In my last post (you can read it here), I had highlighted the importance of self-care in terms of healing ourselves. In this post, I would like to delve deeper into this subject by answering the following questions.
- What is self-care really?
- And how is it tied to self-compassion and well being?
- Most importantly, how do you find the version that works best for you so that you are most likely to continue with the routine especially when times get rough and you are incredibly busy?
What we may not realise is that self-care is not selfish, in fact, it is just the opposite. As parents taking good care of ourselves and thereby setting an example for our children is one of the best gifts we can give them. And as adults and citizens, we can model self-care habits to build a culture of sustainable health.
"You can't pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first"
This is especially true for women and definitely true for me. As natural givers and caretakers, those women who are also mothers are even worse at self-care. This is true for healthcare providers and other similar professions as well where sleepless nights, emotional exhaustion and constant demand is commonplace. While there will always be certain situations which are beyond our control, most of the time, we can take out the time to replenish and rejuvenate ourselves on a regular basis. Much the same way that we take care of our cars.
We send our car periodically to the best service centre to get a check up and servicing done. We also get it filled with top quality fuel so that it runs smoothly. But somehow, we end up ignoring the need to take care of our own physical and emotional health.
I learned this the hard way when I was taking care of our very sick 7-year-old daughter about 5 years ago. She was hospitalised with a life-threatening infection and before that, she had been struggling with major health issues for more than a year. I was willing to do anything and give up anything just to see her get better. I slept next to her in the ICU for almost 2 weeks straight while my husband and family took turns in the morning. It was a harrowing time for all of us.
But once she had come back home and things had settled down a bit for us, I realised very early that in order to take care of her, I had to take care of myself first. This realisation did not happen in one day though. Over a period of time I realised that if I did not take care of myself, I would not be able to do an effective job of taking care of her. This not only included tending to her physical needs, it also meant taking care of her emotional health as she dealt with a very difficult situation.
For most of us though, we do not need to wait for a difficult situation to come to this conclusion. We know deep down inside what we REALLY need to do take care of ourselves. We usually do not end up having a plan in place that can help us reach our self-care goals. Also, if you have not taken out the time to prioritise self-care in your busy life, you may never find out which practices will work for you since it will always be different for each person.
We forget that we need to treat ourselves with the same kindness that we treat others when they are in pain or in need of some kind of support. The very fact that we notice that someone who is suffering needs our compassion is what connects us to others and makes us human. Compassion also opens our hearts and minds to all kinds of experiences as we become more accepting and less judging. We have to realise the need to extend this same compassion to ourselves.
As we learn to accept our imperfections, failure and suffering which are all inevitable, we also learn to put ourselves on the top of our TO-DO lists. We start on our journey towards self-care and not only enrich our own lives but everyone around us.
"YOU are the most important investment you can make in your life"
There are many different ways that you can design your very own self-care routine. But it all starts with the realisation that you are well worth it to invest your own time and effort into this. No one else can do it for you.
In order to lead a meaningful, productive and healthy life, you will need to figure out the "self investments" that will pay off in the long run. It is impossible to "do-it-all" so it is important not to have an "all or nothing" attitude. Some people can get stuck with this mindset and end up not doing anything at all. We do not need a huge chunk of our day to take care of ourselves on a regular basis.
In reality, you can do a lot in five minutes—you can do some calming yoga poses, deep breathing, listen to some music that inspires you, do some guided meditation or read a chapter from a book.
Find a few things that work for you and condense them into smaller pieces which can be spread out into your daily routine. A consistent morning and evening routine works very well to start the day off on a positive note and then to end the day on a relaxing and quieting note leading to better sleep. No matter how busy your schedule, the payoff is well worth it.
The best way to start on your self-care journey is to
"Give yourself permission to pause during the day"
The different ways that you can utilise this time is by-
Moving your body every day- find a physical activity that you like and schedule a time to do it regularly. It does not matter what you do, it matters that you DO IT. It can be dancing, walking, jogging, running, yoga or anything else that you enjoy
Having a cup of tea and reading a book
Listening to your favourite music and getting up to dance a sweat if you feel like it
Getting a massage done once in a while
Keeping and writing in your journal regularly about things that matter to you, penning down your thoughts and feelings and even 3 things that you are grateful for everyday
Learning a new hobby or enjoying indulging in an old one like art, music, instruments, dance and anything else that you enjoy or even miss from your childhood
Taking out the time to make and maintain meaningful friendships
Setting aside a daily QUIET time which does not involve any electronics, social media, work. Consider meditation, enjoying creative activities like art or simply enjoying observing the clouds floating by outdoors or watching the raindrops fall on a glass pane and even taking a nap
It really does not matter what exactly you do, it matters that you DO IT.
Do you need to give yourself permission to pause from time to time during the day? Which activities appeal to you and how can you fit these into your daily schedule no matter how hectic it is? What are the obstacles that you need to overcome first? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you!
(I will be posting the last part of this 3 series in the next week and it will cover an important aspect of getting to know yourself better as we practice. It is a natural progression from as we start practising self- care on a regular basis, I really look forward to sharing it with you)