The Ultimate Self Care Q&A!
Welcome to this super post all about self care! If you’ve ever thought about self care, struggled with self care, or don’t know what the hell self care is, this post is for you. If you’ve ever felt stressed, found it hard to justify doing things just for you, or been burnt out, this post is for you. If you’re a human being, reading this, right now, this is for you.
Self care has become this thing that gets bounded around everywhere, and it can be pretty confusing - I mean, what if I don’t like hot baths? What if I don’t like candles? Fear not. Let’s debunk some myths, answer some questions, and get this shit on the road.
What is self care?
Self care is the art of doing things for yourself that make you feel great. It’s about taking time to refill your cup, adding more joy into your life, learning to unwind and enjoy being in the here and now. At a base level, self care is a practice about looking after yourself. On a deeper level, it’s learning that you have your own back, learning to love your own company and learning that you’ve got everything you need right inside yourself. And once you have those beliefs fine tuned, anything is possible.
Self care is a skill, that you get better at, and gets easier the more you do it. At first it might feel hard to justify doing things just for you, and not feel guilty, but as you up your self care, you begin to see how necessary it is, and how it can change your entire outlook on life.
But, isn’t self care selfish?
Ahh, the holy grail of self care - dealing with this notion that if you’re taking the time for you, it means you’re selfish, you’re ungrateful, you’re self absorbed and you only care about yourself. I call BULLSHIT on this. I used to believe that. I used to believe it so strongly that I’d run myself to the ground, and didn’t even know where to start when it came to doing things for myself. Then someone who I really admired said to me, ‘If you don’t help yourself, how can you expect to help other people?’ Mind. Blown.
I’ve come to learn that it can be more selfish to NOT look after yourself. Think about it - if you’re constantly stressed out, frazzled and have no time, chances are you have a short fuse with friends and family, you overcommit to things and end up either letting people down or doing a shoddy job (been there!), you neglect relationships because there aren’t enough hours in the day, and you’re only ever a couple of steps away from a melt down. So while you might think taking an afternoon out to do something you love is something you feel bad about, I can guarantee that you’ll come back to the people you love, and things you’re working on, with more love, more patience, more passion and feeling more like you and less like a hyena on speed.
So, in a word, no - self care isn’t selfish. It’s absolutely necessary if you want to live a wholehearted life.
Isn’t self care just about hot baths, candles and going to bed early?
Nope. Well, it can be if those are the things that give you energy, make you feel alive, renew your faith in humanity. But it doesn’t have to be any of those things. Here’s the thing about self care - it’s not a one off thing. You cant just have a hot bath and expect everything in your life to be fixed.
a) because you have responsibility over your own life
b) because if something is going to fix every aspect of your life, I'd expect more glitter and camp show tunes involved.
It has to be built into your daily life. You might have a hot bath one day, and it might make you feel great, but the effects aren’t going to last forever. They might not last as long as the bubbles do. Nor is self care about spending lots of money doing one-off things like going to a spa or getting a manicure. Sure, if they make you feel great, that's fantastic, but don’t treat self care like a one-off thing that costs you loads of mullah. Because if you do, you’ve got a whole load of excuses not to get your self care on! I haven’t got the money for self care! I haven’t got the time for self care!
So, what counts as self care?
Self care can be whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be green smoothies, impossible yoga poses or waking up at the crack of dawn to meditate. It can be dancing around the room in your underwear to Taylor Swift, taking time at the end of the day to think of 3 good things that have happened, going out for a walk listening to a podcast, lying in bed watching as many episodes of the Gilmore Girls as you can fit in one day or reading a book in the early hours of the morning. In short, self care is unique to you. You don’t have to justify it to anyone.
How can I find self care activities that work for me?
Go grab a pen and paper.
Write down any activities you loved doing as a child.
Now write down any activities that make you lose track of time because you get so into them.
Now write down anything that makes you feel good.
Add the names of your favourite books, films and albums. There you go - you’ve got a pretty good start!
Why haven’t I heard of self care before?
In short, because we live in a culture where we’re rewarded for working until we’re exhausted, where our self worth is based on the grades we get and the job title we have, and where this notion of doing something just for the fun of it doesn’t exist. Think about it for a second - if employers started to value self care, we’d have more days off, we wouldn’t be so put upon and we’d be happier in our jobs. Sounds great, but doesn’t do a lot for the capitalist machine. Also, a lot of self care is free, so if it doesn’t make money...
