Mention self-care and most people picture pedicures, face masks, and bubble baths. And while those things can certainly be a part of someone’s self-care portfolio, they aren’t the only things that should be on the list or, even, the most important things.
Self-care, you see, isn’t about the frills. It is about your ability to function in a positive, productive way in the world. Let’s face it. We’ve all heard this sound advice for when things go south on every airline flight we’ve ever taken: if you are traveling with someone who needs assistance, be sure to put on your oxygen mask first. The fact is you cannot be all that helpful to the person who needs assistance if you are passed out on the floor.
Put that way, basic self-care isn’t just an indulgence. It is an act of survival. It helps you function better, be better, feel better. Self-care improves your overall sense of wellbeing, allowing you to really give your best gifts to the world. And, ultimately, we are each here to do just that.
But how do you give yourself good care? How do you know when it’s working? How do you know when you need a tune-up or self-care intervention? Here are some guidelines to get you started and keep you going. (and coming soon at The Healthy Happy Sane Teacher, a massive list of self-care activities in case you are short on ideas).
Watch for your SOS signs. We all have them: behaviors that show us we’ve hit the wall. It might be that you feel emotionally or physically exhausted or a growing resentment towards other people (why am I the only one who ever volunteers to do this?). It could be that you start taking everything personally or feel emotionally bruised. It may be that your body or mind get so tightly wound that everything from stretching to thinking hurts. It might be that you excessively crave sweet or salty foods or that you cannot sleep at night. Whatever it is, know your breaking point and your triggers and commit to keeping distance from both by exercising good self-care.
Embrace the open road. I know I am doing a good job of caring for myself when I feel internally relaxed, even if things around me are busy. I might have a long distance to go before I’ve reached the mile marker of my choice, but I know that I have everything I need- a tuned-up car, new tires, a full tank of gas, maps, good music, and people with whom to check in while I take on my journey. Self-care makes the hard times feel less impossible, the dreams possible, and the every day life enjoyable. What components do you need packed in your carry-on bag?
Take care of you. Good self-care takes into account what you need physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Examine ways you can take care of your physical body, your emotional health, your mental agility, and your sense of connection with the world, which for some is through a traditional faith path and for others is a sense of being in touch with the universe. And then make sure that care shows up in your everyday life. Expressions of self-care include moving daily, eating nutritious food, getting enough sleep, seeing the doctor, yoga, journaling, meditation, counseling, setting boundaries, reading, taking on both big and small challenges (the daily crossword, picking your guitar back up after 25 years), praying, reaching out to help someone else.
The truth about self-care is that it isn’t the exceptional, occasional stuff like the pedicure or hair cut but the daily stuff that keeps you rooted while helping you thrive. Over this week, make note of what you are doing for yourself in terms of self-care and where or when you feel fragile or unsupported. Those details provide the information you need to refine your care and revitalize your soul