As parents, it's time to come clean about something. Self-care is not a dirty word.
So why is it that so many of us dare not utter this word? Why are some of us embarrassed or even ashamed to be caught in the act of doing it?
Yet, childcare, doggy day-care, hair care, nail care and even leather care are just a few other 'cares' we mention with pride.
But what is self-care?
What comes to your mind when you hear “self-care’’?
It means different things to different people. So first, let's get clear on the meaning here.
By self-care, I simply mean taking care of yourself but your mental and emotional states from the inside out. Most people think of physical self-care - like washing your body, brushing your teeth, combing your hair or dressing up neatly. That's important too, and the fact is many of us are already good at that because we do it daily.
But, for most of us, it's a little bit messy on the inside. And it's not because we don't care, but because we don't do that inner self-care daily.
Why does self-care matter?
The online Oxford dictionary beautifully sums up self-care as:
"The practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress. "
However, to take care of ourselves "during periods of stress", we need to practice regularly under non-stressful conditions. In fact, self-care must become a daily habit. Because when it becomes a part of your day-to-day routine, it will be of use to you when you are going through more challenging times.
Your self-care habit will be your autopilot. This habit will help you regain control when the winds of change are so turbulent that they knock you off-course, spin you around or send you tumbling down fast towards the ground
But if it's so important, why aren't we doing it?
When "Seeing is Believing" and We're Keeping up Appearances
As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. We live in a very visual world. If we cannot see or touch something, then it isn't "real". We believe what we see more than what we feel. And even when we do see something, we make snap judgements based on appearances – we "judge a book by its cover".
Think about it for a minute. Have you ever had the experience where you heard the tragic news about a famous person or maybe even someone you know suddenly passing away? That person seemed to have it all on the outside: good looks, well dressed, always smiling or joking.
But maybe you had a niggling feeling inside of you that something wasn't quite right. Perhaps you sensed a glint of sadness within them, but you ignored that inner feeling because, well, they looked happy, right?
You believed what you saw rather than your intuition.
A Good Mind or Good Manners
Another reason why we might not be so good at inner self-care is that many of us haven't been taught how to do it.
Since we were young, we've been told "brush your teeth", "comb your hair", "wash your face", “say please and thank you”. But how often did someone tell you "Take a few deep belly breaths" when you needed to calm down? When were you advised "Try a few minutes of mindfulness or meditation" when you were "raining on everybody's parade" with your grumpiness? When was it recommended you "Walk it off" to clear your head after a disagreement or heated argument? Were you ever asked, "Have you done your self-reflection today?" when you were feeling overwhelmed or at the end of a day?
What was your experience growing up? And now, how do you care for yourself – the mental and emotional parts that no one sees?
There are many ways to take care of your inner self. If you haven't started yet, the thought may be daunting. But there is a simple way. Start by moving your body & letting your thoughts run free with the following three steps.
3 Easy Self-care Steps to Add to Your Daily Routine
STEP 1 MOVE your body more.
There are neural networks transmitting electrical energy and chemical pathways sending messages between your body and brain. So, your physical, mental and emotional states connect, communicate and influence each other.
STEP 2 LISTEN to yourself.
Stop and notice your thoughts. Simply let them flow freely as they naturally like to do. Imagine your mind is a river. Just like a river typically carries some ordinary things on the surface, e.g., birds, leaves, boats, sticks, you will notice some expected thoughts. And much like a river also has submerged or sunken objects underneath its surface, sometimes something unexpected surfaces to mind. That's normal- that's what thoughts do. Try to go with the flow. Simply noticing. Being aware. Not judging or analysing.
STEP 3 BE grateful.
Acknowledge good things in your life. For example, think of what's going well with your health. Or appreciate that you are here, breathing and experiencing the gift of life at this moment. Be thankful for your past wins. Be appreciative of family, friends, or beloved pets. And prepare for more beautiful things because they are coming.
A Good Word Does a World of Good
So, along with please and thank you, self-care is a good word to use regularly in your vocabulary.
Next time you're feeling grumpy or don't feel quite like yourself, carefully listen because it's your inner self telling you, "It's time for self-care".