The ‘Self Care’ movement seems to be gathering pace and I’m all for this, but it does bother me that when something becomes a trend or a hashtag it can turn into a bit of a cliche that we all start eye rolling about – think mindfulness and veganism. Will #selfcare go the same way?
It got me thinking … what IS self care? What does it really mean? Is it just an excuse for a bubble bath or a manicure or does it run deeper? The answer is I suspect different for each of us, what is self care to me might not be to you and vice versa.
But what is underneath all of it, is meeting our own needs. Meeting our needs as well as other peoples, meeting our needs before we meet other peoples, meeting our needs as often as we meet other peoples and the biggest one of all meeting our needs ourselves without waiting for someone else to rescue us or give us permission.
I remember being blown away in my twenties when I read that the only person who can make me truly happy was me, that I had to stop waiting for other people to make me happy and get on with the job myself.
I expect it was a result of being drawn in to all of the schmaltzy rom coms and women’s magazines as a young woman that had programmed me to expect a man to give me the life of my dreams and make my every whim a reality without the need to be told. He should just know right?
And the same goes for self care. Other people are not going to notice when you need a break, unless you are on your knees begging. They are too busy with their own lives to notice or be able to take care of any more people. Especially a grown adult. It is up to US to meet our own needs – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
The really interesting thing though is how can we meet our needs and do this for ourselves and by ourselves, without needing anything external.
The evidence is there to show us that all of the things we most often reach for – alchohol, drugs (prescription and non), nicotine, shopping, eating, phones, sex, tv – none of these things are doing us much good at all. At least not in the quantities or frequencies some of us use them. All of these things are external (except arguably sex) all of them are things we have to pay for and consume in some way (including arguably sex!) and all are things that alter our chemical make up in some way shape or form. Some of them cause horrendous diseases in the long term if abused and many of them are impacting our mental health and relationships but still we continue – why?
Because we are using them to fill an emotional hole. We might have used them once and they made us feel good. Amazing. On top of the world. And we want to recreate that feeling. We want a quick fix so we reach for our dependence of choice. (Mine is chocolate btw.) Or we want to escape our current situation and distract ourselves into a different reality – think phones / tv / shopping.
We also use them because they work. They fill up that emotional hole instantly and they are a quick fix. But longer term they start undoing us, we need more and more to get that instant fix and they start doing damage to our systems. Their impact becomes more negative than positive but by that stage the habit has formed and we don’t know another option.
So how do we meet our own needs?
Well firstly, we would have to be able to identify what our need was –
Physical – am I actually hungry / thirsty / in need of energy / have too much energy?
Mental – Am I overwhelmed/ disorganised/ scattered/ mentally restless/ can’t switch off?
Emotional – Am I lonely / sad/ happy/ ecstatic / envious / disappointed?
Then we would need to find a way of meeting that need, have a bank of ideas and strategies that we know and that work for us and that we could go to at any time. So many of us rely on the external, socially acceptable ways to unwind (glass of wine / netflix and chill) or energise (food, caffiene, shopping) that we have no idea how to manage our emotional states without these things.
You can alter your energy in an instant by simply moving your body, the more upright your spine, the more energised you will feel. If you want to feel empowered stand like Wonder Woman if you want to feel energised dance and jump up and down for 2 minutes. That’s all it takes to begin to change your body’s bio-chemistry and you can do that by simply moving your body. But unless someone tells you that then we will keep reaching for the caffeine / refined sugar / energy drink that some company is making money from in order to feel the same internal change.
Our consumer society means we no longer know how to meet our own needs without all too often dashing to the shops or making a Dr’s appointment. There is so much we can do to help ourselves and to care for ourselves on a daily basis so that we can choose when we rush to the shops or make that Drs appointment becuase we know we’ve done all we can to help ourselves.
Here are a list of ways to meet your own needs yourself. They are not necessarily things you need to stick to all day everyday, I believe in balance in all things, but the next time you find yourself reaching for something external to meet an internal need ask yourself if you could try something new.
Eat nourishing foods – greens, fresh fruit veggies, something un-tampered with and wholesome.
Drink water or a herbal tea.
Move your body – run / walk/ yoga/ swim whatever is your thing.
Get some fresh air and be in nature.
Change your state (mood / energy) by jumping up and down or dancing to an upbeat song.
Give yourself a massage – massage your temples / feet / hands / shoulders.
Change your state – as above
Journal or write down how you’re feeling. Is there one feeling that is dominant and how could you release that?
Cry / laugh / scream – express the emotion, call a friend.
Find something to be grateful for – especially good when you’re feeling envious/ lacking or not enough.
Get creative – write about or draw / paint about how you’re feeling
If crystals are your thing, find one that resonates with your mood or need that day.
Meditate – even 5 minutes of meditation can alter the way your brain focuses.
Breathe – breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe in how you do want to feel and breath away any negative feelings. Try alternate nostril breaths to re-balance both sides of your brain.
Write a list
Repeat a mantra – find a positive mantra that says how you want to feel that day and keep repeating that.
Read or look at something beautiful
Spend a few minutes looking at the sky / landscape where you are
Get present in your body, feel your feet on the floor and ground yourself in this moment.
We all need down time and chance to indulge ourselves and relax in whatever makes us feel good – I love to chill in front of the tv as much as the next person, pass the wine please, but I try to make sure that when I do it is because I want to, that I am driving the habit and not the other way around.
Ultimately no one else can tell you how your self care should look because it’s all about how it feels. It should meet whatever need has arisen or go some way to meeting it and it doesn’t have to look like any one else’s self care. So if some tells you should ‘go for a run’ when you’re feeling low but all you want is a bath then go for the bath. Only you know.
A Post It with the following question hangs in the pantry of the brilliant social researcher Brene Brown – maybe meeting our own needs begins with asking ourselves this question…
“What are you hungry for?”