What do you do to recharge?
Even if we let go of our tethers (see The Hot Air Balloon of Life), if we don’t fill our hot air balloons with inner energy, we won’d be able to soar. Our culture teaches us not to listen to our body, but to power through, even when we are running on fumes.
We can choose to wait until we are overwhelmed or sick before recharging ourselves, or we can develop a preventative maintenance plan. It may be because we are too busy taking care of the needs of others. Or it may be because we feel we are not worthy of self-care. I can’t get a massage until I lose weight. I can’t play until all my work is done (which it never is). Or it may be because we feel we are indispensable. I can’t take time for myself, my family/work/friends need me.
“Self-care is the deliberate choice you make to maintain your own health and wellness. This includes regularly checking in with your mind and body, identifying any unmet needs and nurturing your physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual wellbeing on an ongoing basis.” Brene Brown
Chris Germer says to ask:
- Do you let yourself enjoy a compliment?
- Have you lingered over a delicious meal lately?
- Can you revel in the love you feel for certain people?
- Are you prone to take a deep breath of fresh autumn air?
- Do you let yourself laugh out loud when you’re happy?
- Is it okay to feel pride in accomplishment?
- Do you take pictures to remember great times?
- Do you have friends who really know how to enjoy themselves?”
|Self-Care Is||Self-Care Is Not|
|Changing your thoughts and behaviors so they better contribute to your wellbeing||Indulging yourself|
|Resourcing yourself so you can take care of yourself and others||Selfish|
|An ongoing practice||One and done|
|Changing the intention of your everyday activities||Time consuming|
Often, we think of self-care as indulging ourselves in a bubble bath, a manicure, or a decadent desert. That is pampering ourselves. All pleasures are not necessarily self-care. Self-care can also be saying no to that decadent desert. It is also learning to say no without feeling guilty, not using food, alcohol, or shopping to self-soothe, allowing yourself to make mistakes, and allowing yourself to have needs.
Self-care is being aware of and responding to what you need in the moment. It comes from inside, not from making your external circumstances just so. When we are aware of what we need in the moment, we can make meaningful changes to our thoughts and behaviors, so they contribute to our wellbeing. We stop doing things that make us feel bad. And since we are paying attention to our needs, we begin to trust ourselves.
When you look at self-care through this lens, it is definitely not selfish. Although if you have always been putting your partner or friends needs above your own, they may suggest you are being selfish. When we take care of ourselves and our needs, we don’t disregard the needs of others. It is simply making sure we don’t deplete ourselves by taking care of others. This may mean setting and communicating boundaries.
“If we’re going to care for ourselves, this means taking charge of our own well-being. In order to alleviate our own suffering, we have to take our needs seriously and value ourselves enough to meet them. Once we acknowledge that our needs matter—one of the first principles of self-compassion—we can stand our ground when we’re asked to sacrifice what’s important to us. We don’t have to rank our needs below those of others, the way women have been socialized to do.” Kristen Neff, Fierce Self Compassion
Most of us are reactive in our self-care. When we have a bad day, we indulge ourselves in ice cream. When we deplete ourselves so much that we get sick, we have enforced rest, though not always as much rest as we really need. If we believe we are worth it, we may become proactive in our self-care. We can plan to give ourselves time to receive what we need. We realize that self-care is not a reward, it is a necessity.
While some self-care activities are a single experience, like a bubble bath, most require ongoing effort. That might mean carving out a few minutes each day for meditation, gently brushing your teeth as a self-care activity (not a task to check off your ToDo list), setting, communicating, and managing boundaries, or taking care of your body to name a few.
If you think of self-care as an indulgence like a spa day, it is time consuming. Brushing your teeth in a kinder way takes no time at all. Neither does reframing your self-talk to be more kind.
To make the most out of self-care, it is essential to have a regular practice that is a part of your life and not something you try only when you are about to have a breakdown. A self-care practice requires that you periodically reflect on your needs and make appropriate changes to meet those needs. You may:
- Accept that it’s OK to have needs
- Allow yourself to be tired
- Allow yourself to make mistakes
- Define healthy boundaries
- Express yourself clearly and without guilt
- Learning to accept and knowing when to ask for help
Besides reflection and belief changes you may choose to set aside time for:
- Looking after your body by including some form of physical movement (not necessarily exercies) in your routine
- Making healthy food and snacks to nourish and fuel your body
- Making time for yourself to relax, reflect and play
- Staying connected with people, places and activities that make you feel good
There are so many practices we could include in our self-care plan, but we can’t do them all. So, next we look at and prioritize our needs. This is not a one and done exercise, as our needs change over time. So at least quarterly set aside a meditation or journaling session to reflect on your needs. Or it may work better for you to set aside a few minutes each day for reflection.
Your inner critic will have a field day with this, because if you were raised as I was, it is not OK to have needs. This makes it vital that you schedule specific times and hold yourself accountable for reflecting on your needs. Even though you are not perfect, it is OK for you to have needs. So, commit to reflecting and to making your self-care practice an integral part of your life. Remember that self-care resources you so you are more resilient and productive while being less likely to burnout.
Self-care is our way of recharging our inner energy so we can live life to the fullest. We give ourselves the physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual resources we need in that moment. Instead of powering through and running on empty, we are energized with a full tank.