This week we’re talking about one of my favourite things, self-care.
What is self-care? One of my sources defined self-care as “care provided for you, by you… It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It is taking the time to do some of the activities that nurture you and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others”. I would suggest that self-care also includes saying no to unnecessary things to conserve emotional and physical energy. Essentially, self-care is being intentional about taking care of yourself. It is not limited to practices that are purely cosmetic, it creates room for you to reflect, decompress, and restore energy.
Today I want to pose the question to you: what would it look like if you took care of yourself, the way you do when you’re sick and purposefully gentle with yourself, all the time?
Why is self-care important? It is important because it is time for you to be intentional about investing in taking care of your-self. My favourite professor once quoted the writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde in class saying that “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self-care matters because it helps you to build resilience so that you can work towards achieving goals. It gives you energy to thrive in your everyday life in the same way runners carb up before a big race. I think it’s also important to note that self-care is not for when you are so absolutely burnt out that you collapse for a weekend. Self-care is meant to keep you from the point of extreme burn out (though it is also good to recover from feeling burnt out).
Is self-care just code for being lazy? Nope, nope, nope. Self-care is a critical aspect of taking care of yourself and it is just as important as getting a goodnight’s sleep, exercising and eating well. The thing to remember is that self-care is not indulgence, it is practical. Self-care is also necessary to effectively care for others; it’s not selfish to take care of yourself so you can put your best self out there to serve others or to have a night in so that you can build up energy to love people wholeheartedly. You cannot pour from an empty cup and you won’t have energy to invest into relationships, school, work, or whatever it is that you are passionate about if you’re regularly feeling burnt out.
How can you incorporate self-care into your life? First thing’s first, you are not “too busy” to practice self-care. Many people feel like they don’t have time to treat themselves but what needs to shift is not getting more hours in the day but changing our perspective on what should be prioritized in the hours we have. Being stressed and overwhelmed can take a great toll on people but trying out some self-care activities in your life can help reduce your levels of stress. It’s important to recognize that self-care doesn’t have to be time consuming. You don’t have to go to the gym or take a really long bubble bath – if you’re short on time self-care can be taking 10 minutes to sit down and just breathe, letting yourself take a moment to pause. Self-care can be drinking a cup of tea, or it can be your morning ritual that gets your day started in a calm way. A brilliant professor who first taught me about self-care in an academic setting told our class that building self-care into your routine is important because if it’s not something that you commonly practice then it will be the first thing to be forgotten when you are in times of stress. This clearly is not ideal because those are arguably the times you need it the most.
I like being organized and writing a weekly to-do list but this year I was introduced to the idea that lists can make you feel pressure to constantly be achieving goals. Continually adding chores means we feel that we can’t take breaks and celebrate our accomplishments because there are always more things to do. I dealt with this by making lists that not only included school or work assignments but also lists that prioritize self-care, spending time with friends and doing things to ensure I maintain a balanced lifestyle when life get busy. It is a great way to remind yourself that self-care is productive in its own way, and it’s pretty great to cross “have a dance party” off your weekly to do list.
The cool thing about self-care is that it can be whatever you want it to be, it is what makes you happy. A few examples of self-care activities you can try out include:
- Putting healthy food into your body
- Sitting outside and enjoying nature
- Practicing breathing exercises
- Making sure you are getting enough sleep
- Having a warm bubble bath or shower
- Listening to music you enjoy
- Spending time alone to recharge or spending time with people that bring you joy
- Trying out a new exercise or yoga class
- Buying yourself to a treat (a latte, a new book, essential oils, etc.)
- A cup of tea
- Going for a run to clear your head
- Making art
If the things on this list don’t nurture you or jump out at you as activities that would make you feel happy, they might not be your choice of self-care – but I would encourage you to find an activity you do enjoy to practice this week. If you don’t know what you want to do, think of the phrase “the key to your heart” – if someone wanted to find the way to your heart, what would they do? Would they buy you chocolate? Flowers? Take you to a movie? Give you really good bowl of pasta to eat? Invite you to go out to walk in nature? Whatever it is – try starting with that! Find the key to your own heart and use it.
Resilience is defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness” or “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity” and I believe self-care enables you to do more effectively. Everyone is unique and that means that we all have different interests and styles of taking care of ourselves but for myself, I would say yes, bubbles do build resilience.
P.S. If you’ve never eaten ice cream straight from the tub while in a bath tub I would highly recommend you try it out.