Self-Care is Good For You

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 can not 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!

How Body Image Was Defined on the School Playground

Words. They can have so much power over us and we don’t even realize it. Where were you when you first heard someone say something about your body? What words were said? How old were you?

I was on the playground, participating in track and field day, in the spring of the fifth grade. I had already gone through puberty about a year prior and had a very budding chest. Maybe I wasn’t wearing the most supportive bra on the planet. Or maybe I was. Those details are in the shadows compared to what was said. Although it’s much quieter than it once was, what was said sticks with me to this day. It even out shadows the ribbon I won for kicking the ball the farthest that day.

“Here comes Tick Tock Titty,” the boys hollered as I came up to kick the ball on the kickball field. All the boys laughed and a few girls too.

I was devastated. I wanted to crawl in a hole at that very instant. No one had teased me about my body up to that point that I could remember.

And here were two boys that I had a crush on calling me names due to my budding chest. The name would stick for the rest of fifth grade and into the last year of my elementary school days in the sixth grade.

By the seventh grade, I would go on my first diet. Those words said on the playground a year and a half prior were still haunting me. Add in the fact that I was at a bigger school, with even more kids, all trying to manage the transition to junior high school, puberty and acne at once. In elementary school we played in the gym or outside in the clothes we wore to school for physical ed time. In junior high, things were more “serious” with physical ed. It was it’s own full hour-long period in the day. It was all about old-fashion physical activity and endurance – many times with an audience watching you attempt to do at least one pull up on the steel bar hanging in the corner of the gym. How humiliating it was when you could barely do it.

There was no such thing as yoga or meditation taught in gym back then. Each day, we had to change into a gym uniform in front of the others right there at our locker. In those instances, I began to really see my body as different. My body was different from the others girls – the popular girls, the girls in the magazines, on TV, in the “Sweet Valley High” books I had once read, on billboards. Somehow, I felt different. I felt ashamed of my own body. And I was only in the seventh grade!

I would only come to fully understand the impact those five words spoken on the playground in the fifth grade had on shaping my own body image and sense of self years later when I was in therapy for an eating disorder diagnosis in middle age. When I hear the words today they no longer define me or cause me as much pain. I don’t know where those two boys are today as 48 year old men, and yet I have forgiven them in my own way to allow myself to heal. My hope is that if they have daughters or wives or partners that they treat them with the utmost respect because no person, young, old or in between, deserves to be taunted or treated differently because of their body size or shape.

Today, I am focusing on loving my body no matter its size or shape. I no longer wish my thighs were smaller or I could fit into a smaller size. Gone are the days of dieting and trying so hard to change the shape or size of my body. My body has endured much for me and is a vessel for me in this life on earth. For that reason alone, I am practicing being my best self yet, in all ways, to my body.

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com