Self care is a growing trend these days. It is a great change in our culture to finally prioritize our own well-being and overall health! But, if you are anything like me, you read the articles and the books and you are left feeling pressured you need to do more self care and that it has to look a certain way. If you are anything like me, sometimes doing all the “self care things” leave you feeling anxious. And then the guilt comes… why can’t I get the hang of this self care thing?!
Throw it all out the window. Self care looks different for everyone. And that’s ok. It’s a way of living, not a fad. It is something you discover along the journey. Self care is trial and error. Self care is something we do daily to nourish ourselves, and each of us have different nourishment needs. Self care doesn’t have to to look like a hot bubble bath with wine or whatever cliche image we paint in our head of what self care is supposed to look like.
So how do you discover your individual self care needs? Here are a few tips to help get you started.
- Know yourself. As a Christian, I believe we have a Spirit, Soul and Body (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, understanding that we are complex people is helpful in getting to know ourselves. All parts of us are important, but also have different needs to feel nourished. Start getting to know yourself on a deeper level. Start to differentiate between what is going on in your spirit, your soul, and your body, and notice how they are all connected. Ask yourself daily, what does my spirit need to feel nourished? What does my soul need to feel nourished? What does my body need to feel nourished? Pay attention and nourish every part of you regularly. Think about it for a second, you don’t usually wait until you are feeling intense hunger to eat a meal. If you do occasionally get to the “hangry” stage, you way overeat, or are more likely to eat foods that won’t really nourish you. We have to create healthy patterns of nourishment for our Spirit, Soul and Body.
- Work to create a life that doesn’t drain you. Notice: what sucks your energy from you? Take care of the root of your “energy suckers.” Think of it this way: you have a pool. It has a leak. In an effort to fill the pool to go swimming, you put more water in it. You may swim for a few minutes, but before long you are going to need more water to fill the pool… unless you fix the leak. Where are the leaks in your life? If you experience an excessive need for self care, you probably have things to “unplug” from. I’m sure you are reading this and laughing as you think about how your energy is sucked from you from things that matter in your life and you simply can’t (nor would you dream of) eliminating. I’m a wife and mother, trust me, I know! I’m tired. Those relationships require a lot of energy, as they should. Relationships of all kinds take a lot of work from all parties; relationships can’t go into autopilot. But that’s not what I am talking about. The energy suckers I’m talking about are the things that aren’t healthy for you. Perhaps unhealthy and/or toxic relationships, or an unhealthy work environment, or even unresolved past traumas that still effect you, would be examples of energy suckers that aren’t healthy and that you do have the ability to change. If you need help with any of this, a therapist is a great person to help you identify and deal with these areas of your life.
- Identify what gives you life. What is your passion? You need regular outlets for those things in your life. Try to find ways to incorporate those outlets in your life that are doable and not cause you stress because you don’t have time to do those things.
Sometimes you just have to take care of business. If I’m stressed out about completing a very necessary task on my to do list, simply escaping to go take a bubble bath is an example of procrastination. I’m going to sit in that bath and stress out; it won’t be refreshing. All the netflix binging in the world won’t erase the fact that you have to pay your bills, file your taxes, care for your family and home, go to work, grocery shop, etc. sometimes you eliminate the stress by simply doing the task. Self care is not as effective if you are a habitual procrastinator. Work on breaking up your to do list in doable chunks so you aren’t constantly in a state of stress where you need “self-care” all the time (I am talking to myself here).
Most importantly, it is good to remember that self-care is a journey and to have patience with yourself as you learn.