What Does “Self Care” Even Mean?
Self care means slowing down enough to observe what you need.
It’s listening to your body so you can fill up with more of what serves you in a positive way, and eliminate the things that no longer add value to your life.
It’s practicing self love so that you can peel back your layers and open yourself up to the realization that you are worthy.
You are whole.
You are enough.
Now, let’s just get clear on what it doesn’t mean.
“Self care” does not mean doing something because instagram told you to do it.
It doesn’t mean picking up a new routine because it’s the latest wellness trend.
It does not mean spending a bunch of money on products that promise a youthful glow and less belly fat.
Self Care is Rooted in Intention
To me, self care means being intentional with my choices and having rituals, commitments, and actions put into place that genuinely make me happy. For me, this is non-negotiable.
When we put these intentional rituals into action it creates a positive snowball effect, and ultimately leaves us wanting to do more things that make us feel good because our brains are addicted to feeling good. We are wired to crave positive outcomes, and it all starts with intention.
Without intention we have no direction, we have no why behind the why, we have nothing to propel us forward.
Let me give you an example: (if exercise doesn’t feel like self care to you, you can replace this example with anything that does.)
Let’s say you decide to go to the gym or yoga class on Monday, which can absolutely be a form of self care (it certainly is for me). Maybe your reason for choosing to exercise is similar to what we hear far too often, “I need to workout”, or “I want to tone my arms”, or “I need to lose some weight because summer is coming,”. But for most of us, wanting to lose 5 or 10 pounds isn’t enough to keep us consistent over time. And arguably can maybe even turn into the opposite of self care, but that’s a whole separate topic. Unless there is a solid, capital letter Why behind what your doing, in my experience, it won’t stick.
Without intention, we lose sight of why we do what we do.
So instead, let’s say you start an exercise routine from a place of intention. Awareness. Honesty. Now, your reason for showing up is not necessarily because you want to lose weight – it’s because after your workout or yoga class, you feel good. You feel more whole. You feel more connected. And you should! You did something amazing for yourself, and that feels good!
This is self care in action. This is intention. You show up with an intention to feel good, and the result is a positive outcome that keeps you coming back for more.
I’m using this example from personal experience because without my commitment to movement in some way, at least once a day, I just don’t feel like myself. I feel anxious. I feel sluggish. I have brain fog. I crave more sugar and caffeine. I’m less patient and more irritable. I know this about myself, and those are reasons enough to inspire me to keep showing up.
Some days my activity is just walking my dogs. Some days my movement practice is unrolling my mat and laying on my back for some supine twists and stretching. Some days, it’s yoga, gym, a walk, and a run. You don’t have to lift weights, or run 5 miles, or take a power yoga class every single day to use movement as a form of self care. The act of listening to your body and following your own intuitive nature is such a valuable way to practice self love. Do what you’re body needs and let that be enough.
It’s All About Balance
If the intention is to feel good, then we should be seeking balance through everything we do. Balance means going hard when you have the energy and you feel like going hard, and backing off and resting more when you feel tired.
Doing too much of anything is never a great idea. Too much working out. Too much eating. Too much dieting. Too many yoga classes. Too much time reading novels when you should be doing laundry and cleaning your house. But also, too much time spent doing chores and working, and not enough time spent enjoying the company of your loved ones is not good either.
Everything needs balance. Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation. Even moderation”. So there’s that.
Incorporating Self Care into Your Everyday Life
Let’s look at some other examples of ways to practice self care as a lifestyle. These are things you can do every single day that fall under the self care category (in my opinion) and also happen to be some of my favorite things:
- Take a bath – uninterrupted, unapologetically
- Read a novel
- Put on a face mask
- Schedule yourself a massage
- Take a leisurely walk
- Cook yourself and loved ones a fresh homemade meal
- Schedule alone time for you and your partner (no kids)
- Do something creative, make art, write
- Buy yourself flowers
- Watch netflix
- Do something active
- Go to the park and just sit and experience the life that is all around you!
- Make time for friends
- Give up the “I’m busy” story
- Show up for yourself, stop making excuses
- Take a gentle yoga class
- Take an empowering yoga class
- Stop procrastinating and go after what you want
- Go to the dentist
- Eat cookies or eat a salad
- Drink enough water!
I know there’s someone out there reading this thinking “Yeah lady, easy for you to say with your yoga teacher schedule, no 9-5 job, no kids,”.
And while those things might be true, I created this life for myself, intentionally (see blog post “Why I Quit Corporate America, and You Can Too”), and just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I’m not also busy. I teach yoga at a studio. I teach yoga to businesses. I teach private yoga. I run a blog. I have 2 dogs. I am a wife and a homeowner who doesn’t have a cleaning lady. I have friends and family whom I like to see reguarly. And I am also someone who makes time to take care of myself because I have to for my own sanity.
To me, self care is prioritizing yourself and your needs so that you can feel more whole in order to show up for the people you love. When you take care of yourself first, you are then more capable of taking care of those around you.
Every Action Has an Equal Reaction
Newton’s 3rd Law. Everything you do and every choice you make will have a consequence, and there’s no getting around that. Every second of your life is another opportunity to make a choice. You don’t get to choose what happens to you, but you do get to choose how you react.
Every day, every second, every action, every thought, is a choice. If you choose to take care of yourself, there is a specific outcome. If you choose to ignore your needs, always putting others first, there is a different specific outcome.
Can we just get out of the mindstate of having to set aside a certain amount of time each week to take care of ourselves? Instead, can we, with intention, incorporate some practices into our daily lives that make us genuinely happy and fulfilled?
We no longer have to see self care as an expensive or time consuming “routine”. You can start today. Right now. Start by allowing for space each day for a ritual that is rooted in self love, and most of all, intention.