What comes to mind when you hear the word self-care? People practicing yoga in the middle of the woods somewhere like those in the photos above? A pedicure? A selfish person spending valuable time on themselves when others need them? Something you think you don’t have time for? All of the above? None of the above? Something in between?
If you do a Google search on “self care” you get back 3.22 billion results in just .74 seconds! Wow! That’s a lot of information on a little eight letter, hyphenated word. In fact, the Oxford dictionary defines self-care as:
“the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.”Oxford Dictionary
Taking action. Preserving or improving your health. Nowhere does it say it’s about being a selfish person at all. I like to think of self-care as a matter of life or death. If you cannot take care of your own needs and health, then you cannot show up as your best self yet nor can you take care of others who may need you. It’s like what the flight attendants remind you when covering the safety moments at the beginning of your flight (they still do this, even though you most likely tune them out) – put on your own oxygen mask first.
Eventually, if you partake in little or no self-care, you will quickly burn out and run on empty. Case in point. Recently, I was deeply engrossed in following the news coverage about a current event unfolding. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning watching the coverage, getting just 4 hours of sleep one night and 5 the next night. I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted by the middle of the second day. I felt like a train had hit me. I was not able to function. I was missing out on important daily practices that were critical to my well-being. I was short with people at work and at home. I could not show up and be the best version of myself in these conditions. I had not practiced good self-care, so I could not help a single soul, including myself, who may have needed it at the time.
After talking to a friend, who also happens to be a coach, I realized that staying up that late into the wee hours of the morning was not helping me nor was it serving any purpose. There was nothing that was helpful about getting such little sleep. I could get a recap of the “news” the following morning.
This is just one example. Good self-care in this case meant a good night’s sleep (for me that is at least 7 hours of sleep and sometimes more). In other times, it means having a critical conversation with someone about a situation that has festered for too long. And yet in other times, it means offering myself self-compassion, as I would a friend in need, when something has happened that did not go as I had planned. The list goes on and on about what self-care means to me. And it will look different for every person.
Over time, offering up your time for self-care becomes a habit. You start small on one area and set a timer, say 5 minutes. You keep doing that over and over, each day and you eventually get to developing a good habit of self-care in that area of your life. For example, I started with mediating just 5 minutes every day. My mind raced everywhere and I had no idea how anyone could sit still for 5 minutes out of their day and do nothing but breathe. What value was this bringing me, I would think as my mind ran thru my to-do list that was as long as both of my arms put together! Fast forward two years and now I meditate for 20 minutes each morning because I know I am better off with it than without. My mind still takes over from time to time, as that is the brilliant thing about the mind. What’s different now is that I know that I just need to bring my mind back to my breath and not judge where my mind took me.
How will you begin to take back your time and schedule in self-care today? If you too want to develop a daily meditation practice, I recommend you head over to Insight Timer. A few of my favorite teachers are Sarah Blondin, Lou Redmond, Pablo Areliano (great piano music to journal to) and Fleur Chambers. There are so many good ones on there. The free version of the app gives you access to thousands of meditation genres. And just think, your body will thank you for those 5 minutes you spend!