The World Health Organization defines self care as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” One of the biggest myths about self care is that it is selfish. When in fact, self care is the love we give ourselves, that allows us to influence our families and communities with love and positivity.
It is in nourishing ourselves that we are more capable of compassion, creativity and spreading wellbeing. The opposite is also true, when we are feeling stressed and unhappy it also can influence those around us negatively. Evolutionarily, humans align with the mood and behaviors of people around us. Because of the strong influence our mood and behavior can have on others, author, Dennis Prager, believes happiness is a moral obligation. Not only do we benefit from taking care of ourselves, but those around us are positively influenced by this unconscious alignment.
When we are taking care of ourselves we have a greater capacity and energy to take care of ourselves and the planet. We all know the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Physically, it is important to rest and restore through sleep and healthy food choices. Emotionally, it is important to give ourselves the space we need to heal and grow from the many stressors coming at us every day. When we feel stressed, it is like our guard dog is out and its focus is only on protecting us. It is only looking for the threats. When we can calm the guard dog, we are much more able to use our hearts and brains to see and feel the situation from a different perspective and can then start to recognize grace. We can see new solutions for ourselves and others.
Self care is different than self indulgence. Self indulgence can be selfish and unsustainable. Self indulgence might be staying up late to binge watch your new favorite TV series or drinking another glass of wine. Self care would be watching one episode and then going to bed to get a good night’s sleep. Self care is what makes you feel happier and healthier in the long run, instead of just in the moment. It might even mean a little tough love in this case. It is also okay for self love to feel like an indulgence sometimes, like purposefully setting aside time and money for a massage, or to spend the afternoon in the luxury of a nap, or basking in the sun at the beach or working on the project that sparks our passion. The key is you decided for your highest good, not just for instant gratification.
Industry is marketing self care in a big way right now. It is beneficial that the awareness of self care is more pervasive, but the message that we need to buy fancy bubble bath is misleading. Ideally, self care is something that you can sustain, it sustains you and is sustainable for the environment. A bubble bath with harmful chemicals is neither healthy for you or our planet. Socializing with friends with alcohol is also heavily advertised. Enjoying a bath and connecting with loved ones are both wonderful ways to gift ourselves peace or connection, but just be mindful about what is being sold alongside them.
Start small if you need to. Even if it means the gift of focusing on your breath while you are brushing your teeth. Build up to more as you feel ready. The good news is that there is a positive feedback loop. The more you do, the better you will feel, and the more confident you will be about the benefits of continuing to incorporate the time and space you need to recharge. It’s all about you taking a pause and allowing the peace of a greater perspective. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Ideas for sustainable self care at home
Go outside - connect with nature, “stop and smell the roses”
Move your body - Walk, run, dance, jump, stretch
Journal, write a poem or story, draw, or color
Plan time with a pet or loved one
Look up at the stars
Take a bath
Go to bed early
Read your favorite book
Sing, hum, or play music
Play, build or allow for your creativity to flow
Give yourself a hug, and say “I love you”
Stay well hydrated with at least 60 ounces of water each day.
Trade giving each other a massage with a friend or loved one
Take a break from your phone, news and social media
Gratitude - say “thank you” to yourself, others and a higher power.
I'm sure you can think of many more. Feel free to share!