When the term “self-care” started to be more commonplace I liked it and wanted to do it, but truth be told, I drew a blank on how to do it. It seemed to me that in order to take care of myself, I had to get away from it all, or fully pamper myself, or recharge my batteries all the way up – and those options seemed next to impossible. How could I take care of myself when there was so much to be done? And yet, I was usually paralyzed into inaction when faced with a to-do list a mile long, and I seemingly sat around with low productivity and missing an opportunity for self-care as well.
So let’s back up. What is self-care and how do we do it? Self-care is tending to yourself and/or your needs. There are an infinite number of possibilities for what self-care can look like, but in essence, it’s anything that allows you to connect with yourself, honour yourself, express yourself and anything that just feels good. And you may be doing self-care activities without even knowing it. The key aspect of self-care is recognizing it!
Self-care doesn’t have to be a magnificent endeavour or a complete escape from your day-to-day life. It can be subtle, small things incorporated into your day-to-day life. A good place to start is to think of your “faves” – your favourite movies, activities, places, etc. Or think about your senses – your favourite scents, tastes, smells, sights, textures. Or, think about a time in your life that you felt your best, the most like yourself. Then, take a few details from those experiences and add them into your life.
So, here are some ideas, and you’ll notice that some are grand (requiring time, money and planning) while others are simple and easy:
The Big Ones
· a night away
· dinner out
· sporting event
· read (even if it is a single chapter from a book or a single magazine article)
· watch a TV show (even if it is just one episode of a favourite series, or find a show from your youth on YouTube)
· watch a movie
· listen to music (an album, a playlist or even just one song)
· listen to a podcast
· take a bath
· a foot soak
· lay down
Others Take Care of You
· pedicure or manicure
· maid service
· a cozy blanket
· quiet space
· aromatherapy oils (you can even place a few drops in the shower!)
· decorate for a holiday
· change your home décor (add or change a picture, rearrange the furniture, paint a wall or a room in a colour you find vibrant, soothing or uplifting)
· martial arts
· sports (tennis, baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, pickleball – and don’t forget the basics like playing catch or shooting some hoops)
· meditation (see previous AHBlog post about the Headspace app!)
· tai chi
· time with children in hospital
· time with seniors in care
· prepare meals for the homeless
· help at a festival or event
· build or create something
· write (a story, a poem, a letter, your thoughts)
· play an instrument
· take a class
· self-learning (i.e. read up on a topic that you wonder about, such as pirates, legends, the backstories from movies, biographies, how things work, etc.)
· watch a documentary
· walk in nature
· watch a sunset
· pick berries
· bird watch
· look through photos
· listen to music from your youth
· visit a place from your youth (a neighbourhood, a hangout, a restaurant)
· say no to unnecessary requests
· say yes to fun
· lay off the guilt
· remove “should” from your vocabulary
Of course, you can combine activities – imagine the triple whammy of curling up in a cozy blanket with a bucket of popcorn to watch a movie! Enjoying the details is an important part of self-care. Take that popcorn, there’s the distinct scent – take a moment to breathe it in. There’s the sensation of reaching into the bucket and touching the slippery buttered kernels – take a moment to feel it. There’s the taste – take a moment to savour the flavour.
Now, I know what you are probably thinking, this sounds great, but there’s no way I can find the time to do any of it. Are you sure? You have taken a few minutes to read this post. Timing is where you can get creative and integrate ideas in small ways. For instance, you could download your favourite power ballad on to your device and take it into the bathroom, lock the door and crank it up. The five minutes you take to enjoy the song isn’t any longer than the five minutes you may take for another kind of visit to the bathroom (wink). If someone (read: a kid) asks what you are doing in there, respond with, “loving myself!” Now you are modelling self-care too…bonus! And once you start to do self-care, you will most likely find that it gains momentum. One simple act feels so good that it leads to another, and another, until you have incorporated into a way of life.
You may be thinking that you do some of these activities already and they don’t feel like anything special. The most important step in self-care is to label it in your mind by thinking, “I am doing this for me” or “I am taking care of myself”, and you might want to throw in a “this is ok” for good measure. By labelling it, your mind automatically files the experience into its folder of positive experiences. It knows all of the benefits that are associated with a positive experience and those get linked in as well. Benefits include feeling a sense of joy, happiness or fun. You could also be increasing physical strength depending on the activity, but you are definitely strengthening positive neuropathways in the brain and increasing the release of the good brain chemicals. Self-care also contributes to increased self-esteem, confidence and resiliency, and creates positive moods and mindsets.
So, if you have made it this far in the post, Congratulations! You took time to do something for yourself. If you feel uplifted or inspired by an idea in this post, if you are thinking about something in a new way, if you can’t wait to try an idea, then you just did self-care! Acknowledge it, own it, savour it – yourself will thank you!