What is Self-Care?
It's hard to stay positive these days. We are all Covid-weary, more like Covid-exhausted. Everyday stress, family stress, work stress, financial stress, relationship stress, major event stress, stress and anxiety are magnified in these pandemic times. It follows that there is so much talk of self-care, particularly in the beauty and wellness sector. I hear it so much, I'll admit being weary of the phrase, even though I am part of this industry. But what does it really mean?
Have a nap, go for a walk, take a bubble bath, enjoy an apple, indulge your senses, indulge yourself. Of course all these things are part of enjoying life and making yourself happy. But self-care can be explored on a deeper and more rewarding level. Self-care has the potential to be something a lot less comfortable and a lot longer lasting. Spoiler alert, it involves doing things you don't want to do. As in getting off the couch. Going on a journey. And no, not to the fridge and back.
Unemployed due to Covid, and living on my own, I had no responsibilities and could do whatever I wanted, eat what I wanted, get up when I wanted and sleep when I wanted. Combine that with isolation from my family and friends, no one to look after except my pet snake, who is pretty low-maintenance, and bad habits were sure to follow, which caused more bad habits, until I was miserable in my freedom and filled with guilt and self-loathing.
I started a workout program, and for some reason, stuck to it this time. My eating habits were still atrocious. I was like a kid in a candy store. Literally. My favourite hobby was baking and eating the results. I stayed up late, I got up late. But I did my workouts 3 times a week. I did not enjoy them. I nicknamed my fitness program "Workout of 1000 Sorrows" and "Medieval Self-Torture 101." But without even really setting out to, I was finally starting to look after myself.
I was lucky enough to get offered a job out of the blue, and so now I was forced to stick to a schedule, the best thing that could've happened. Staying up until 4am was no longer an option. One evening I impulsively joined a nutrition/fitness/lifestyle program and immediately regretted it. But the part of me that knew this was for my own good, for my own self-care, decided to take action and follow through.
I was given a workout schedule, a meal plan, coaching sessions with the best coaches I could've wished for, and a support group of strong, amazing women to learn from and share experiences with.
I soon discovered that this new adventure was about so much more than the number on the scale. It was about hard physical and mental work. It was about taking responsibility, it was about being accountable and showing up for myself. Beginner's mistake to confuse this with selfishness, because in the end it's just treating yourself with respect.
As women we tend to put everyone else first. In my case, I didn't have kids to look after, was not a front-line worker, and felt guilty about it. Multiply this guilt times 10 if you have a family at home and a full-time job, a situation a lot of the women in my group cope with every day. But in both cases, you realize that you wouldn't let a child or even a pet in your care eat whatever they feel like, sit around all day and stay up all night. You keep them happy and healthy, their environment clean and comfortable. Don't you deserve the same care and attention?
Many women in the group have partners, kids and friends who don't understand or support the new person they are becoming. Now self-care becomes about establishing boundaries, not giving in to other people's expectations and perceptions, and relying on yourself to keep showing up and to keep following through on the promises you've made to you alone.
This deeper level of self-care has endless rewards, both physical and mental. When you really look after yourself, you become a better son or daughter, a better parent, a better friend. You feel healthy and comfortable in your own skin. When you feel good in your own skin your confidence increases, you have more respect for yourself and as a result, you are treated with more respect.
So yes, have that bubble bath, have a big piece of cake on your birthday, read a book you love, go for a walk and let nature nourish your soul. But sometimes self-care means having difficult conversations, scrubbing the toilet (or asking someone in your household to do it!) going to the dentist, getting up with your alarm instead of hitting snooze. Be your own best friend. The one who tells you things you don't necessarily want to hear. The one who makes you get off the couch and have an adventure.