Updated: Feb 18, 2020
I facilitated a workshop recently on self-care. I discussed some reasons for self-care, and then we did an exercise to explore multiple self-care strategies. Ever since I have been thinking about what self-care really is. Self-care seems to make people think of pampering activities - a massage, or a day at the spa. Self-indulgent practices that may be useful for some, but a pedicure doesn't serve that purpose for everyone. Are these indulgences what we really need in order to feel well and function within our lives? Does self-care only mean going to get a service from someone else, or does it mean something deeper?
Self-care is more than a special treat. Self-care is a compilation of the daily, weekly, regular actions I take that keep me feeling my best - physically, emotionally, spiritually and beyond. I exercise daily, eat foods that give me energy and joy, and wear clothing that literally feels good on my skin. I read (and often re-read) books for pure pleasure, hold doors for strangers, and have lunch with friends. I take time for internal reflection, make a point to notice the beautiful nature around me, and accept not knowing all the answers. I set boundaries and do my best to keep them. Sometimes I sing out loud in my car, stereo blasting, looking like a complete idiot - and it makes me joyful. And yes, sometimes I get a massage or a pedicure.
All of these things are self-care for ME. And that's really the point, right? Self-care not a checklist of things we all do the same way that is the "right" way. It isn't seeking out services that others provide FOR me or forcing myself into someone else's idea of self-care. It is identifying the things that help me feel my best, and then incorporating them into my life as frequently as possible. An occasional massage doesn't do that on its own. It is when all of these are all part of my life - in big or small ways - that I can truly be my best. I have more to give to others around me, I am better at my work, I am a better spouse, and I am healthier.
So what IS self-care? Only you can know the details of that answer in your life. What I can tell you is that rarely do we get enough self-care. And I don't think you can ever have too much. So explore some ideas for yourself and then go for it. Don't let anyone else define the factors that make you your best.