One of the safety rules you hear when onboard an airplane is: “in case of emergency, put your air mask on first, before attempting to assist anyone else.”
If you flaunt this simple rule and pass out because you can’t breathe, you wouldn’t be able to help anyone. This is similar to self-care. It is looking out for yourself and ensuring your “air mask” is on. We use the word caring as a compliment, yet it baffles me when people see self-care as luxury, selfish or narcissistic. Self-care is very important for your well-being and your service to others
At the most basic level, it is simply the ability to get yourself fed, dressed and washed, and to generally function in the world. So, in a sense, you already practice a form of self-care, even if you’re not aware of it. However, self-care goes beyond the basics of just functioning, it is essential for flourishing both in body, mind and spirit.
Sadly, regular self-care often falls low on our priority list because there are just so many other things, we would rather do first to society’s performance-based culture always aiming to do more, have more, be more. Self-care is learning to look after your own self as you would a child or a very dear friend – with love, kindness and patience. Very simple. Yet the simplest things are often the toughest to do.
As women, we have been socially conditioned to believe that loving ourselves is selfish, we choose to accept that we are supposed to selflessly give our love, energy, and time to everyone else first — leaving little, if any, left over for us. We give and give and give until nothing remains; we compromise our needs and wants in order to take care of others, and we end up empty, frustrated, and dissatisfied.
In addition, your physical health becomes at risk due to chronic stress which is known to be the harbinger of several diseases like stroke, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer etc. Self-care can change your life, if only you will change your beliefs about it and begin to make daily intentional efforts towards practicing it.
Every self-care act you engage in is a powerful affirmation: I honor myself and who I am becoming. I’m on my side. It is about taking personal responsibility for your own well-being and practicing preventative health care, so you are alive and well long enough to give of yourself to the ones you love. It’s high time you stop buying into the martyr role, believing your sacrifices are the only way to give, to love, and to be “good women.”
What are the indicators that you are in dire need of self-care?
- You feel overwhelmed often times than not.
- You get easily frustrated and irritable
- You constantly feel tired and exhausted
- You have poor sleeping patterns (too much or too little)
- You have difficulties remembering significant events
- You find it difficult to focus on your daily task
- You experience low moods or feel unworthy.
True self-love can be present in anything that nurtures or nourishes your life, from your diet to your personal rituals or the way you interact within your personal relationships. Therefore, if you identify with any of these indicators, below are different ways to practice self-care using the 5 love languages developed by Gary Chapman.
Self-care tip #1: Quality Time
Does being constantly busy now feel like a badge of honour, indicating to others that your life is full – you’ve got people to see, places to go etc? A signal to the rest of the world that you’re not lonely, or needy? Yes, being busy tells everyone you’re wanted; that your time is precious and in demand, but why not try to make some of that time precious for you? If you don’t leave any gaps in your life for your body and mind to process the things happening within and outside you, the stress builds up.
Create time in your schedule to spend with yourself either in prayer or journaling; create a “no phone” session when you switch off your phones and read a book or meditate. Sometimes these gaps do not have to be filled with anything, you can just sleep or watch Netflix or go on long walk or simply lie down and not think of the one-thousand-and-one things that needs to be done. Make time to practice hobbies. These moments help you slow down and catch your breath, relax and grow your mind.
Self-care tip #2: Touch
This involves doing things that makes your physical body feel better such as yoga or visiting the gym or just doing simple workout at home. Exercise has been closely linked with improved mental well-being and it releases hormones that will help you feel better and energized to care for those around you. Establish a skincare routine, invest in comfortable, high-quality bedding (having a weighted blanket around you is similar to a hug), make a healthy meal or factor fruits into your daily diets, get yourself a massage or apply your favorite nail polish, get a manicure, pedicure, facial or deep conditioning treatment.
When you’ve made a ‘small win’ don’t immediately move on to your next task. Take a moment to acknowledge the great job you’re doing by squeezing your shoulder warmly or giving yourself a little pat. Take a hot bath with Epsom salts to release the stress and toxins in your body. Moisturize your skin and hair with enriching lotions and oils.
Self-care tip #3: Words of Affirmation
Affirmations make you feel seen and validated. Why wait for others to tell you how awesome you are when you can? Life and death, they say, is in the tongue. Speak life to yourself, be compassionate and forgiving to yourself. Be your own coach. The way you’ll speak to a little child (when he’s afraid) to reassure him or to encourage him when he is taking a first step at something. Make a list of affirming words and stick them in places you can easily see them in your house or set reminders on your phone that pops up to cheer you on as you go through your day. Whenever you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, say something kind. Look yourself in the mirror and say nice things about each part of your body from your head to your toe.
Self-care tip #4: Giving gifts
Have you been working hard lately and there’s an item or meal that’s been on your mind for the longest time? Go ahead and buy it, and feel good about it. Do you have a bucket list that you haven’t attended to yet? Pick an item on it and commit to carrying it out. You can also invest in your personal development e.g., attend a webinar, seminar, masterclass or a full-time degree, take a cooking or knitting class.
Self-care tip #5: Acts of service
This basically involves setting things up and preparing things for yourself to make life easier later on e.g., scheduling your daily tasks, automating some of your payments, booking and showing up for therapy or doctor’s appointments, delegating tasks at work/home, cleaning your space, saying ‘no’ to something once a day etc. These “services” will make your future self to thank you as she wouldn’t need to rush or stress or feel resentment.
Loving and caring for YOU is the most generous, life-giving act YOU can undertake on behalf of yourself and every person your life touches. So, go on beautiful mind to practice these tips. I can’t wait to hear your testimonials!