In recent years the concept of Self-Care has become a buzzword in pop culture. But what is it really? Some have the impression that it is just another idea brought along by an entitled culture and balk at the self-centeredness of the pursuit. Others believe it’s just ‘treating’ yourself to massages and manicures. But this is only part of the equation. Meaningful self-care is a multifaceted design that thoughtfully plans how to look after the body, mind, and soul.
When creating a self-care plan, I like to focus on these three areas:
Self-Care ~ Self-Nourishing ~ Self-Soothing
Self-Care is all the things we do that contribute to our overall health. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating enough foods that are nutritious and nourishing? Are you scheduling doctors and dentists appointments? Are you moving and breaking a sweat, preferably through an activity you enjoy? Are there any mental health symptoms that you need to address?
Adulting also falls into this category. Are you paying bills and doing all the ‘adult’ things that you know, once done, give you peace of mind? True self-care is looking at your account balance when you’d rather not, and flossing as much as you tell your dentist that you do.
Self-Nourishing activities are the ones that feed your soul; they allow you to follow your interests and passions and energize the mind. Hobbies of all types, healthy relationships, and spiritual activities are all nourishing pursuits. Taking an art class, grabbing coffee with a friend or spending time in prayer and devotion can all be considered things you do to nourish yourself. The list really is endless! Whatever sparks your interest and engages your heart and soul. As the pressure and responsibilities of life intensify, these activities are often seen as ‘indulgent’ and can get left behind. But even scheduling in a few minutes of a self-nourishing activity can be the little boost you need to give you energy for the rest of you day.
Self-Soothing is the last aspect. What do you do when you need stress-relief or comfort? Some of the classic self-soothing mechanisms include entertainment, food or drink, exercise, talking to loved ones, or some sort of ‘treat.’ The first step is to recognize what you go to when we need soothing. The second step is to avoid labeling an action all good or bad, but rather to recognize when the soothing is helpful, and when you’d be better served to soothe in another way. For example, binge-watching your favorite show after a really long week might just be the alone time you need! But that same screen-time, when procrastinating an important deadline, might be only adding to your anxiety.
Taking this sort of self-care inventory gives the opportunity to evaluate current self-care activities and plan to try new things! Are there other soothing activities that you’d like to try? Deep breathing, aromatherapy, meditation, and other anxiety-reducing strategies can be a great part of your self-soothing plan. Being in nature has shown to be a great stress-reliever!
Another part of your self-care plan might be to reduce certain activities that are not helpful: areas of consumption that are excessive, relationships that are not life-giving, or negative self-talk, such as ‘you don’t deserve to be taken care of.’
This leads us back to the beginning: to execute any self-care plan, you have to be motivated to do it. Barriers can come from many places. A demanding job can leave little time for anything but work. Parents and care givers also have little time for themselves and can feel selfish in looking after their own needs. Others believe that they somehow lost their value and don’t deserve to be well looked after; it is uncomfortable to give themselves time or attention. Overcoming some of the internalized negative messages can be combated by practicing kindness towards ourselves. Each and every person reading this deserves to be well looked after. We are all created in God’s image and can find our worth in Him—that His love for us is wider and deeper than anyone can even measure. If you haven’t already—give yourself the gift of self-care today.
Disclaimer: This article is intended as an educational resource only, and is not intended to be a replacement for treatment. For evaluation and treatment, please contact a qualified mental health professional.