When people talk about self-care, it’s often things like taking a bubble bath, treating yourself to a new book or getting a massage. There is no doubt that these activities can be a wonderful way to look after your world-weary body and mind — but there is more to self-care than 30 minutes of pampering or sneaking away for some “me time” at the gym.
Think about all the ways you protect and care for the people you love. You probably offer them compassion when they’re hurting, encourage them when they’re feeling low, protect them from those causing them harm, encourage them to take a step back when they’re feeling overwhelmed, speak kindly to them, listen to their concerns and take their fears seriously.
Now ask yourself if you do those same things for yourself. Do you have self-compassion, or do you blame yourself when things go wrong? Do you allow yourself to be bullied by toxic people in your life, or do you take a step back in order to protect yourself? Do you ignore your feelings of overwhelm and keep pushing on? Are you kind to yourself, or do you sometimes use harmful words when you make a mistake?
Do you struggle to give yourself the same kind of compassionate care and love that you freely give to others?
Self-care is, at its core, behaviors that help promote mental and physical well-being.
Cheryl Richardson1, author and long-time practitioner of self-care, offers the following three strategies to help you focus on caring for yourself in a way that both nurtures and empowers.
1. Determine how and why you feel deprived by asking yourself the following questions:
- In what areas of my life do I feel deprived?
- What do I need more of right now?
- What do I need less of right now?
- What do I want right now?
- What am I yearning for?
- Who or what is causing me to feel resentful and why?
- What am I starving for?
Be open, honest and thorough with your answers. Write them down in a private journal so you can refer back to them, and make adjustments to your answers as time passes.
- Find a rhythm and routine that works for you. Think of healthy, positive routines like getting more sleep, walking for 30 minutes a day, or scheduling a regular date night with your partner. Ask yourself what one routine you could put into place this month that would improve your life the most, then schedule it into your life for the next 30 days. Note how you’re feeling after a week and see if the change is helping you feel more relaxed.
- Create a “no” list. List all the things you don’t want in your life and activities you no longer want to participate in, with the goal of feeling protected, safe and cared for. As you think about this list, consider how each item makes you feel. Does your weekly zoom call with your high school friends exhaust you or energize you? Does volunteering at your child’s school fulfill you or drain you? Your “no” list might also include things like not rushing, not keeping clutter you don’t need or love, not answering texts during dinner, not participating in gossip.
By all means, crack open a good book and sink into a bubble bath to enjoy some quiet time if you need it. But consider other ways of advocating for yourself and engaging in self-care too.
Here’s a reminder, just in case: It is not selfish to want to feel better, happier, more relaxed and fulfilled. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, underappreciated, stressed out or angry you can’t give your best to anyone – including yourself.
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