Do you know that the term self-care has been used 18 million times on Instagram alone? With so many sharing how to create a self-care routine during this unique time in history, I want to start off by saying what self-care is NOT.
Self-care is not selfish.
Self-care is not time consuming or expensive.
Self-care is not a here and there occurrence.
The slowdown that has characterized 2020 has ushered in an onslaught of reflection. Reflection, I am now convinced, we all desperately needed. This period of time has delivered a clear lesson to me: the importance of self-care.
Self-care is a broad term that gets overly used in our society; in part because we are so obsessed with productivity, and find ourselves needing to “schedule” in self-care moments. When it was safe to be outside, it was easy to reach for things that made us feel good. Then call it self-care. A massage or a facial were easy ways to immediately recharge. And then there are the unhealthy choices like alcohol and overeating, which became easily accessible, given the only place we could go was to the couch. I now realize these activities we may have once reached for in the past to help us regulate challenging emotions, only provide temporary relief.
When practiced correctly, self-care practices can have long-term benefits, for the mind, body and soul. I needed to be forced into a period of isolation and freed from all distractions to really grasp the essence and value of self-care. It’s about being kind to yourself, the way you would be kind to others. It’s about knowing when you’re approaching depletion, and choosing to replenish. It involves integrating self-compassion, in order to prevent the possibility of burnout. While I’ve learned self-care is an ongoing journey, there are several impactful lessons I have learned thus far:
There’s freedom in “NO” being a complete sentence.
Quarantine provided me with a crash course: Saying “NO” 101. Like many, I felt the pressure to juggle multiple projects, but still wanted to be a supportive friend so I’d pop into almost every Zoom happy hour and webinar event I was invited to. The suffering extrovert in me needed to interact with people; however, in retrospect, I wished I had been able to tap into saying “no” to things that would leave me feeling over-extended. Your ability to say “no” to other people is often an indicator of how well you are honoring yourself. If you’re constantly saying yes to people and situations that you want to say “no” to, you risk exhaustion, burnt out, and leave yourself with little time for self-care.
Listening to Your Body Needs to be Your Top Priority.
Nutrition and exercise are certainly important elements of a daily routine. And for the most part, they are things that you can control. But, there’s a lot of additional information your body will give to you if you take the time to listen. Secretly, I was battling an ambush of dizziness spells that were showing up more frequently as we inched longer into quarantine. I had become so obsessed with the need to stay productive that I grew completely disconnected from the cues my body was sending me to signal discomfort, fatigue, or stress. Being able to discern how you are feeling is key in remaining healthy, especially when considering your emotional wellness.
The Time is Now to Answer the Call to Presence
Let’s face it: We live in the age of distraction. I had to get real about why the beautiful moments of my life often felt drowned out by a cacophony of self-consciousness and anxiety. I felt I was always in a battle with time and finding new ways to manage it. However, I learned that while I was doing everything I could to manage it, it was actually managing me. I realized one of the reasons I was trying so desperately to stay busy was because I was in full blown panic about my own clock “running out”. I soon realized, not only was I trying to stave off the anxiety of this global pandemic, I was also trying to make sure something good came out of this period of time that was supposed to be scheduled for so many other things I had planned. While there’s a real sense of grief that comes with loss of the things you had hoped for, I have to remind myself that life unfolds in the present. I do not want to squander the precious seconds of my life worrying about the future, and ruminating about all that is past. Meditation has been key to me during this time. It has allowed me to practice being in a state of active, open and intentional attention on to the present moment. I move with my thoughts from moment to moment, simply to be with them, and work to withhold judgment.
Prioritizing genuine self-care is an exercise in embracing it all: change, fear, uncertainty, growth, curiosity and intimacy – within yourself. Self-care is an invitation to embrace yourself in all of its beautiful messiness. It is finally answering the call to slow down and take time for yourself, without guilt. You are unique, unlike anyone else. I encourage you to take advantage of this unprecedented time to connect with what resonates for you, on how to take best care of you. It will require taking an active role in protecting and preserving your wellness and happiness, especially during times of immense stress.
What self-care actually looks like is completely up to you. It starts with loving yourself exactly where you are, and taking on a mindset that supports you in thriving. What we prioritize as self-care will likely change over time, just as we do. We are constantly evolving. Honor your growth process, and be flexible and willing to gift yourself what you need now.