What is Self Care, really?

The term “Self Care” has been so over used in recent years I think most people kind of let their eyes glaze over when the topic is raised. Otherwise the general examples people give are bubble baths and glasses of wine. Eating ice cream after a tough day. Though these things can be lovely I would offer they are more indulgances than self care. Please do not take that as discouragement. We need indulgence at times. In fact a little indulgence CAN be self care, but self care in itself is a different thing.

Self care is about tending to our own needs with the same concern and awareness we offer others. It’s about taking a moment or two of reflection and using personal insight to determine what is required for our own wellbeing and then giving that to ourselves. A bubble bath may be self care, if what you need is some privacy, quiet space, and alone time. On the other hand, if you lay in the bath stressing over your to do list it’s not going to do the trick. Honestly, I think for many of us we jump in a hot tub because we have NO IDEA what we really want or need and don’t feel we have time for more. We have lost connection with our selves on the level required to truly identify what is needed.

So what IS needed? Let me start with what’s NOT. Good self care does not require money, special equipment or large periods of dedicated time. Nor should effective self care activities lead to negative consequences for yourself or another. It’s not about complex therapies (those can be important parts of mental health or physical care but that’s another topic). Self care is not about ignoring responsibilities or making demands of others. It is simple, gentle and modest.

Self care is most often a matter of attending to very basic needs. The needs of the body, mind and emotional self, that are fundamental building blocks to well-being. These building blocks are critical yet often the first things we let go or lose track of in our busy lives. This is exactly the stuff we need most when we are seeking to care for ourselves.

So, what do we need?

We need what all living organisms need. Fresh air, sunlight, rest and hydration, movement, nourishment, and connection. I want to emphasize two aspects of this list. First these are the requirements of all living things. These are not preferences, personality traits or unique elements of the human condition. These are biologically non negotiable. Second, these can all be accomplished successfully with just a little effort. They do not have to be perfect in order to be effective. More over, if we begin to prioritize true self care and a routine that supports our needs, aspects that seem elusive (often sleep, fresh air and connection pose a challenge for various reasons), will become more available in time.

My best advice, don’t over think this, don’t over complicated it either. Just checking the list and make minor adjustments to you day so that each of the fundamental needs are being touched on every day. Here are a few ideas:

Add a brief walk around the block to your daily routine. Make it a point to look up at the people you pass and smile or say hello. Have a glass of water and sit quietly for 5 or 10 minutes when you get back.

Add a glass of water before your morning coffee, and a bit of fruit or veggies to your lunch. Apple slices? Cucumber? Raisins?

Open a window and sit in the fresh air and sunlight while you drink or eat your breakfast. Take a water cooler break at work and pass by to say hello to a co-worker on the way back to your desk.

Give yourself an extra 10 minutes in the morning so you can go in rather than drive through your local coffee shop. Say good morning and have a friendly exchange with your server. Listen to music rather than news, and crack the window as you drive for a little air.

Forgo the evening TV session and sit outside for a little while. Drink herbal tea while you play a social game online or call a friend.

Check on a neighbor. Offer to help carry groceries or open a door for them while doing chores.

Note none of these demand deep conversations, life long friendships long naps or perfect meal plans. These are small, manageable efforts to improve your sense of well-being. The more you practice and explore ideas the easier it gets. In time you will become more aware and intuitive about what kind of care you are craving and needing. The most important step is recognizing the value and importance.

Self care is not a trendy cliche, it is a link to health, wholeness and well-being that we desperately need to support in one another and attend to for our own sake. We can not expect to feel well and be well if we do not treat ourselves well. A plant won’t grow in darkness. It wilts without water. So too will we struggle to thrive without meeting our own basic needs.

So get forget the bubbles and DRINK that water. Trade the wine for a walk. Open the blinds and close your eyes for a wee rest. Get creative, get active and get ready to feel good!


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