“…If you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.”– Dalai Lama
Have you ever felt like you’re spinning out of control, full of confusion and overwhelmed with your day to day life? Your to-do list is like a million pages long, and it never ends. You watch the news and look at your social media feeds and it’s like the world has lost its mind. You catch yourself forgetting to breathe as you sit through yet another online meeting. Maybe you also have a child that is begging for your attention as you try to get some work done from home, or a loved one with a serious illness that you are trying to care for right now. If this sounds at all familiar… I can say with confidence that basically everyone has felt this way at some point in their lives. This is all part of being human (especially right now, while we’re living through a pandemic).
As a giving, thoughtful, empathetic person in this wild world, I have been feeling things…a lot. Every day, there is a barrage of information, good and bad (and ridiculous!), and it’s challenging to determine what’s really necessary and important for me to pay attention to. Normally, I find that my usual routine helps me maintain my sanity during stressful times. Lately, however, I have had to remember to lean in (HARD) to a little thing called “self-care.” Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s been cropping up a lot in my conversations with others, especially women. We all feel what’s happening, and we’re trying to process it in our various ways. I’m not here to tell you how to feel or what will solve the problems, but I am here to tell you one thing I know for sure from my personal experiences: self care should always be the first thing on your to-do list, and is especially important right now.
So, what is self-care? Where does the term come from?
As a self described nerd, I of course needed to do some Googling to back up my claims regarding self-care. I know that it definitely works for me, but why does it work for everyone, and why really is it important? I know in my heart that it matters, but I needed to discover for myself what science and research says about self-care…and oh my goodness I found a lot of things!
First, I’d like to give the World Health Organization’s definition of self-care:
‘Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication.’– The World Health Organization
There is even an organization called the International Self Care Foundation, which was “formed to champion self-care around the world. In practical terms this involves helping to develop evidence-based self-care concepts and practices, and helping to promote the role of self-care in health.” The ISF has determined that there are what they call “7 Pillars of Self-Care,” plus a Self Care Manifesto (which I will link here – this is some fascinating stuff!).
So, basically, there is a TON of information about the value of self-care in every person’s daily life. It also appears to be something that various governments around the world have determined is important enough to mention in their policies (shout out to the UK and, apparently, Thailand). This is a true internet rabbit hole, and one I think is worth going down. Did I mention I’m a nerd, and proud of it?!
Some might say that self-care is a luxury reserved for people with too much time and disposable income. I disagree! Self-care is a necessary part of any human’s day to day life. When you do the most basic things such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or drinking that delicious cup of coffee in the morning (hopefully not in that order – coffee breath is no joke), you are participating in caring for yourself. You also probably feel a LOT better all day because you did those things that make you feel good!
These are of course some very basic examples of self-care that may be obvious to some, maybe not. Each person has their own specific rituals and special things that they do to “fill their cup” of self-care. Maybe you like to take a nice soothing bath each night before bed to unwind, or you have a friend who likes to get monthly facials as a way to relax. From being (practically) free to being a luxury item, self-care is what you want it to be. Hence the name “self” care. It’s not for anyone else but yourself! Have I said “self” enough yet?!
Here are a few things that I do to take care of myself. Some of these I do every day, some weekly, monthly, or yearly. Either way, I certainly know what fills my cup! When I’m having a really tough day, am exhausted, or down about something, I rely on the simple things to keep me going:
- Going for a walk
- Listening to music that encourages my spirit
- Reading a book that inspires or fascinates me
- Hugging my husband
- Take a bath
- Drinking bubbly water (aka fancy water)
- Art journaling/other creative endeavors
- Deep breathing
- Take a nap
So, why is self-care relevant to you? As the Dalai Lama says in the quote I chose for this post, it is not selfish to take care of yourself. You are doing yourself and others a disservice by NOT caring for yourself. By “putting your oxygen mask on first,” you are then capable of showing up in a wonderful way for friends and family. At this moment we are all living in, that’s quite something.
According to the ISF, humans have been caring for their own mental and physical well-being for a while now, like since the beginning of time. So, we can take comfort in the fact that this is nothing new – taking care of oneself has been a longtime practice of all humanity! We’re basically getting back to our roots by focusing on ourselves first and then others.
Lastly, it feels good to take care of yourself! Talk about the best gift you’ll ever receive! The gift of loving yourself and recognizing that you need a break, or a moment to breathe, or have a cup of tea, is the one gift you won’t want to return or donate.
For the past few weeks, I have been mindfully handpicking the products that I want to sell in my shop. I’m feeling inspired, and incredibly grateful that I am doing what I have always wanted to do – to connect people with products that are not only beautiful, but that also have a purpose and are made by creative people with some really unique gifts. With this in mind, I am focusing on self-care items right now. I am working to find some great tools that are great to look at, and great to use. For example, I found this neat self-care planning tool, as well as some sweet and humorous greeting cards, if that’s your thing.
The bottom line is that self-care is something that we all should be doing, and I hope that this has been a helpful reminder. No one should feel guilty about taking care of themselves, especially since this is what helps us help others in the best way possible.
I would now like to encourage you to put down your phone (yep, I know you’re probably reading this on your phone – I would be if it were me!), boil some water, and fix yourself a nice cup of hot tea (if you like tea). And just sit there, and look out the window, and take a deep breath (hopefully you picked a really yummy smelling tea), and enjoy the moment.
All the best,