What is Self-Care?
18 Oct, 2018
I asked my teenage daughter this question and she answered, “Isn’t it a song by Mac Miller?” I will admit I didn’t know who that artist was, but the reason for my asking her in the first place was because I looked over her schedule for the new school year and realized how busy she will be.
We all know how important it is to take care of ourselves. When we are over worked, stressed and not sleeping well we can become depressed, un-motivated and even sick. I wrote a Words of Wellness blog a few years ago and used the analogy that on airplanes, flight attendants instruct you to adjust your oxygen mask first before assisting other individuals in the case of an emergency. The reasoning is that you cannot help other people if you are in need too.
It is in our nature to want to help people. Most of us find comfort and fulfillment when we are able to make a positive difference in someone’s life. Unfortunately, this can cause us to overextend ourselves and, while we have great intentions, we end up burning ourselves out and, in the end, we are not able to help anyone.
Taking care of ourselves should be our first priority but, as easy as it sounds, it is difficult for many to do. “I don’t have the time” is the number one excuse. And it’s true! Times have changed; we are busier than ever; vacation days go unused and average work day hours have increased from 8 hours to 10. We are connected to our tablets and smartphones, checking emails and responding to messages, some from the time we wake up in the morning until we close our eyes at night. Stress has become a way of life.
As a parent I have always tried to be a positive role model for my children. I realize that in teaching them about self-care I have some what failed. Of course we make sure our kids eat well, wash their hands and brush their teeth. But are we doing a good job at teaching them how to relax? That is the very first step to self-care. If you asked ten people what relaxation is, you would probably get ten different answers. For some it might be meditation, others might be yoga, running, reading. The list would go on.
Setting aside the time to relax and following through with that needs to become a priority. It is important that we teach our children that taking a time out to recharge is vital to being healthy inside and out.
Working for so many years in a spa setting has allowed me to see first-hand how a short amount of time spent relaxing can change even the most stressed out, unhappy person. As mentioned above, each of us have different ideas about what self-care is and we know what works for us. I do know what self-care is not. It’s not checking out completely. It’s not pursuing “guilty pleasures” for the sake of indulging. It’s not selfish. It’s not a one-time thing or a prescription for burnout. Self-care should be an ongoing practice.
Self-care shouldn’t require a lot of effort. The real remedy is not filling our day with active forms of self-care such as forcing ourselves to sign up for that yoga class even though we only have one free hour in the day but finding the ability to allow time for ourselves. There is no essential thing or class that will rejuvenate you. Taking a break to stare out the window doesn’t cost anything, and it can be as relaxing as any more formal act of self-care when done with intention.
The most important thing is to be patient. Find time to work self-care into your daily routine, whether that looks like five minutes of meditation or treating yourself to a favorite beverage on an afternoon break. Think about the long-term benefits and remember that self-care, like life, is a journey, not a destination.
In health and happiness,
Evensong Spa Director