Self-Care: Learning to Put Yourself First
For some, being kind comes with practice. For others, it’s an area of pride. It’s something that has been beaten into our heads since the criss-cross applesauce days of elementary school, a mantra to treat others the way you want to be treated. Pause for a moment, though, and let me ask the question: when was the last time you were kind to yourself? Especially in the now-times of quarantine and isolation. Your body is protecting you as you survive a global pandemic that will surely go down in history books, but maybe all you’ve noticed is the extra pound or two you’ve gained while stuck in the house.
Or maybe it’s more mental, and you’re beating yourself up for feeling as though productivity is at an all-time low. Working from home can be suffocating when you didn’t sign up for it.
Now, more than ever, it is so important to practice self-care.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care means distancing yourself from the chaos of a busy life, if only for a moment, and indulging in yourself. It means taking care of the body, mind, and soul while learning how to reduce stress and when to take a step back. It isn’t always easy. Most of us are overdue for a healthy dose of self-care because we deprive ourselves out of guilt, or because we feel undeserving of a little self-indulgence. Demanding jobs and reliant relationships (both romantic and platonic) can leave our tanks running a little empty.
It’s important to remember that we can only give what we have to offer, and if our tanks begin to run low then we aren’t only hurting ourselves, but those who depend on us. Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s a helpful reminder that you and your needs are valid. Maintain a healthy relationship with yourself so that you can give your all to those in your life who depend on you.
How Do You Practice Self-Care?
There are countless resources online that illustrate ways to indulge in self-care, spanning from Youtube videos to blog posts to magazines articles. They all tend to revolve around the same mindset: you come first. Self-care won’t look the same for everyone. If slapping on a scented face mask and pruning in a bubble bath doesn’t sound like your idea of a relaxing time, then odds are it isn’t. Listen to your body and what it needs and act accordingly.
Self-Care Is Not Self-Improvement
Read it again: self-care is not self-improvement. According to Gracy Obuchowicz in an article written for heathline, “Self-improvement comes from a perfectionist mind-set, where we think there is something we need to fix about ourselves—that we’re lazy or procrastinators—all the stories we tell ourselves when we have a goal for our well-being and we don’t achieve those, so we go into a shame spiral and we tell ourselves we’re not good enough in some way.”
If you’re someone who typically measures your worth by how productive you are, you might be guilty of confusing the two. It may be a bit of an adjustment, but just know there is no shame in taking some time for yourself with little to show for in the aftermath.
Sometimes You Will Fail. It’s Okay
It can be difficult to find the time to take a breath and step away from stress. It can be equally difficult to find a healthy balance between self-care and living. Perhaps your scale leans too heavily in favor of one without supporting the other, and perhaps when you try to fix it, you tip the scale in the other direction. Take a breath, friend. Everything will be okay. Learning to balance everything can be tricky. There’s no shame in leaning on a crutch until you’re steady on your own.
Whether it’s due to quarantine or work or family, stress is an unavoidable factor of life. No matter how efficient you become at taking care of yourself it’s nearly impossible to knock out everything that causes you to need it in the first place.
Self-care isn’t about finding a solution to all of your problems. It’s about taking care of you. You are worthy of a break from reality, in whatever form that may come in.
Be kind to others, but more than that, be kind to you.