Self-care is a hot topic right now. You see it everywhere. The importance of it, how it will improve your life and health, how you have to fill your own cup in order to care for others. However, I think there is a lot of confusion about what it is. Last week, I saw a piece in the Toronto Star that quoted a cosmetic surgeon saying that many young women (25-35) now include getting lip filler injections and botox as part of their self-care routine. Now, this is not something that I would consider self-care. I see self-care as something you do that enhances your health and wellbeing, that helps you connect more deeply with your inner essence. Things like getting a mani-pedi, haircuts and colouring or lip injections do nothing to help you connect more deeply to yourself. That doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with doing them.
Certainly, there are many things I enjoy doing that don’t contribute to self-care. Alcohol, video games, social media and watching television are all things that I don’t consider self-care either. In fact, many of these things are used to repress our feelings, to numb ourselves. I enjoy them all but I know they don’t help me deepen my connection to my inner essence.
So let’s look at the kinds of things that will fulfill the definition of self-care as something that enhances our wellbeing and our connection to ourselves.
1. Sleep – This is so important and it’s not easy to get enough sleep, especially if you have a young baby or attend births. Birth and babies don’t follow our schedules! I’d love to hear your strategies to ensure that you get enough sleep. Let me know in the comments!
2. Eat nourishing food. – Yes, I know, this can be a struggle. I know my own relationship with food is complex. Given how many fast food restaurants there are, I think this is a very common problem. Just do your best and work on being honest with yourself. Are you using food to stuff down uncomfortable feelings? How does your body feel when you eat healthy food? How does it feel when you overindulge in sweets or deep fried foods?
3. Exercise – Some kind of physical exercise is essential to our wellbeing. It can be as simple as going for walks or it can mean having serious fitness goals. Only you can decide what is right for you.
4. Be kind to yourself. – What kinds of things do you say to yourself? Do you build yourself up or do you call yourself stupid, lazy or a failure? When you make mistakes do you treat yourself with compassion?
5. Gratitude – Do you express gratitude for what you have in your life? Sometimes it’s not easy to stay connected to gratitude, especially when you are going through a difficult time. Find something every day to be grateful for. If you can’t, return to #4.
These are some of the things I consider true self-care. It’s not a sexy list, is it? Real self-care often involves doing something that we don’t want to do, it requires discipline. But when we do these things, we feel better at a deep level. It’s not about relaxation or looking after our outward appearance. It’s about genuinely loving ourselves and making the effort to treat ourselves with care.