“Unlike self-criticism, which asks if you’re good enough, self-compassion asks what’s good for you?” – Kristin Neff
In a nutshell, self-care is self-love in action.
It’s what we do with the intention to rest, recharge, and address our mental, emotional, and physical needs. Self-care is the steps we take on the way to becoming the best version of ourselves.
Every single person is unique, so self-care looks a little different for everyone. And, while the concept of taking care of ourselves seems simple, today’s fast-paced world has got us feeling as disconnected as ever from our needs. The body’s language is quiet, and it’s easy to overlook the signals it sends our minds on a daily basis.
By slowing down and listening to the body’s needs, we put ourselves in the position to make the choices and take the actions we need to strengthen our relationships with ourselves and others.
“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.” – Jack Kornfield
Self-care starts with mindfulness.
The first step is checking in with your mind and body and asking yourself questions like “How do I really feel right now? What does my body need in this moment?”
Sometimes the answer lies in an unmet basic need, like thirst, hunger, or pain.
Other times, what we feel is a confusing combination of those basic needs with our more complex emotional needs, natural fluctuations of our hormonal cycles, stresses, and so many other factors.
In this sense, journaling can help us get to know ourselves a little better. Tracking our emotional, mental and physical states can help us identify the connections between the actions we take and the way those actions make us feel.
This is where self-care can get difficult.
The second step is answering those questions above as honestly as possible. And that might just be the hardest part of the self-care puzzle– especially during those times when the pressure to say “I’m fine” is so strong, or when we just really want a quick fix.
Recognizing what we feel and putting words to the sensations in our bodies allows us to make the decisions that will ultimately make our lives better in the long-term.
“Self-love is the source of all our other loves.” – Pierre Corneille
Self-care in the moment
We’ve all been faced with those moments of free time where we find ourselves thinking, “now what?” Well, there’s never a time like the present to show yourself some love. This is where your answers to the questions above will come in handy.
If you know that you’re feeling sluggish, now what? Does your body need physical rest or a workout? The answer might depend on how much sleep you got last night, or when the last time you ate or exercised was.
If you’re feeling stressed, do you need some peace and quiet or do you need to blast Beyonce’s new album and dance around in your pajamas? If you’re feeling tense or agitated, do you need to stretch your muscles or have a good cry? Take a nap or watch your favorite TV show? Call a friend or call your mom? Do you need to eat something?
It’s also important to care about yourself before your body feels like it’s about to fall apart. That’s the difference between caring for yourself and treating yourself: when you care for yourself on a schedule, you’re not treating anything, you’re just refilling your spiritual fuel tank when it gets low.
That’s why planning ahead can be a powerful tool in your self-care strategy, whether that’s scheduling a doctor’s appointment, meal planning for the week, making plans with a friend, or setting aside a chunk of time each week to make space for yourself in whatever way your soul needs.
Sometimes it looks like a manicure, and other times it looks like saying “no” to things when you’re overwhelmed.
Sometimes it looks like taking a sip of water because you know your body is dehydrated– even if you’re not feeling thirsty.
Sometimes it looks like taking a walk outside.
Sometimes it looks like evaluating a bad habit and letting go of things that no longer serve you.
Sometimes it looks like spending time with people you love.
Sometimes it looks like spending quality alone time with yourself.
Sometimes it looks like going to bed thirty minutes earlier.
Sometimes it looks like being vulnerable around a loved one.
Sometimes it looks like exercise.
Sometimes it looks like a five-minute stretch break at work.
Sometimes it looks like setting boundaries.