There’s been so much information, guides and blog posts written about self care this week, but what does self care really mean? The first thing most of us will think of will be things like long, hot bubble baths or expensive spa treatments. But does that work for everyone? Shouldn’t self care be whatever works for you? Its pretty unlikely you’d find something that everyone enjoys doing, and we all need and want different things for our lives. So why should self care be any different?
We’re told in the media that exercise is good for us. That getting our bodies moving releases endorphins, or happy chemicals, and that makes us feel better. But that’s not true for me. It makes me nervous about how my body will react if I push things to far – my CFS/ME means my body doesn’t produce energy properly, so when I use more than I naturally have and dip into the reserve tank I’ll pay for it with post-exertional malaise. I’ll have significantly increased pain and fatigue, major brain fog and will generally not be a functional person, and that will last several days. This isn’t a place I want to find myself so I’m careful about pacing myself and restricting exercise to short, gentle yoga sessions and little more than that. Whereas I know others who love nothing more than a long run or cycle ride, or a mad gym session to help them deal with whatever life throws at them – they do get all those happy chemicals and come away from it a much happier and chilled out person.
Self care for me personally is far more about listening to my body, paying attention to what it needs , filling my time with more things I love and less things I don’t, and being especially kind to myself if things don’t go to plan and I end up crashing.
Its knowing my limits and only occasionally pushing them for the things I’m willing to risk the payback for. Its about having clear boundaries, so that the people around me understand where I’m at and what I can or can’t cope with. Its taking care of myself, on the good days and the bad days.
I don’t always get this stuff right, there are plenty of occasions where my inner critic kicks off and starts berating me for pushing things when I should have known better, or for not standing my ground with someone and made my boundaries clear. Maybe this will always be something that’s a work in progress, and maybe that’s ok. Nobody is perfect and we’re always learning. Every day is a chance to remember to be kind to ourselves, to make every day a self care day and that we don’t have to wait to be reminded that self care isn’t selfish.
I was listening to a podcast recently where Julie Parker interviewed Ruby Warrington who wrote “Material Girl, Mystical World” where she talked about self love. She said that she saw self love as her duty, that she needed to love and fully accept herself in order to be a kind and caring person in the world, to be able to share her love with others. That really struck a chord with me. I associate self love and self care very closely. Without an element of self love, then self care feels like a luxury, like something we don’t deserve and shouldn’t do, which couldn’t be further from the truth. As Ruby Warrington says – its basically our duty! It’ll make us feel better, and make the people around us feel better as a result. Win-win in my book!
So on that basis, what might actually be considered self care? Pretty much anything! I’ve collated some of my favourites from the hundreds and hundreds of tweets using #selfcareweek:
- Journaling – write down all the things you need to get out of your head to help with letting things go and processing how you feel
- Breathe – sitting and deep breathing for a few minutes can help calm you down if things are feeling tough
- Self love challenge – write a list of all the things you like about yourself and keep coming back to it to add more
- Treats – this doesn’t have to be expensive either, something simple like a new book or a hot chocolate with extra marshmallows is most definitely still a treat. You deserve it! You don’t need flashy spa weekends all the time if that’s not your thing or not in your budget, you can still treat yourself.
- Curling up on the sofa with a hot drink and your favourite film or book (this one is my personal favourite!)
- Get outside – whether that’s going for a long walk or just sitting outside and getting some fresh air, just being outside in nature and away from stuffy offices and all the “should do” things we’re faced with really helps
- Listen to your body. If it tells you to stop doing something, or that you need more of something it’s a good idea to listen, then do what it says
- Get creative! Lots of people find crafty activities really therapeutic and I know of a couple of people who attribute their recently found creativity as the thing that has helped them heal
- Light some scented candles and just relax on your own
- Dance around the kitchen to your favourite cheesy music
- Laugh – watch a comedy on TV or find some videos on youtube, anything so lpng as it makes you laugh!
- Take a break – allow yourself that time to stop. Its ok to rest sometimes.
- Connect with your inner child – what things did you love doing as a child, but aren’t doing anymore? Pick up that hobby again, what have you got to lose?
How can you make time for some self care today?
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