Did you know today (Saturday) is national Self Care day?
I’ll be honest, the term self care always irked me a bit. When I first began to hear it, the term seemed to always be associated with a limited scheme of things: pedicures, manicures, spa days, shopping or all about pushing “me first”. (I believe my early experience with self care probably came from women’s magazines…
It always seemed to be more about spending money on unessential things that would supposedly relax you. Sadly, they were all things I never found particularly relaxing.
So I wrote off self care as overly indulgent and generally selfish (big judgements? yes. But we are talking teenage Bronwyn here, please forgive her).
After finding out that Saturday was Self Care Day, I looked into it a bit more. Self care according to the International Self-Care Foundation is actually more about daily habits that keep you healthy.
Now that’s a self care regime I can get behind. If you check out their infographic, they define self care purely in terms of health: first understanding health and improving health literacy, then as the daily habits around physical activity, healthy eating, and general life management that can be helpful for you to live a balanced and healthy life.
With this in mind I began to realize I was doing a lot more self care then I realized. Because I think a lot of self care looks like my original teenage experience, I thought I’d share some things you can do (or may be doing already) that I think are truly pieces of self care.
Whether it’s a run through your neighbourhood, getting your hands dirty in your garden, a walk with friends, or a hike or bike ride through the woods, getting outside is one of the biggest self care things you can do. Lots of evidence supports getting out into nature but if that’s not your thing, the next best thing is simply getting out of the indoors. Sure we now have Pokémon-Go, but usually getting outside involves less screen time, more action and definitely being more present. And if you get lots of movement from your outdoor time, even better.
My first point lends itself well to my second point. Move every day. As more and more jobs become sedentary, and a lot of the relax time becomes couch-centric, getting yourself moving every day is the absolutely bestest thing you can do. Don’t believe me? check out this video – I won’t spoil it for you, but I love this little video and think it’s basically kinda amazing what a little exercise can do for your well-being!
Eat healthy food you like, but don’t let it rule your life. I’ll be the first to admit I love healthy food. I was raised on whole grains, real peanut butter, and a decent assortment of vegetables (ok I was a picky kid who wouldn’t eat potatoes but would totally mow down some French fries, but whatever). What I’m saying is I didn’t always like ALL healthy food, but I always liked some healthy food ( such as rice, chicken and broccoli, which was what I remember having for dinner most often). Yes I want you to eat your vegetables, yes I think we live in a sugar and deep fried filled world, where all too many of us are easily overindulging, but I don’t want your pursuit of healthy eating to cause you more stress. This in fact is when healthy eating becomes a bigger issue then it needs to be. (PS struggling with healthy eating, finding a balance and making it happen? I can help with that! Get in touch, and check out my services page for more information – end of shameless plug).
I mentioned that when I first heard about self-care it would often have the adage of “me first” and considering I likely heard of self-care in women’s magazines or on Oprah, it makes sense: many moms and women feel a lot of guilt when putting their needs first or even just on par with those of their loved ones (you shouldn’t, this is the air plane mask rule of self-care: put yours on first then your kids because if you die you are useless to those you love). So I understand the messaging, but it always bothered me because it always seemed to be about taking time away from being involved in your family, your friends and your community to go for a pedicure. But from my viewpoint spending time with your friends and family, where you are fully present and engaged, is so crucial to taking care of ourselves. I also think volunteering is one of the best things you can do with your time; our communities are built on volunteers and the more helping hands the better it goes. For me personally this has meant being involved on my sports teams outside of just practice, or helping out when I lived in residence, as well as being active and involved in my profession. In the end taking care of your community helps to take care of you.
Reflect on what is working in your life
Self Care really comes down to the every day habits we create. Yes moving is great, but if you only go for a run every three months it’s not doing you much good. A walk every day for thirty minutes is better. The same goes for everything else: it is what you do regularly that will effect your health in the long run. So take a look at your habits: do most of them serve you? Or do you have a few unhealthy ones that just take over? Be mindful of where stress enters your life. We all have stress but a big part of it is how you deal with it: do you avoid it and complain or do you get to work tackling the nagging tasks that are haunting your sleep?
So I know this isn’t a long list, but it is a bit of a long post! So I’ll end it now but what do you feel you do for self care? Are there habits or daily things you do that you never considered self care but are?
(PS I know I did a lot of judging on the mani pedis but if those are your things that’s totally cool! I wanted to present some alternatives for those of us who don’t always like those things, or can’t always afford them. It’s more about thinking (critically) about what we call self-care and what it actually could be.)