And if you have heard of self care, chances are it’s because you were in a place where you were exhausted, stressed and feeling overwhelmed and realised something had to change.
How can I make time for self care?
All of our lives look different. What I might count as having no time is going to look different than your version of having no time. The other day, I was listening to a podcast (I forget which one) and it was all about making time, and it really shut a lot of my excuses up. Because, when you don’t have time, you do make time for things you HAVE to do. You make the time to go to toilet, to feed yourself (even if it is junk food/ready meals) and remember to lock the front door. Even when life gets busy, when you don’t feel like you have enough time in the day, you do all of those things. So, you do have time, it’s just a case of needing to prioritise and decide what you’re willing to spend you time on.
Here are a couple of tricks for making more time for self care in your life:
1. Take it as seriously as a hospital appointment - Put self care in your diary, and keep the appointment. You owe it to yourself. Every week I send out self care check ins to my mailing list - I know I have to do that every Sunday, and every Sunday, I make time for it. Not only does it help to remind other people to up their self care, it forces me to sit down and see how I’m doing, and how I’m looking after myself.
2. Start small - Put it this way - five minutes of self care every day is going to have a huge effect on your life, if you’re currently spending zero minutes a day on it. You can do a lot in five minutes, as I found when I wrote a HUGE list of things you can do to relax in under five minutes. Increase your five minutes as time goes forward, but for now, start the routine of having just five minutes every day, to do something just for you.
3. Have things set up already - If you’re a multipotentialite like me, you’ll have learned that organisation is a pretty big thing. One of my favourite books, Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher, shares a really simple tip for spending time on things you love. And it’s this: set up stations. For example, if you love painting, set up a clean space with your canvas/paper with your paints. That way, when the moment comes, it’s so much easier.
Why should I care about self care?
You’re reading this, so I’m going to assume that you want to live a wholehearted life, you want to make a difference and you want to follow your passions. All of those things take a shit load of effort, conviction, and energy. We’re human, we don’t have an endless supply of passion and inspiration. We have a tendency to work ourselves ill, to push ourselves until we can’t and a tendency to get overwhelmed.
Your dreams, your passions, your life - they all begin with YOU. And if you’re nourished, you’re nurtured and you’re well looked after, you’re more likely to chase those dreams, live those dreams and live a life you love. You’ll have time for the people in your life, you’ll have the love to get you through the day, and the strength and courage to get up tomorrow and do it all over again.
But how do I know self care is for me?
If you have a pulse, self care is for you.
While self care is universal, and isn’t limited to class, gender, culture, age, ability, all of those things have an effect on how we self care. Some people have more time for self care, for others, it might not be that simple. Some people live in a culture of which is more accepting of self care, for others, it’s more of a battle. For some people self care might be an energetic activity, for others, self care might have to be a low energy activity. What’s important is finding something that works for you, and knowing that wherever you are in the world, whoever you are, self care is a necessity. Like your fingerprint, your self care is going to be different, and that’s a good thing.
Does self care lead to self love?
YES. By taking the time for you, you’re giving yourself so many unconscious messages:
I am worth spending time on I am worth looking after I love myself enough to stop I have value and am valued I am enough I matter
OK - I’ve got it! Now what?
Pick something small and start. Something I really found helped me to begin with, was getting a sheet of paper, dividing it into strips, and on each strip, writing down something I loved to do. I then put them into a pot/jar and rather than stressing out about relaxing, picked something out and went for it. Here's the tutorial! I also wrote a post of 50 thing you can do to show yourself you matter, which I think might be just the thing you need!
In the beginning, it’s about just getting going. What I mentioned earlier about starting just five minutes at a time, or putting it in your diary and keeping to it, is really helpful. Once you’re finding yourself doing things you love that make you feel good, you’ll have given yourself enough reasons to keep going, just by how much better life feels when you do things you love and look after yourself.
Every Sunday, I send weekly self care reminders to couragemakers all over the world. They're full of practical things and come with 3 intention setting questions for you to up your self care and really look after and appreciate yourself every week. They are a great way of getting started when it comes to self care, a good way to be continually reminded to look after yourself, and to keep yourself a priority. Want in? Put your name & email in the box below!