In the first month of my goal to prioritize self care, I have done a lot of thinking about what self care is and what it means to women. For one thing, I set out to figure out if I was right in my assessment that a lot of women associated guilt or selfishness with self care. Unfortunately, I found that I’m not the only one that feels that way sometimes.
Beyond that there are a lot of misconceptions about what self care actually is. Many think that it only looks like the following…
Some form of pampering, such as a spa day or pedicure.
A relaxing week-long vacation
Spending lots of time in the outdoors appreciating nature
Splurging on expensive items
So, what if you could care less about facials and never paint your nails? What if you have no vacation time left? What if you’d rather be inside then out in nature? What if you don’t enjoy shopping or are on a limited budget?
The problem with this way of looking at self care is that it may be someone else’s version of self care and not yours. Self care is taking care of yourself in a way that speaks to your needs and interests. So if having someone go to town on your feet with a pumice isn’t your idea of a good time, then that isn’t taking care of you. If a weekend camping trip makes you want to break out in hives, then that isn’t self care even if you think time in nature should be relaxing. In fact, saying no to things you don’t enjoy doing is actually a form of self care.
So what is self care? It is identifying your personal needs and then figuring out you can meet them. These needs are physical, mental, and emotional. There are some needs that are central to the well being of any human, such as healthy eating, getting enough sleep, participating in some form of exercise, having emotional support of some kind, and mental stimulation. But how they can be met and what they even mean can differ from person to person. For example, adequate sleep could be six hours for one person, and nine for another.
Some other examples of self care:
Spending quality time with friends- The amount and type needed will vary by person, especially between introverts and extroverts.
Enjoyable exercise- Some of us are runners, some soccer players, and some yogis.
Time to relax- This could mean watching the going-ons in a park or curling up with a book inside. It doesn’t have to be the entire day. It could be for 15 minutes.
A treat- Is this ice cream, a pedicure, a new book from the bookstore, or a dress for a special date? It is all dependent on what you value and what holds meaning to you.
Reflection- This could come in a creative form such as art or journaling, or by listening to music or meditating. Or by hashing out what you are feeling with someone you trust.
Taking a class- Learn something more about something that interests you or challenge yourself to try something you’ve always wanted to. Art, language, cooking, ice skating, music, dance, a college course, etc.
Boundaries- Learn where your boundaries are and don’t let others infringe on them. Learn how to say no instead of saying yes out of guilt or obligation.
So instead of asking, “what is self care?” perhaps we should be asking, “what does self care mean to me?”
An Update on My Resolution for Self Care
So, what has happened in the last month?
I went back to school! For one class, that is. If there is one subject that I would have liked to take more courses in undergrad, it would have been psychology. So I’m taking a class in social psychology this semester. Everyone is so young. And I don’t ever remember having this many homework assignments when I was in college. A lot of papers and tests, but not homework. But, honestly, I am having so much fun! Wow, that didn’t sound nerdy at all. Psychology is something that I find really fascinating and I want to learn more about it in a formal setting with someone who has an advanced degree in the subject. I like having an opportunity to expand my knowledge base and be challenged as well.
I went to the chiropractor twice. I also had a physical appointment yesterday. My neck and shoulders are already feeling a lot better. I carry all of my stress in those areas, so it is really important that I take care of myself in that way, otherwise pain and stiffness has me feeling even more stressed out and grumpy. I also asked about a problem with my foot that I have been having for over a year, but I had neglected to mention because feet are…well, gross. And he was able to adjust that as well and suggest that the shoes I was wearing may be the problem. So I will be shopping for new sneakers soon.
I bought a new hair brush. Ummm…Sara, what is wrong with you? Can something as stupid as buying a hair brush really be self care? Well, when you have a problem spending money on yourself it can be. Especially when you have one that keeps falling apart and the other is only supposed to be used for blow drying and hurts your scalp as a result.
I’ve been stocking up my Kindle with new books. I will be highlighting some of the books that I’ve read in a post next week. One of my recent favorites was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin . I love memoirs and it was interesting to learn more about the psychology and practice of happiness.
What does self care mean to you?