In my line of work, I spend a lot of time talking to people about self-care. In my mind, self-care is really about anything that you are doing that nurtures your relationship with yourself.
I find that it falls into one of four categories:
- Things we do that send a message that we are valuable and enough, just as we are
- Things we do that nurture and meet our needs and wants, both primitive and societal (more on that in a second
- Things that we do that help us to hold boundaries in our relationships, including the relationship we have with self
- Things we do that hold ourselves accountable to our desired behaviors.
1. Things that we do that send a message that we are valuable and enough, just as we are.
The thing that comes to mind immediately is the act of affirming ourselves as well as practicing gratitude, but I think that this also includes the things we do tell us that we are worth the effort. For example, when I get up each morning, take a shower, style my hair, apply make up and choose an outfit that I enjoy-I am sending myself the message that I am worth the time it takes to present myself in a way I feel good about. Certainly, if I were be telling myself that I am applying the make up because my face is ugly, that is counterproductive, but the reality is that I feel better when I take the time to put myself together. If that is the mindset that I have when my alarm goes off in the morning, taking that time is quite a bit easier.
2. Things that we do that nurture and meet our needs and wants, both primitive and societal.
What I mean by this is that it includes the things we love to do, such as getting pedicures or massages or doing facemasks, but that it also includes the things that meet our needs as a human, like getting enough sleep or eating food in appropriate quantities and at appropriate times or exercising your muscles. Things like eating and sleeping are as important to our functioning as breathing. Different humans have different needs with regard to sleep and food, but taking the time to determine what your needs are and holding yourself accountable to meeting those needs by not staying up too late, eating in moderation and mindfully and moving your body to keep it healthy-well, that not only keeps us physically healthy, but also helps us to be less vulnerable to intense emotions that are maybe an oversized reaction.
3. Holding boundaries in our relationships so that we teach ourselves that our needs and our time are equally as important as the needs and time of others.
Sometimes, this means saying no (in a respectful way, of course) when someone asks you to take your time to do something for them that is not within your time or your values. Sometimes this also means asking for help when we are in need and not able to keep all our plates spinning-without judging ourselves for being in need. Emotional boundaries are some of the most difficult to hold because the thoughts we have about whether or not we have a right to have our time, our emotions or our needs are seemingly automatic. Taking the time to challenge these thoughts are do, or ask to be done, what is in our best interest because that is what we deserve is a task that has to be intentional.
4. Things we do that hold ourselves accountable to our desired behaviors.
This is referring to that moment where you say to yourself “tomorrow, I will ___________.” For me, this is usually something like “tomorrow, I will get up the first time my alarm goes off so that I have time to run, or write, or (sometimes, it is honestly something as simple as) shave my legs. Or, perhaps, this is “I am going to let myself get the burger and fries today, but next time I am going to order a salad.” Or, “I am going to go out with my girlfriends, and I am only going to have one glass of wine.” In this regard, self-care is referring to choices we make about whether to use our phone as our alarm and plug it in right next to our heads. It also could be referring to taking the time to plan meals ahead of time, so you don’t have to make tough choices in the moment. It could also be referring to asking an accountability partner to help you stick with the choice that you made for yourself. How this shows up in my life is in choices like charging my phone in the bathroom (Thanks, Mel Robbins, author of The 5 Second Rule for that one), making my lunch and filling up my water the night before and giving myself permission to order things I want in a restaurant with a healthy upgrade-salad instead of fries, a burger wrapped in lettuce, asking for a box immediately so I can pack up half the plate before I start eating. Feel free to steal any of these suggestions.
It is my belief that the relationship that we have with ourselves must be considered before the relationship that we have with anyone else.
I do not mean that to be interpreted as: we are more important than others, but simply that we are equally important as others. Even further, that the person that is responsible for you…is you. You are valuable, you deserve to have your needs met, you deserve to protect yourself and your time, and you deserve to have the feeling that comes with holding yourself accountable to decisions that you have made for yourself.