We hear so much about self care, and I think that for most people the phrase, "self care" conjures up mental images of spa days, pedicures, facials and coconut-scented candles. I'm here to tell you today that self-care involves soooo much more than that!
I used to think that going to the salon to get my hair done, or going to have a pedicure, were forms of self care, but while these are acts that do play a part in how we care for ourselves, strictly speaking I'd more likely place them under the category of self-maintenance. Hear me out for a second. When I go to have my pedicure done, for example, yes, my esthetician is doing the work for me (with a scrumptious foot massage as a part of the deal) but I can't fully zone out or relax. I more often than not have to engage in some conversation, I have to pay attention for when she wants me to move my foot, where I'm supposed to position it, when it's time to exchange feet... it requires input from me as well. I therefore can't completely zone out in the way that I would like to, for it to be what I may feel that I need at that point in time. Massages and hair-dos are not much different, for many of the same reasons.
So let's get into the nitty-gritty of what self care is. Self care consists of taking care of your physical, emotional and mental well-being. It should be the basis of the relationship you have with yourself and invloves showing yourself the love that allows you to thrive and be your truest, most effective and amazing self. Self care involves prioritizing your own health and well-being (all aspects of it), setting boundaries, and putting yourself first.
Why is self care important?
I tend to repeat to my patients and clients, "stress is a killer!" And, I honestly feel as though that should sum up the answer to this question. Self care is important for our health. Not just our physical health but also our mental and emotional well-being. By not prioritizing ourselves and engaging in regular self care habits, we open ourselves up to the effects of the stressors in life.
Life is stressful, there is no escaping it, whether we want to admit it or not. But oftentimes more important than the stressors themselves, are the ways that we manage (or mismanage) them, and a huge part of managing stress lies in our self care habits. We tend to deal with stressful situations by either trying to confront them head-on, or by reatreating and burying our heads in the sand, which often looks like focusing on something else. In neither of these scenarios do we take a step back to focus on ourselves and what WE need in that situation.
Physically, we may feel the effects of the stressors as headaches, sleeplessness, absent appetite, acid reflux/heartburn, or our blood pressure skyrockets and we don't even know, because a really high BP can have ZERO symptoms. Emotionally and mentally, we may feel anxious, depressed, lack focus or become disengaged.
These psychological and physical effects of stress left unchecked will potentially snowball into major problems, affecting our health, our interpersonal relationships, our productivity and ultimately our success. What we should get into that habit of doing, is stopping and thinking, "What do I need right now that I can give to myself?"
It's a simple question, with endless possible answers:
- Do I need to set and enforce particular boundaries?
- Do I need to unplug for a few minutes, or a few hours?
- Do I need to enjoy an outdoor space to reconnect with nature?
- Do I need to disconnect briefly from my usual routine?
What do you need right now, that you can give to yourself?
Lesley Reece is an MD-cum-personal coach, content creator, writer, and vlogger, who loves pedis just as much as the next person. Very importantly, she is an advocate for women’s empowerment and uses her coaching, writing and relatable social media content to motivate and teach others about navigating a life well lived.