Self- care has become one of those buzzwords that we see everywhere in the media, often thrown around without real analysis or explanation. It seems to be most associated with articles or blogs telling you it’s ok to stay home and take a candle-lit bath, treat yourself to a massage and indulge in some kind of chocolate cake. And of course there’s nothing wrong with any of that at all! But there is something wrong when self-care becomes yet another thing to perfect and feel pressure about, especially as real self-care goes much much deeper than the idea of a relaxing night at home watching Netflix or uploading a photo of your morning fruit smoothie to Instagram.
True self-care is about taking care of yourself holistically, which means taking a long hard look at all areas of your life on a mental, emotional, spiritual and physical level. It’s about noticing where you are not prioritising your own well-being which can prove hard to admit, especially if it means making some difficult changes like leaving a relationship or giving your diet an overhaul.
Getting real and raw with yourself can be uncomfortable, awkward and challenging to do. But if you really want to grow and create a balanced life, which you do not need to run away from, it takes being honest, vulnerable and determined.
Try to think of self-care as a constantly evolving process that you incorporate into your life moment by moment. To become the person you know you really are, living the fullest version of your life, you have to take self-care seriously and know it might involve doing things you’d normally shy away from.
Truthfully, learning how to practice meaningful self-care is just about the most important thing you can do for yourself. When you are in touch with who you are, taking responsibility for your choices and acting in ways that enhance your long-term well being, you will feel empowered and purposeful.
This is not about trying to fix yourself, but rather taking care of who you are and in the process perhaps seeing that when you go about things with loving care you actually end up healing and attending to many of the things you so badly wanted to fix.
Six Ways to Integrate Real Self-Care into your Life
1. Take responsibility for your life
Shake off any feelings of victimhood and realise that while life isn’t always fair, you are capable of controlling what you can to make significant and beneficial changes. When you hold yourself accountable, you are actually empowering yourself to take the reins. Make a list of things you wish were different about your life. Do you have trouble saying no to things? Do you spend too much or eat too much? Are there relationships in your life that you find toxic or draining to your time? Realise where you are capable of setting stronger boundaries in order to protect yourself and act by them. The way you do things is a reflection of how you value yourself, so act from a place of self-worth.
2. Do things for your future self
Self-care can certainly mean tending to your immediate needs. If you need some time alone to relax then take heed of that. But you also need to think of what your future self wants. Sometimes those wants are harder to hear, for example you might not feel like meditating when you wake up, but future you desperately wants that calm and peace of mind. You may be putting off a doctor’s visit you know you need or avoiding opening a savings account or going to the gym or any number of similar wants and needs. Instead of giving into your present frame of mind, take a moment to visualise the outcome of these actions on future you, and decide what’s important, even if it feels difficult in the moment.
3. Mindful social media
You don’t have to go cold turkey with your social media but so many of us waste time idly scrolling through reels of others peoples carefully presented lives without realising just how it affects our precious time and self-esteem, not to mention attention spans. Think about what aspects of social media you actually enjoy and just follow people that make you feel uplifted and positive. The constant bombardment of advertising, images, quotes and memes can make us question our lives and make harsh comparisons. This is such an unhealthy way to spend time. Consider limiting the minutes you spend scrolling and take up an alternative activity that is way more beneficial to your brain and body like reading a book, learning a few words in another language or just going for a walk with your phone off. You will reap the benefits and eliminate the anxiety and envy that social media tends to cause.
4. Practice self-reliance
Once of the most loving acts of self-care you can embrace is to stop depending on other people to meet your needs or make you feel more secure. That does not mean isolating yourself or pushing people away, it means realising that you have whatever you need within you to be a happy, whole and functional individual regardless of what others say or do. When you think others hold the answers you effectively give them your power. You don’t need permission to show up as your best, most realised self. You can learn to listen to what you need, follow your intuition and show yourself love to reach your full potential as a human being. You don’t give in to feelings of fear or neediness when you empower yourself this way. This is a key ingredient for success in creating exceptional friendships, relationships and in excelling in your career.
5. Watch your thoughts and your words
The way that we talk to ourselves is paramount in our lives. Check in with your thoughts and self-talk on a daily basis and take stock of any hypercritical or negative words that you tend to use against yourself. If you are not showing yourself compassion, it’s doubtful you are able to truly practice compassion with others. Our thoughts and words are so important, try to speak with positive intent or at least teach yourself to become aware of why you say certain things, either to yourself or others. Calming down your negative mental chatter is an incredible exercise in self care that will benefit your life on all levels, help you sleep better, work better and feel better about yourself and others.
6. Let things go
Letting go of physical and mental clutter is a wonderful way to clear space in your living area and your mind. That’s important in helping you to feel calmer, more organised and more capable of taking on whatever life brings. Letting go of resentments, past upsets and conflicts that cause you to ruminate negatively is also a powerful release and way to show yourself love. Make it a regular practice to check in with where you can let something go, physical or emotional, which no longer serves you.
Remember that self-care is an everyday process where you can ask yourself the question – Am I showing up as the true, best version of me today? If not, what can I do to get myself further along the road to being that happy version of myself? Sometimes it’s just about accepting where you are and knowing that you don’t have to do it all and it’s not about being perfect. You can’t always be everything to everyone, the ideal mother, father, girlfriend, boyfriend, daughter, son, friend, co-worker etc. But you can be someone with the tools, knowledge and determination to treat yourself and your life with love, patience and compassion.