Self-care is the new catch cry. There are 50,000 people a month looking for the meaning of self-care according to Google analytics. Perhaps, those searchers already have an idea of what self-care means and are looking for tips on how to actually self-care. Here’s my tip: There is no formula for self-care. But there is a science to it. You have to work out for yourself what it means to you, day by day as its always changing.
I was introduced to the words ‘self-care’ several years ago but it didn’t mean much to me at first – they were just words. Eventually, I thought I knew a little about self-care. I mean, I did know to get a drink of water if I was thirsty or eat if I was hungry. I also knew when it was time to put an extra blanket on the bed. I realized if I stayed on the computer for hours, I would get a stiff neck. So I would get up and move around just before my muscles started to seize up. That’s sort of like self-care, isn’t it?
My initial analysis, of what self-care was about, left me feeling that I probably could do better, but was I willing to make the effort? Did I consider myself worth it?
There are some great ideas about self-care in this blog, so I won’t go into them here except to say, it took me quite awhile to get up to speed with these. It wasn’t an overnight process. But, I eventually got there.
This is when I discovered that these ideas were just the beginning. We can always go deeper with self-care but we can’t necessarily jump from A to E. We usually have to progress step by step through B, C, & D.
Here’s an example that many women will be able to relate to – and also men if they help out with the housework. I live in a large two-story home. I love my home and I love it even more when it is all clean and sparkly. So I used to clean my whole entire house in one long exhausting day, because I loved the feeling of having the entire house clean. Of course, I fell asleep so early on cleaning day that I had to wait until the next day to really appreciate it. Ha! Then I decided it was just too much to do in one day, my body was too tired at the end of it. So I started changing the bed linen and washing the towels the day before I cleaned the house. Breaking it up into a two-day exercise didn’t seem to diminish the joy of the clean house so this was my new level of self-care with house cleaning. I had gone deeper to step B.
Living in a two story house means several trips up and down the stairs on cleaning day so I would try to carry as much as possible on any one trip. Yes, I had to twist and turn and watch my step carefully, especially on the stairs. It was stressful. I finally realized that more trips, with lighter loads, were easier on my body in the long run. Ah, another level of self-care. I had gone deeper yet - to C.
A few months later, it felt like I needed to make yet another adjustment. I decided that I would clean the upstairs one week and the downstairs the following week. This made the days much less tiresome and saved me several trips up and down the stairs. I don’t have the joy of having the whole house sparkling at once but instead I have the joy of having been kinder to my body. It’s a fair trade! I’m now on a self-care plan D when it comes to the quality in which I clean my home.
This example of house cleaning is a very practical example of physical self-care. Take any example you can think of and look at how you care for yourself while doing it. Eventually you’ll look for ways to refine what you are doing so it is more self-caring and as a result also more self-loving.
Self-care is an element in everything you do or don’t do.
Being aware of emotional self-care may come some time after you start to recognize physical self-care but it is no less important.
Is it better to put off doing your income tax preparation and spare yourself the mental torment for another day of trying to make the figures mesh – although notice how it hangs over your head everyday until you actually get it done. Or is there a deeper level of self-care if you designate a day, not too long after all the paperwork is in, and you set yourself up with a clear desk, a cup of tea and plenty of time. Then you dedicate yourself to getting this project done for another year. Because of your gentle preparation, you may find it all flows. Dread and anxious energy not required! Is there more self-care in not procrastinating doing the paperwork for four months?
Emotional self-care and physical self-care can be closely intertwined.
I recently hurt my shoulder in a significant way. Even laying down was uncomfortable. I struggled through a couple of weeks of difficult sleep before realizing that I needed to go buy two more big fluffy pillows and take the time to find new ways of sleeping that supported my body while it healed. In the past, I would have considered buying extra pillows the fussing of a pansy – whereas now it was a gesture of self-care. After buying the pillows, I had a day of being embarrassed that I didn’t do it sooner. I started to give myself a bad time about it. ( I had already been giving myself a bad time about the accident!)
I had improved my physical self-care only to start abusing myself emotionally!
It’s never too late to start improving your self-care. And there is no end to it. You’ll never say ‘this is as far as I’m going with self-care.’ There will always be more.
Once you give yourself permission to self-care, it is something that will continue to develop and expand. One step of self-care will allow you to see what the next step is.
You will find a wealth of information on Self-Care here.
Gayle Cue loves writing about life, reflecting on every day miracles and pondering on the big picture.
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