Do you nourish yourself or punish?
The answer to this question lies in our behaviour and habits, how we treat ourselves especially when we are down, and how we let others treat us. For many of us, the truth is that we punish ourselves more frequently than we realize. In our heads, we berate ourselves for not being able to wake up on time or saying the wrong thing or missing a deadline. We put others before ourselves, because we want to be accepted and liked. We exercise not because we enjoy it, but because we feel guilty for the food we ate the day before. We work late to prove ourselves to our boss, colleagues, and ourselves. We don’t take vacations. We keep ourselves busy to justify our importance and make us feel valued. We don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes. We cram so many things on our to-do list, to feel that we are living that we don’t have time for proper sleep. We aren’t walking but running through life at a very fast pace, missing life nonetheless.
We put pressure on ourselves to be perfect and expect nothing less, yet we accept far less from others. We allow their mistakes and shortcomings. We accept their need to rest and refuel. We even allow their mistreatment of us.
It’s no wonder so many of us are burnt out, worn out, and confused.
This, dear reader, is punishment.
On the flip side is nourishment and self-care. Believing in our capabilities. Exercising because it makes us feel strong, healthy, and good. Surrounding ourselves with people that love and encourage us. Eating the food we like without guilt. Spending quality time with ourselves and significant others. Taking time to rest, restore and refuel. Giving ourselves the benefit of doubt. Encouraging our own growth. Creating an environment around us that makes us feel safe and relaxed. Allowing people to love us because we love ourselves.
What self-care is not…
Self-care is not being selfish. It is not a weakness that needs to be hidden or ignored. It is not a luxury that is available to only a few people. It is not expensive. It is not the same for everyone. Different people can have different ways or routines of self-care. It is not only emotional care but goes much beyond. It is not an emergency response plan.
What self-care is…?
Self-care is providing adequate attention to one’s own physical and psychological wellness. It involves activities and practices that we engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and enhance our well-being. Self-care is a strength that helps you pace your life and protects you from feeling overwhelmed or burnt out. Regular self-care practice has been shown to lower stress levels and improve health. It is one of the most positive things we can do for ourselves.
Types of Self Care
1. Physical: Physical activity is vital not only for our bodily well-being but also helps us let off steam. Physical self-care includes activities that improve the well-being of our physical health; movement of the body, health, nutrition, sleep, rest, physical touch, and sexual needs.
• Go for a walk
• Learn a sport just for the fun of it
• Dancing to your favourite songs
• Doing yoga
• Taking a power nap to help you feel refreshed
• Committing to 7-8 hours of sleep per night, barring exceptional situations
• Eating nourishing food
2. Emotional: When it comes to our emotional health, one of the best things we can do is fully engage with our emotions. When we face them head-on, it actually helps with stress. Pushing or suppressing the emotions may seem tempting, but it is far healthier to feel them, accept them and move on. Emotional self-care involves enhancing emotional literacy, navigating emotions, increasing empathy, stress management, and developing compassion for self and others.
• Write in a gratitude journal or gratitude jar
• Be aware of your own boundaries
• Saying NO
• Letting yourself cry when you need to
• Write a list of “feeling words” to expand your emotional vocabulary
• Make time to be with a friend or family member who truly understands you
• Sing along your favourite songs or songs that best express your current emotions
• Edit your social media feeds and take out negative people (or mute them)
• Do one thing daily that makes you happy
3. Social: It might be different depending on whether a person is an introvert or extrovert. However, a large diversity of people experience happiness on connecting with other people. It helps us understand that we’re not alone. It can also give us a sense of being fully “seen” by others. This can, in particular, help us combat loneliness and isolation. Social self-care isn’t about just doing things with others for the sake of it, but about choosing to do things with people who really make us feel good.
• Make a lunch or dinner date with a close friend or friends
• Write an email to someone you miss, who lives far away
• Reach out and connect with someone you haven’t seen in a while
• Strike up a conversation with someone interesting
• Join a class to learn something new and meet new people at the same time
• Join a support group if you are struggling
• Ask for help when you need it
• Honor your commitments to others (do what you said you would do)
• Implement your boundaries
4. Spiritual: Spirituality is different from being religious. Spiritual self-care is about getting in touch with our values and the things that really matter to us. It includes pursuing our goals and practices that help us develop spiritual awareness.
• Meditate/ Do yoga
• Reflect your thought or events in a journal
• Volunteer at an NGO
• Walk in nature
• Spend some time alone with yourself
• Have or create a small sacred space that makes you feel positive or energized
• Connect with yourself
5. Professional: Self-care is not limited to our personal space or home. It also extends to the other half of our life, i.e., our career. Professional self-care involves sharing our strengths and having clear professional boundaries, whilst living our purpose.
• Have clear professional boundaries
• Know your roles and responsibilities
• Prioritizing work so that it doesn’t overwhelm you
• Eating a nourishing lunch each day at work
• Learn to manage time
• Take a break when you need to
• Create a positive workplace
• Engage in constructive criticism when needed
• Learn to appreciate yourself and others for their effort
6. Personal or Psychological: Psychological self-care is being there for our own self, picking ourselves up, dusting off and moving on. It is also about allowing ourselves the space to grow and stimulating your mind. It involves learning new things, applying consequential thinking, engaging in intrinsic motivation, practising mindfulness and creativity.
• Practice mindfulness
• Honour your true self
• Know yourself such as your hobbies, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
• Believe in your capabilities
• Try out new things that interest you
• Do a digital detox
• Engage in some creative work or try a creative way of doing your work
• Smile at yourself in the mirror
• Read inspiring quotes or even put up inspiring posters
• De-clutter your wardrobe and surrounding
Self-care is a process. In the long-term, it helps to enhance our productivity, physical health, self-knowledge, resilience, and self-esteem. It also improves our resistance to diseases and gives us the ability to be more compassionate towards ourselves and others.
Self-care is not a task but a continuous journey. Each day is and can be life changing. It will take time to set a routine and get into the habit of loving and caring for yourself. With a little attention to self-care each day, you will begin to feel more connected with yourself and the world around you. You will find joy in the simple pleasures and nothing will seem as difficult as it did before.