I sat down to write a post on self-care as it has been forefront on my mind lately. In doing my research, I found this post from a few years back, dusted it off, did some updating, and thought it would be good to share it with you.
Years ago, when I first heard the term “self-care”, I wondered what it really meant. Was it the opposite of others-don’t-care? Or maybe self-careless? I recall attending a workshop with scheduled “self-care” breaks. I wondered what people would be doing—I envisioned people giving themselves a massage, brushing their teeth or hair, trimming their nails, or rolling out the yoga mat for some stretching or savasana. Then I got thinking what self-care meant to me: self-care is a stepping stone to self-love. Self-love may evoke too much emotional indulgence for some; but by practising self-care, self-love will naturally blossom. I have kept self-care in the forefront of my mind for a few months, consciously observing my, and others’, self-care, and it is fascinating. (Okay, that’s exaggerating. It’s just pretty interesting.)
Lately, it seems the practice of self-care has become commonplace.
Wikipedia’s definition goes like this: “Self-care is personal health maintenance. It is any activity of an individual, family or community, with the intention of improving or restoring health, or treating or preventing disease.” That’s pretty broad. I believe that the degree of self-care increases as we get older. Babies and kids receive other-care. Most of their needs are met, often before they have to express a need. Teenagers practice don’t-care; I see that every day. They don’t take their vitamins, drink water, get enough sleep, get outdoors, or limit their screen time without some encouragement, consequences, or force. Mothers, and many wives, practice everyone-but-me-gets-care, so: selfless-care. But as women get older, many invest in self-care. Men and Fathers? I’m not sure.
Mountain Man has always been pretty good at it’s-all-about-me-care. I am not being accusatory! When our kids were little, he was still able to get done what he liked and what he had always done, with kids-in-tow or not. He would take his time in the bathroom and be able to tune-out the screamers hanging off the locked doorknob; he would spend time in the outdoors with or without the screamers; he would go on hunting and fishing trips and not show guilt nor did he have to conduct an orchestra blindfolded and standing on one leg to make it happen; he managed to ignore the need for meat to be cut up on the plate next to his and would enjoy his own meal without feeling the need to meet everyone else’s needs first; he would shower and dress and make coffee without worrying about what the rest of the house is doing. Throughout the child-rearing years and even today he makes sure he takes his vitamins every day; he splits wood, chases horses around, builds stuff outside, and rolls in when supper is on the table, feeling nourished from his day of accomplishing tasks, but by being productive, along with being outside, his stress gets dramatically reduced.
Is that self-care, or is it self-indulgence?
To a certain extent, I think it is self-care. I used to be secretly jealous when I would arrive home after a weekend self-care trip away to discover my kids were filthy dirty and wearing the same clothes as when I left, had been outside or in the garage the entire time (often dissecting gross stuff), and hadn’t eaten a proper meal; but so many tasks or chores had been accomplished and, everyone was happy! During the child-rearing years, he was much better at caring for himself than I was at caring for myself. Women tend to migrate into care-giving roles whether or not they are mothers. When my kids were younger, there were some days where I longed for a walk but couldn’t seem to fit in it: I had too many other priorities (or so I thought)!
Most of my clients are women in their mid-’30’s to mid-’50s, and many of them are mothers. In the era of self-care, for them it means coming to see me, looking to feel better and take care of themselves. Many of them are not doing any self-care other than the big step of getting some help. When my prescription includes some more finely tuned self-care suggestions, many of them look taken aback.
“Hobbies? . . . Connect with myself? . . . Mindfulness exercises? . . . Get outdoors? . . . Take a class? . . . Learn Qigong?. . . Drink more water? . . . Ask my family to do more?” These are extreme requests for many of them to consider. But the beauty lies in the results of implementing just one or two of those simple tasks. They start to slowly discover themselves with the amazing side-effect of feeling better! I love it when my clients begin to take care of themselves. I guess that is my self-care too. . . it really feeds me!
Now that my kids are older, I am mostly good at self-care, but I know that most of my work resides in not feeling self-indulgent or guilty for taking time for me. The people around me benefit from my self-care, so that helps (again—hard for it not to be about others). But as women get older, most of us get wiser.
We want to connect with ourselves, we want happiness, and we want to have meaning in our lives.
Self-care leads us to these things. Self-care takes time, but it is time well-spent. Self-care for me does not include things I call routine hygiene or grooming, such as bathing, brushing, and flossing: these things I consider to be routine maintenance. So, what does self-care look like for me (in no particular order)?
