Self-care, in my mind anyway, can be a difficult practice to feel good about. I end up feeling like I’m indulging myself. I do think self-care can become self-centered. If in every situation I put my needs above the needs of others, I’m overstepping the purview of self-care. Self-care does not justify the elevation or magnification of my needs, goals, wishes above other people’s, somehow making mine more urgent and important. Instead, I think self-care is acknowledging those needs, goals, wishes in the different areas of our lives: spiritual, mental, physical, social, and from there, figuring out how we should go about pursuing them in a way that’s life-giving.Self-care does not have to be a practice that makes us feel guilty or self-centered. It is a good thing to do. It keeps us sane, and when we’re sane and doing well, we’re better able to help others and feel fulfilled, not drained.
A metaphor to help better understand self-care, and hopefully detach from it feelings of guilt and ‘wasted’ time, is to think of self-care through the lens of an ideal parent-child relationship.
What do parents do with their kiddos? They check in often. They ask probing questions and are genuinely sympathetic to the response. They want their child to feel safe, healthy, secure, and happy. They go to great ends to foster a healthy, supportive relationship with their child.
So for this metaphor for self-care, think of your body as the child, and try to take on the mental role of a devoted, caring parent.
Check in with your body like a parent would check in with a little one, questioning yourself without judgement.
Ask yourself questions like:
How are you feeling today?
Are you resting enough?
Are you eating enough? Is it food that makes you feel good?
Have you spent enough time with other people? Too much time?
What’s worrying you?
What are you learning? (from work, school, relationships, in your spiritual life)
Are the things you’re doing, thinking about, listening to life-giving ? Why or why not?
Then from there, answers in tow, we can explore the areas that need extra attention and make adjustments. Self-care can be challenging when it means changing habits we’ve grown accustomed to, but we get to ‘play the adult’ and choose what is in our best interest. Not the easiest. Not the most comfortable. Not always what feels good.
That can mean delaying instant gratification for long-term satisfaction.
Admitting that staying up late every night makes you feel hungover and working to get more sleep.
Letting go of food rules or aspirations for a certain body-type and accepting the body you have right now.
Choosing family time instead of a workout.
Self-care can also be simple. Soaking in the tub is my current favorite way to unwind before bed. I also started crocheting, and even though my current project looks more like a ski mask than a pot holder, it’s a way to spend my free time doing something other than scrolling my phone, which I do too often. Things like the tub soak and the crochet project are part of a personal self-care goal to unplug a night. I noticed that when I’m in front of a screen before going to bed, it takes longer to fall asleep, and I don’t feel as rested.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on self-care. What does it mean to you? How do you practice it in your own life?
Linking up with Amanda for thinking out loud.