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What is Self-Care, Anyway?

May 3, 2017

 

As a Mindfulness Coach I love that I get to have conversations with people about how to manage stress and cultivate more ease in their lives. I’ve found that in our over-scheduled days many of us feel like we don’t have the time for self-care and have lost sight of  how important it is for us to take time to nurture ourselves (instead of focusing all our time and energy on everyone else). You’ve probably heard the old adage, “you can’t take care of others unless you care for yourself first”.

 

As a mom, business owner, and yoga teacher, I’ve found this to be painfully true. When I’m feeling completely depleted because I’ve been caring for others all day long, I tend to be reactive, hot-tempered, and overwhelmed. Sound familiar?

 

Luckily in the midst of my busiest stage of life (when I was a corporate junkie, had a husband deployed and was learning how to single parent a two year old), I found yoga. Yoga provided me with my first glimpse into what self-care was and the impact it could have on my life. The realization that self-care was something I could integrate into my life without having to schedule a “mental health” day off work was a complete eye opener.

 

It has been six years since that realization and I’ve come a long way in embracing the importance of putting on my oxygen mask first, before I can help others with theirs. As I’ve witnessed the impact of self-care on my own life, I am now an advocate for how helpful it can be for others who are in the height of their busy lives.

 

While working with a client the other day and exploring the stress and feeling of imbalance in her life, I asked, “what do you do for your own self-care?”

 

I was met with a response that befuddled me but at the same time took me right back to my earlier stage of life, where I would have likely asked the same question. 

 

She said, “I don’t understand what you are asking - what is self-care?”. 

 

At first I thought she was kidding with me and joking about her lack of self-care, but when looking at the questioning expression on her face, I realized she was, indeed, quite serious.

 

Good question, I responded. “What exactly is self-care?” 

 

I believe that self-care is an important mindset and practice that is somewhat of a lost art. 

 

When talking with Julie Burton recently, author of the Self-Care Solution, she shared that self-care is not simply an action that we take to nurture ourselves but it is also a personal value. It is something we must believe is important and worthy of our time and efforts. It must be ingrained in our minds as something that is important for us to do for our health.

 

Kind of like brushing your teeth.

 

As a society we’ve lost sight of how incredibly important it is and in our striving to get ahead in life, feel as if we don’t have time for something seemingly invaluable as self-care.

 

So, why is it so important?

 

If you look at the technologically driven digital age that we live in, you will see that most of us are tied to our phones and are “connected” 24/7. However, it is a false sense of connectedness as many of us feel a lack of true community. Not surprisingly, all the likes, comments, and emoji’s we get on social media don’t seem to fill the void of a face-to-face, heart-to-heart conversation.

 

In our striving to get ahead (for both adults and kids) in our careers, schools, and sports, we have forgotten what it’s like to have a free hour. An hour to simply be; with our thoughts uninterrupted and free to explore the depths of our souls. Sixty minutes to dream, to reconnect with what makes our hearts sing and what is most important to us in our lives.

 

In addition to filling our hours with scheduled activities and work, many of us are caretakers as well. As parents we have children that depend on us and as daughters and sons, we now have aging parents who need care taking. We fill any extra mental or emotional energy with making sure our friends, families, and colleagues know they can count on us whenever they need us.

 

We volunteer at school. We bring food to friends when a baby is born or when they are struggling. We send notes of gratitude to teachers, friends, family members. We care for others.

 

As we care for everyone else around us and remain in a state of constant busyness, and we often forget to take care of our selves. Why? Because we don’t value it. We value the importance of being there for everyone else but have forgotten how imperative it is that we breath the oxygen in first before offering our support to those around us.