What the Hell is Self Care, and Why is it Important?
The term “self-care” has become more common and trendy in popular culture and with that has also come a lot of misconstruing of what it actually means to take care of yourself. I have noticed a lot of articles on the Internet portraying self-care as manis and pedis, massages, shopping or other forms of indulgence. I think that any or all of these things CAN be self-care, but they are not inherently what I think of when it comes to self-care.
Self-care is not really about what you are doing, for me it is more about the mindset and the intention behind the action. For example, if you are getting a pedicure because that is what is trendy and cool but it breaks the bank and leaves you feeling more stressed and anxious, that is not self-care. On the flip side, if you are getting a pedicure because it allows you an hour to relax and some time to think and reset, it can be a form of self-care.
Self-care is about honoring and nurturing your self. It is about setting boundaries, getting acquainted with what matters to you and what your needs are, and setting your life up in a way that is attentive and supporting of you! Self care is attuning to your wants, needs, and desires and creating a life that allows you to meet those for yourself. It can look a million different ways – but the intention behind self-care is to fill yourself up so that you are equipped – emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually – to tackle your day-to-day tasks and obligations.
Here in our office in Denver, where we specialize in supporting people on their journey to recovery from disordered eating and chronic dieting, and work to dismantle oppression related to weight and size, self-care is a hot topic of discussion. My top five self-care priorities are sleep, me time, coffee, connection, and nature.
Sleep is crucial for me. I know that if I do not get about eight hours of sleep consistently that everything in my life is compromised. I schedule time for sleep. I make sure to follow a good sleep schedule and regimen because this allows me to tackle all of my daily tasks with more efficiency and tenacity; it helps me to engage in connection more easily, and helps keep my mind clear and sharp. I like to follow a sleep routine before bed which includes washing my face, brushing my teeth, getting into bed, and reading a good novel or something that I would consider “fun” reading. In fact, I just completed the entire Harry Potter series for the first time!
Me time. This is so important for me and can look a lot of different ways. Some days it might be quiet time to myself in the morning reading or journaling. Other days it might be going for a walk, or getting a pedicure. Some times it is laying on the floor of my office on my back with my legs up the wall between sessions. I consider myself an ambivert – somewhere between introvert and extrovert – and that means that I often need time to myself in order to feel recharged. This is especially essential in my work as a therapist.
Coffee is one of my most basic and sacred forms of self-care. I love coffee. I love everything about it. I love the aroma, the feel of a warm mug in my hands in the early morning, the first sip from one of the mugs I have collected on my travels, and the slow and intentional time it takes to savor a cup. Daily coffee may seem like a small and insignificant ritual, but for me it creates routine and helps to ground me before the busyness of the workday takes over.
Connection is also vital for my mental and emotional health. I like to carve out space in my week that is designated for time to connect with my loved ones. Connection for me means showing up and allowing my whole self to be seen. I have cultivated relationships in my life where I feel that I can safely be who I am and where I get to hold space for friends and family in my life to be wholly who they are. This type of connection is a lifeline for me and also brings a lot of meaning and fulfillment to my life.
Finally, nature is a place that I go to for self care as often as I can. This part of my self-care regimen is not something that I do daily, but it is central to my well-being. Time in nature whether spent moving or reflecting in stillness is revitalizing and grounding. Nature can be a local park or a trail in the nearby Rocky Mountains. It can even be a quick walk around the neighborhood – noticing the trees, birds, or local vegetation.
Ultimately, you are the only one who can determine what self-care means to you, and what you need your self-care regimen to include. I have listed some of the things that I find to be helpful in my own life – but this is in no way an exhaustive list of what self-care can look like. Self-care exists in your day-to-day routine, in your taking care of your wants and needs, and in your attunement to your inner guide. You can listen to and trust yourself and create your own self care routine and rituals.