Life Lessons from Self-Care
There has been a lot of intriguing dialogue about self-care lately, which has left me disillusioned by some messages about the true meaning of taking care of yourself. In the era of “treat yo’ self,” we often equate self-care with lavish trips, expensive spa packages, and fancy dinners. When the reality is, self-care is more nuanced and, simultaneously, more simple than that. I recently shared a quote, which I can’t take credit for, that stated something along the lines of “true self-care is creating a life that you don’t need to escape from.” The poignancy of that statement hit me in my gut because it’s so accurate, so aspirational, so #goals.
So why is it that so many people get self-care wrong?
If y’all have been paying attention to anything I’ve said in the podcast and several blogs, you know I like to stay firmly in my lane. And it just so happens that self-care is my lane. As a psychologist, I spend a lot of time teaching my clients how to engage in self-care. Additionally, I developed an entire brand around taking care of yourself or being self-ish, so it seemed only fitting that I share some of the life lessons I’ve learned while gaining a deeper understanding of what it means to practice self-care and to be fully invested in living out this lifestyle.
Self-care is multifaceted.
The issue with the “treat yo’ self” mentality surrounding self-care is that it fails to include the various aspects of self-care that are necessary to ensure effectiveness. At its most basic level, self-care includes physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components. While I would argue that there are other important areas to be included, these clearly suggest that taking care of yourself in one area (i.e. getting your nails done) can not account for the other areas of self-care that you need to engage in. As such, in order to truly practice self-care, you have to identify what those different facets are for you, and make sure that you incorporate them regularly, if not daily, into your life.
Self-care is a lifestyle.
The idea that self-care is something that you randomly sprinkle into an already packed schedule and overwhelmed life is a joke. Making self-care a daily practice by embedding it into the fiber of your being is the ideal way to make self-care work. The simple act of clearing some things off your schedule is an act of self-care and is a lifestyle change, not just something to be added. Surrounding yourself with people who are supportive and breathe life into you is self-care. Setting boundaries with people, learning to say no, and engaging in behaviors that ensure you are healthy and energized is self-care. These lifestyle changes are actually ways to take care of yourself.
Self-care doesn’t have to cost money.
Don’t stop here, thinking you can’t treat yo’ self and have it be a part of your self-care. That just wouldn’t be true. My nail tech and I have a standing appointment. These toes have to get soaked. These bundles are not cheap. However, if your entire self-care regime revolves around spending, then what happens when there is no money? When things get tight financially and you need to hold it together, do you just not take care of yourself because you don’t “have it” right now? No, that is absolutely not okay and is why it’s so important to select self-care practices that don’t require money. A nice stretch at the end of a day. A foot rub from your significant other. SItting down on the couch, hair up, bra off, just breathing. Self-care doesn’t have to cost a thing, and the sooner you can change your mentality around what self-care really is, the easier it will be to live out this lifestyle for richer or for poorer.
Self-care is unique to each person.
You have to figure out what lifestyle changes will work best for you. What re-energizes one person is not necessarily going to have the same impact on another. The self-care life that you choose to lead is completely your own. You get to craft it and cultivate it the way that you see fit. However, it is also important for you to know yourself, the excuses you make, and the barriers you may create to keep yourself from making these important changes. Are you afraid that people might consider you selfish or lazy, or do you feel like the world will fall apart if you step away? Do you think you don’t deserve the special treatment? Make sure you are fully aware of your hangups, the things that keep you stuck in a cycle of feeling overwhelmed, and how you engage in unhealthy ways of managing your stress. Only then can you overcome them and truly practice self-care.
Self-care has to be part of your routine.
Self-care shouldn’t be optional. It’s not an, “if I have time” activity. You wouldn’t feel complete if you left the house without brushing your teeth, or went days without eating. That’s the kind of attachment and understanding you need around self-care. In its truest form, it’s habitual. It’s something that you do so regularly, that it feels weird when you skip it. For example, every day on my way to work, I listen to my Daily Hope podcast. I meal prep on Sunday so I don’t have to worry about preparing food for the week (it’s not just a financial benefit.) My phone is scheduled to go on DND at 9:00 p.m. and doesn’t reset until 7:00 a.m. the following day. So when these things don’t happen, I feel off balance, like something isn’t right. And that’s what self-care should be; it should be as if a part of you is missing when it’s not part of your day.
As an only child, I’ve always been a bit selfish, so taking care of myself wasn’t as foreign of an idea as it was perplexing to find ways to apply the practice to my life. It wasn’t until I was put in a situation where I had no choice but to focus on myself that I learned how to create a self-care lifestyle. Since I’ve gained the awareness and understanding, it has been my mission to share it with as many women as I can. As soon as it started to be “cool” to practice self-care, there seems to have been a huge backlash against taking care of yourself. My guess is that it comes from the misrepresentation of what self-care actually means, and it is my hope that we can spread the word that self-care is a lifestyle—not a luxury.