Here I am, Saturday morning, curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and my laptop. I’ve done some yoga alongside the rising sun and I’ve washed my hair and put on some clean clothes. I feel calm and a little tired. This feels like self-care. Spending the first few hours of my Saturday morning doing what feels right and makes me feel happy.
But what exactly is self-care? It is a broad topic but, in a nutshell, you could see it as being able to take care of yourself so that you feel good. This can be in the physical or medical field, where self-care mainly covers the idea that one can manage their own health and physical well-being. On a mental level, self-care includes being able to do daily activities and feeling human. On a daily, social or spiritual level, self-care often includes activities that make us feel good and makes us feel connected with ourselves.
I’d like to zoom in on the daily, social and spiritual self-care aspects – these feel very interconnected to me. The definitions of these forms of self-care, or really any form of self-care, are all very broad, but for the most part I think this is positive, the things that fall under the category of self-care can differ tremendously per individual. What works for me and makes me feel good or helps me feel human, can be incredibly different than the things that make my family, friends, or strangers feel good about themselves.
So I decided to write about self-care, to share my view on it, to share my friend’s views on it, and to (hopefully) have you share your thoughts on it.
I asked three friends on how they define self care:
Michael, Australian in Paris, age: 23
“Self-care to me is broken into three parts, eating well, getting air and self-grooming. The food I eat when I am in a self-care mood is always homecooked. It isn’t always the healthiest, but it is always homecooked and most of the time, meals that my parents used to cook when I was younger. By getting air I mean just getting out even if it’s only for 15 minutes to take a big deep breath of air and fill up my lungs. For self-grooming, I am a firm believer in look good, feel good! I make sure I shower, shave, cut my nails, moisturize (the whole deal)! I pick clothes that I think I look my best in and that usually does the trick!”
Signi, American in Australia, age: 22
“My defitnion of self care is alot of things I guess, it depends on the day. Most broadly I would say that self care is doing things that make me feel full and recharged: for example last weekend I went camping and left my phone in the car for 2 days, and it did wonders for how I felt mentally.”
Jasmine, American in Paris, age: 24
“Its hard to put my personal self care into a single definition as I feel its ever changing – day to day even – depending on what my body and minds needs are. There are two significant constants that I consider to be a huge part of my self care:
The first is allowing myself to feel and appreciate each and every emotion that passes through my brain. I do my best to value the negative emotions as much as the positive ones, as both play a crucial role in making me, me.
The second is finding a balance in as many aspects of my life as I can, whether that be work vs. play or eating vegetables vs. cookies. Finding and creating my own personal balance in these different aspects play a huge role in how I take care of myself, both mentally and physically. Equally as important (for me at least) I can’t forget to mention how great a good face mask and relaxing with a favorite book can feel as well. Self-care can show up in tons of different ways for everyone, so really, in my definition of self-care, it all comes down to what makes us feel the most calm, happy and in tune with our minds and bodies.”
Reading about how my friends view self-care, I feel inspired but also connected. I, too, feel good and in-tune with myself when I’ve self-groomed, when I’m in balance with the things I do or the food I eat. Reading about their ways of self-care makes me realise even more that many little things I do qualify as self-care. And while I have no concrete definition for myself, I realise that self-care is the accumulation of all these little things that I do. Things like waking up early and doing yoga and enjoying a cup of coffee in the quiet and calm of the morning; things like curling up on the couch with a good book or watching a cliché romantic comedy. It’s things like taking a moment to write in my journal or work on one of my creative projects. Self-care seems to be in the many, small little details of every day – even if we can’t always define those little details. Caring for myself, no matter how big or small, I realise, feels a lot like loving myself.
While I’m writing this and thinking about how to define the idea of self-care, I keep coming back to something I recently read on a newsletter from the Yoga with Adriene community. There self-care was defined as “the process in which you get to know yourself… And what that looks like is always changing in relation to who you are and where you are each and every new day… To keep showing up and checkin in regularly is to now and care for thyself. It’s how we learn to fully love.”
And after reading it and now re-reading as I’m writing it down (I also wrote it down in my journal), I feel like this is a broad enough, yet also specific enough definition to include it all. To include the self-grooming, the home-cooked food, the balance, the feeling of emotions. Self-care is always changing and it is affected by our day-to-day existence – realising that just makes me feel very whole and complete, to know that every day I’m working on caring a bit better for myself in the way that I can on that specific day, whether big or small.
Self-care isn’t just definitions of what we do when we feel good. Self-care is actually doing those things too. Making time, whether its hours or minutes, to do something loving for ourselves.
When do you practice self-care? Is it only on sundays, when most of us take some time off from the rest of the world to finally get something done for themselves? Or do we wait for vacation to finally care for ourselves? Or do we find or create time in our day to day schedule? Or focus on having a moment of self-care once a week? There is no right or wrong, as there is no universal formula for self-care, and the specifics of when we do care for ourselves isn’t all that important. What is important is that we make time for it often enough so that we feel in-tune and good within ourselves and our environment.
People have different schedules and life is busy, I won’t deny that it is easy to push self-care far down the to-do list. Especially after a long day or week when you feel drained and too tired to commit to an extra activity in the day. Maybe precisely doing nothing after such a long day, for some, feels like self-care. For others it might not. Either way, implementing self-care in small ways throughout the day or week seems like a cool thing to do. And a little goes a long way.
Personally I like incorporating little moments of self-care throughout the day or week. There are always weeks or periods where there just seems to be less time for self-care than other moments, but I try to make it work. Most of the time my self-care comes in the form of exercise, like yoga or a run. I don’t always enjoy these activities while I’m doing them, such as when I’m tired, but I always feel better afterwards – I feel healthier, I sleep better, and I feel good to have moved after sitting down to work for most of the day. Other ways I incorporate self-care throughout the day is by making myself a cup of tea and taking a few moments to enjoy it while doing nothing else, or making a tasty meal. Other days I try and start my day with some writing, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Just small (or large) moments of a little bit of self-care, of “Leona time”.
Like I shared with you, I believe that self-care comes in many forms and shapes, and that the way we care for ourselves isn’t universal. Yet I do believe that the need for self-care is universal. I am no expert in health or in the way life should be lived and so I can only speak from experience and share that which I have seen from others.
For myself, I notice that when I neglect self-care, it is usually because I’m too busy with work or other little things that seem to add up and consume all my time. And when this happens I always feel a little (or a lot) off. Like I am not connected with myself and how I want to exist and it always makes me feel unhappy and confused. As if somehow my radio is tuned in to the wrong frequency and everything just feels a little off and not right. And it’s moments like these that actually committing to some actions of self-care is the hardest. Yet these are also the moments that it seems to be most important to focus on doing something for myself that makes me feel happy or connected with myself.
Neglecting self-care can be easy, especially in the fast-paced world we live in today. And it can also be easy to ignore when we are constantly in our homes and unable to go outside. Yet it is exactly in those settings that it is crucial for us to acknowledge our self-care, no matter how big or small the effort. A little bit goes a long way.
Have self-care tips, things or input you wish to share? Want to share your story on how you care for yourself? Please feel welcomed to send a message via the contact form below!!