What the hell is self care anyway?

Image of a woman holding a little bird

Now here’s an interesting question.  Most people, including many of the ones I work with, seem to think of self-care as something you start introducing into your life when things have become too difficult and they are having problems coping with everyday life, when they are anxious, depressed, suffering with panic attacks and have come to the conclusion that something needs to change.

They embark on the quest to look after themselves better, starting from now… or maybe tomorrow after this piece of work is done, or maybe best to leave it till next Friday after all, it fits in better with the wife, husband, partner or kids.

Self care and looking after ourselves should be a daily practice.  We brush our teeth and shower everyday, so why do we wait till we have space to fit it into our lives, even when things are at crisis point?

Now, I am not just talking about just getting up, showering and getting dressed.  It’s about committing to consistently valuing and nurturing yourself with some good food, exercise and cultivating a positive mental outlook every day.  That being said, it’s such a personal thing and so finding what you need to do, specifically for yourself, can be tricky.  To get motivated in making self care a part of our lives we need to set measurable (flexible), realistic, and achievable goals.  However, for most of us, the most important element of self-care is self compassion. It helps us to see our limitations and flaws with kindness, accept that things didn’t quite go to plan and let it go.  It is the practice of giving yourself the same compassion (love) you would offer to a friend when they were struggling with something difficult.

Mindfulness and Meditation have been massive acts of self-care for me.  I have learnt much about myself particularly when using self compassion.  But be warned meditation is not all warm, fuzzy and fluffy, the method is uncomplicated but in practice, it’s like a gym workout for the mind.  Establishing a daily practice builds and helps us get stronger to get through days when life is not kind, and it nourishes, embraces and feeds us on the kinder days.

It comes down to making the practice of self-care a daily habit, as motivation tends to wane. It takes time to form a habit, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge (2010) it can take as little as 18 days but the average is 66 days.  Motivation can be very powerful, but not by itself.  The magic really happens when you have  Motivation + Habit building + inspiration = success. 

I did a meditation retreat many years ago with Paul Darby, The Feng Shui Doctor and he spoke about self care, daily meditation and self compassion being like an armour we should put on every day to keep safe and be prepared for any attack or crisis.  I think it is one of the best pieces advice I have been given as my practice has supported me through amazing, good, bad and terrible times.  There was a period in my life when my practice fell away for around 6 weeks, during a very dark time (that’s a whole different blog!) but thankfully I began to put the armour back on every day and things became lighter and more manageable again.

Can you think of some small self care that you can start to do every day?  How long do you think you will be able to carry on doing it for?  Perhaps a daily affirmation, a 5 minute walk or a short meditation from an App or You tube?

How do you think you will benefit?  Will it make your life better to slow down a little?  What will it feel like to be valuing yourself and your needs and putting yourself first, just for a few minutes?   Will it be a positive experience every time?  The better you feel about yourself the more committed and inspired you will be to the process and building your self care.

So, start small, be consistent, compassionate and nurture yourself.