most right now?
(then really listen to the body's answer.)
And to pinpoint how to satisfy your mental and emotional needs ask yourself:
- What would bring me joy right now?
- If I could choose, how would I want to feel most of the time?
- If time wasn't an issue, what would I most love to do right now?
When we take restrictions (especially of time, other obligations, people, appropriateness, etc) out of the picture, we get a really good view of our true needs. It's then on us how we choose to fulfil them, and which ones we prioritise over others.
The challenge with self-care often is, that in our culture we're encouraged to take care of everybody else first, and put ourselves last.
But the whole point of SELF-care is that we put ourselves first. It's that well-known analogy of "putting your own oxygen mask on first". Even before your children's, or anyone else's. Because no matter how much you want to be helpful to others, if you don't take care of yourself first, you soon won't be able to take care of anybody else either.
Depleted, we can't serve the world. And it isn't fun to be depleted.
That's where I see courage come in.
Courage for me is the level to which we are willing to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable implies doing something that is uncomfortable, because it's different (to what we usually do, to what others may expect of us etc).
We risk possible judgement (from others, and from within by our own Inner Critic), we fear everything will fall apart if we take time for ourselves first.
We risk being seen as - that dreaded word - selfish.
But when you look at it from the survival point of view, you see that self-care is more important than fear. If we want to survive, let alone thrive, we need to care for ourselves.
Fear that keeps us away from nourishment doesn't serve our well-being.
We want to live well, feel well and do good in the world. For this, we must bravely protect the time and attention we give to ourselves, to replenish and nourish our needs, physical as well as others.
So I encourage you all to practice courage when it comes to self-care. Remind yourself of why self-care is so important for you - what will it enable you to be and do in the world - and make it a priority.
Like anything, self-care is personal, and it has to fit into your life. So tune in with yourself and establish how much self-care you need, and how you can make room for it in your everyday.
Start with small steps and allow the benefits to motivate you to keep going.
What could you let go of that's less important, in order to, perhaps take a 20min walk/a relaxing bath/read a book/do something creative/call a friend/treat yourself to a really nourishing meal/a massage/holiday abroad/ [insert you own].
Look at your current self-care activities and see which ones serve you already, and where you'd like to add some feel-good options.
Your self-care serves you best when it becomes a practice, a routine, a habit, a "non-negotiable".
This is supposed to do you good, not stress and overwhelm you. So if going on a week-long vacation abroad is a source of stress for you, don't do it. Trust your own inner compass, to guide you to the right things for you.
Ask yourself again:
- What does my body need?
- What does my soul need?
- What energises me?
- What would I like more of in my day?
- What would bring me joy?
And then take one small step at a time to bring more of that into your days over the next weeks and months. Because your life ultimately consists of days, weeks and months. :)
I hope this was helpful, I wish you well and lots of joy with your self-care routine!
Do share this blog with someone you know would also appreciate a boost in self-care.
If you would like support and guidance on how to nourish yourself, so you can do great things, schedule a call with me and let's see how I could help.