“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.” Brené Brown
Often, we think of self-care as indulging ourselves in a bubble bath, a spa day, or a decadent dessert. That is pampering ourselves. Self-care is making meaningful changes to our thoughts and behaviors, so they contribute to our wellbeing. It may include the bubble bath, spa day, or dessert when we feel worthy and savor it. But self-care can also be saying no to that spa day or dessert when it will make us feel guilty. 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.
When you look at self-care through this lens, it is definitely not selfish. Although if you have always been putting your partner or friend’s needs above your own, they may suggest you are 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. Self-care may require setting and communicating boundaries.
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, setting 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 feeling the water in the shower run over your body.
We’ll start by looking at things that please us. Notice whether you allow yourself to savor the pleasure. Chris Germer suggests reflecting on these questions:
“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?” Chris Germer
We could include so many practices in our self-care plan, but we can’t do them all. If we try to, we will stress ourselves out. So, we need to prioritize our needs. Our self-care plan 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 or once a week 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. It is 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. 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 burn out.
You may choose to start with a nourishment list. That is simply a list of activities that you do or wish you did that please you. Below is a list of activities that activate happiness chemicals, use it to get you thinking.
Make sure to write your Nourishment list down and keep it in a place where you will see it. You may want to keep track of the number of times you do each activity in the next two weeks.
May you savor each moment of joy in your life.