We’ve all heard of self-care and while there has been a growing thirst for it, the concept remains a little fluffy and the practice is still elusive for many of us. Some clarity around what self-care is and practical tips on how to actually do it helps bring it to life. I’m on a mission to deepen your knowledge of self-care as a practice and to blow those barriers away… No time, no energy, guilt? Stick with me. We will find a way!
So what does self-care actually mean? I think of self-care as health care. The simplest definition of self-care is ‘nourishment’ – it’s a life-giving act that restores, sustains or improves your health. By health, we’re not just talking about the physical body, but our emotional, energetic and mental health as well.
One of the reasons why it can be hard to define self-care is that everyone’s needs, interests, preferences and goals are different, so what one person finds nourishing differs from another and even our own needs will change over time.
The most effective kind of self-care is an individual and proactive approach, a bespoke response to the needs of your head, heart and body, on a daily basis. Having a broad self-care toolkit to turn to in times of need will serve you well.
A concept that helps bring self-care to life is to think of having an ‘energy bank balance’. Just like a car needs petrol to go, we need reserves to get us through our day. Self-care is the means by which we make a deposit into that energy bank.
Take a moment to reflect – what are the things that top you up and have you feeling full of zest? How can you factor more of those into your week?
It’s worth also reflecting on the things that deplete you. If there are some that you can avoid or minimise, take action. If they’re unavoidable, know that you’ll need to engage in some kind of nurturing act to make up for the shortfall. Proactively keep your energy bank balance healthy and you will be more resilient in the face of life’s inevitable challenges.
Why Do We Need Self-Care?
I think it’s five-fold. Firstly, we need self-care to help us cope during times of trauma, stress, loss and change and no one is immune from these experiences.
Secondly, we need it to help us heal and recover from these challenging times.
Thirdly, we need to engage proactively in self-care to keep us energetically topped up, so that we are resilient and resourceful when curveballs hit. Remember, positive events can be seriously depleting too – planning a wedding, holiday, renovation project, moving, scoring a promotion, having children…
Fourthly, we need self-care to give us access to our best self.
Lovingly tend to yourself with self-care and you give yourself the best possible chance of being the person you aspire to be. Lastly, for parents and those nourishing children, if we want to raise resilient and compassionate kids, we need to be modelling self-care for them and teaching them their own self-care toolkit. Even better, engage in collective self-care and boost health, happiness and well-being together.
Is Self-Care Pampering?
Coming back to definition of self-care, there’s a little confusion between self-care and pampering… Yes, pampering is part of self-care but it’s not the whole truth and we would be doing ourselves a great disservice if we equated the two.
I want to be really clear, self-care is not always comfortable or pleasurable.
Self-care is not always the easiest thing. Sometimes the true act of self-care is the last thing we feel like doing! It might be going for that planned run rather than putting our feet up with a mug of coffee.
Self-care might be seeing a coach and examining our unfinished business.
Self –care is sometimes soothing, sometimes relaxing and at other times it is doing the work, tiling the soil to nurture our blossoming future self.
Seen through this lens, there’s an additional defining factor to self-care that will stop it from turning into self-sabotage.
Self-care meets your needs in this present moment AND it also nourishes the person you are becoming. I think this is a useful distinction to make.
One glass of wine savoured in the evening might be self-care, if that turns into three and a late night, your future self is hardly going to thank you. Have a dialogue with your future self and you might just be amazed at the wisdom and compassion you tap into.
Making Self-Care Happen
To make the commitment to daily self-care, I created a framework that helps us identify some kind of nourishment that is available to us when we need it the most.
I call this the ‘Vitality Wheel’ (see below) and it has 8 spokes each reflecting a different way we can top up our energy bank. Use these categories to get thinking more broadly about what self-care means for you and you can read more about practices that will bring to life each spoke of the Vitality Wheel in my book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’.
Remember too that self-care needn’t be elaborate, grand, expensive or time consuming! Seek out little micro moments of nourishment and that might just have stress bouncing off your shoulders with greater ease.
It can be as simple as a tenderly massaging in some hand balm, being with your breath, lying down with your legs up the wall, one minute of yoga like child’s pose, using a scent you love, a piece of music to lift your mood or just watching the moving cloudscape for 30 seconds.
Follow along on Instagram at @SuzyReading for my Monday Micro Moment sessions with lots of simple and accessible self-care inspiration.
I hope this clarifies the concept of self-care for you and encourages you to think of new ways that you can nourish yourself: head, heart and body!
We’re in it together.
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