- Walking outside every day
- Having boiled eggs and cut up vegetables in the fridge
- Practising yoga regularly (this fell but has been picked up)
- Going to bed before 11 pm
- Eating good food and planning nourishing meals
- Taking my vitamins daily
- Being by water as much as possible
- Practising Spring Forest Qigong daily
- Connecting with friends and family
- Taking time to watch the sunrise and sunset
- Always bringing a full water bottle with me when I leave the house
- Getting a good hair cut (superficial maybe, but it makes me feel good)
- Getting my energy balanced when I can’t do it myself
- Keeping evening activities to a minimum
- Getting to the mountains at least twice a year
- Ongoing Spiritual development (taking classes and working with mentors)
All these elements take time and planning, and many of them require money. This calls for prioritization in other areas. It also took time to learn the importance of these elements to me, so there is an on-going aspect of self-discovery at work. Some days or weeks not all of these elements get accomplished. If many of them don’t happen, I get out-of-balance. I feel disconnected and not worthy. I need these things in my life like a plant needs water. I also have a few activities I would like to get into my life more regularly that I think also fit the self-care bill. These then are my current self-care challenges.
- Playing my guitar
- Getting up earlier to meditate
- Reading fiction
- Not thinking about what’s next
- Not worrying about others’ self-care avoidance
To be good at self-care means not to be hard on myself about the things I am not able to accomplish.
Now I am at a point in my life where I have more time for self-care. My kids are almost done at home. As I experience the benefits of self-care, I see the importance of supporting others to make it possible in their lives. Mountain Man is much better at it now too. When our kids were younger his stress level was high from providing for us all so generously, in a job that was nowhere close to allowing him to access his full potential. In fact, it created an internal struggle that he continuously courageously fought. I see the sacrifices he made now, whereas at one time I may have thought him self-indulgent. I see now that those were necessary coping skills, elements of self-care that were necessary for mental and physical health. So as my light gets brighter by taking care of myself, I shine it on everyone around me. This light infuses others and makes room for them to practice better self-care. Being a role model helps others not feel guilty or self-indulgent to take care of themselves. I am hoping this light will penetrate into those of you that could use some more self-care and self-love in your life.
What are your top self-care practices? What self-care are you trying to make room for? I would love to hear about it in the comments.
Do you need help examining what self-care means to you and how it can benefit your life? Or maybe you are curious about qigong and would like to learn more about it! I would love to guide you.
Love and light,
Thank you for posting this. I always feel guilty for doing the little things for myself that keep me sane. 🙂
Thank you for the comment Hayley. I would love to hear about some of the little things you do!
I completely agree with the need of self care. My problem is that if I’m too busy and something has to drop, if I drop my own self-care, no one else is let down, affected, or put out–so I justify it. Unfortunately, I turn in to an angry, bitter mom and wife. So who’s really not affected, let down, or put out?
Thanks for the comment Laura!
I agree, I think our tendency as women is to put everyone else’s needs ahead of our own. We are programed to nurture. But as we experience the benefits of self-care and self-love, to us and to everyone whose lives we touch, hopefully we will be motived to make it a priority ahead of everyone else’s needs. Sometimes, others will have to wait!
This is great – I can totally relate to the wonder over the man-of-the-house’s ability to do his thing first and really enjoyed your articulation of that experience in your house. Now that all of my kids are at school I get to enjoy consecutive hours of un-interrupted me-time and that has had a profound impact on my life. Still, being a consultant as well as an at home mother means that me-time is still at a low. Like most women I know, I find it very difficult to prioritize it. When I do one of my favourites is girlfriend time! Love that.
Thank you for your comments Hilarie! I know it is so hard to prioritize!
Being a mom, I have to prioritize self-care or my kid’s needs could come first all the time. Since I work at home, I have the luxury of walking by the water each morning, doing yoga, studying ACIM and making myself healthy food all day long.
Wow! That is so lovely for you Patti! Thank you for commenting.
i love your self-care list! i even go so far as to tell my female clients to be “selfish” – i don’t see it as a bad word when there has been so much self-neglect in the past. thank you for a well-written article.
So much wonderful insight on self-care. I turned the tide on self care about 5 years ago. I had always put everyone else first and the exhaustion and bitterness was building up. That’s when I joined an online bootcamp and started doing the activities I used to love and taking time to rejuvenate myself. My husband and family noticed a new and vibrant wife and mother – my friends noticed changes even more than I did. Two years ago I discovered Spring Forest Qigong initially as something that could help my daughter with her anxiety. I kinda of dabbled for the first year and now I am doing it every day! In the last month I have noticed that my self care has been slipping and this article was a fabulous reminder.
Thank you, Lorna, for your comment. You are an inspiration to many of us! I love this story.