The last couple of years have been rife with recommendations to participate in self care. There have been blog posts written, graphics created, rules drafted; all encouraging and advocating for self care. Then in the last little while, people have really started to push back and say that many of these rules don’t apply. All these cute graphics perhaps aren’t actually representing self care.
So, what even is self care?
According to the WHO, self care is “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.”
Psychcentral.com defines self care as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.”
Gracy Obuchowicz says that self care “is a [more] proactive response that requires you process what is causing you to numb” and is “something that when you do it, you wake up the next morning feeling better”.
With these definitions in mind, here are my thoughts on self-care.
Self-care will differ between people. We all have different personalities and different needs. As a highly sensitive person and also an introvert, quiet alone time is crucial to my self care routine. For an extrovert who thrives on conversation and stimulation, self care will likely look much different.
Self-care will differ for the same person at different times in their life. Some days self care might be simply brushing your teeth and allowing yourself to rest and process your feelings. Other days, self care might be making time to tackle a task that has been looming over you or going for a run. Allow yourself to have different forms of self care for different days.
Self-care could include a bubble bath. There are a lot of posts saying ideas like bubble baths are not self care. But they could be. Does it help you cope? Is it an activity that you’re taking part in to take care of your health (mental, emotional, and/or physical)? Do you wake up the next morning feeling better? For me, bubble baths often are a self care activity, because they are a conscious process that I go through and an activity that leaves me feeling better. I usually tidy a bit while the water is running, I make sure to have extra water to drink, I often turn my phone off, I run the bathroom fan to block out other noises, and I have some much needed alone time. For me, bubble baths are very much a self care activity. For you, they might not be.
So how do we decide what is a self care activity, and how do we know whether they’re a self care activity for ourselves?
Define self care for yourself. What are your goals from self care? To feel more energized? To feel calmer? And importantly, what do you need right now?
Give them a try! There’s no shortage of suggestions or graphics or ideas. Even if they sound silly, be open to trying them (and open to quitting them if they aren’t helpful!). Maybe keep a running list of ideas you’ve seen and rate how useful you’ve found them after you try them.
Create and define your own routines. I’ve found such comfort in simple routines in my day, even if I can’t or don’t complete them every single day. For example, most nights I make a cup of tea and tidy the kitchen/do any dishes while the water boils and the tea brews. Then I head up to bed and read while I drink my tea. For me, this is self care. These ten minutes to myself allow me to process my day in quiet, they allow me to tidy my space (which is very soothing and feels so good in the morning!) and to relax while participating in an activity I enjoy (reading).
Be conscious of how you feel after an activity. I’ve found that my body just sort of intuitively “knows” whether an activity was helpful or not. Take time to really digest how you feel and whether the activity was helpful.
I’ll share some of my favourite self care activities later this week on Instagram and Facebook so make sure you’re following me there! In the meantime, I’d love to hear of some of your favourite self care activities in the comments!