Valentine's Day seems like perfect timing to talk about loving ourselves and practicing self-care. Self-care is the act of tending to our own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. I am excited that self-care is being talked about more and more, however, I want to be clear about some misconceptions. One, self-care is not escapism, numbing, or excuse for poor behavior. The act of truly caring for ourselves involves tuning in, paying attention to where we're going, how we're getting there and what we need to maintain the truest, bravest, kindest version of ourselves. Two, self-care is not just for the lucky few that have oodles of time, energy, and money to spend on themselves. Self-care is for everybody. Period.
How do we decipher the difference between true acts of self-care and behaviors that more likely resemble escapism, numbing, or just plain poor behavior? Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference in the moment; that bottle of wine goes down pretty easy, that package of Oreos taste darn delicious, and we laughed so hard during that last season of our favorite sitcom we just binge watched. We're more likely to notice the difference afterwards. As you re-enter your life of responsibility do you feel energized, content, whole, and integrated, or are there feelings of resistance, grief, shame, and guilt?
When exploring what might constitute self-care for you, ask yourself these questions. What helps me feel like me? When do I feel nourished, inside and out, most at home, energized? Where do I claim space in my life? What helps me to feel nurtured and loved? When do I feel whole and integrated?
I believe self-care is essential to mental wellness, and to wholehearted, authentic living. When we're not paying attention to our needs, or if we're working to earn our self-worth and love, it shows up physically as exhaustion, loneliness, depression, anxiety, physical illness. It shows up in our behaviors; addictions, checking out emotionally, snapping at loved ones, road rage, gossip, and behaving in ways that are just not aligned with who we really are.
How many times have you put off doing something for yourself, because someone else's needs took priority (ahem, parents)? How many times have you denied yourself self-care because you hadn't reached some other unrelated goal? I understand that others depend on us, we have to hold ourselves accountable, and we have work to contribute to the world around us. However, I challenge all of us to take an honest look at the quality of our interactions, our contribution, our connections with others when we're not making the time and effort to replenish our energy, to make ourselves whole. Those interactions, contributions, and connections suffer when we are feeling depleted. Self-care is not a privilege or a luxury. We don't have to earn the right to self-care. We exist, so we are worthy of love and self-care exactly as is. No more putting it off until ___________________. (You fill in the blank.)
How do we make self-care a priority? Set the intention. Schedule it like an appointment if you have to. Fold it into your routine so it becomes a habit. Tell your support system about your intention so they are aware and can help to protect that time. Be supportive of others' needs for time for self-care. Acts of self-care take on many forms - some that require little time and little money. Explore which ones work for you and make note of it so you have a wide variety to access at different times. Think outside the box.
Some common practices of self-care include but are not limited to: practicing personal boundaries, playing, creating, journaling, pursuing an interest simply because it's interesting, engaging in therapy, reading, moving our bodies, fueling our bodies with healthy foods, praying, meditating, warms baths, massage, connecting with others, taking a time out, spending time in nature, and the list goes on.
I would love to hear from you! Please share your favorite methods of self-care in the comments
. This Valentine's Day how will you practice self-care and encourage others to do the same?