July 24 is International #SelfCareDay. Chances are you've heard it before: "Self-care is important!" and "Prioritize self-care!" But what does that even mean? What is self-care, anyway?
Self-care, quite simply, is making the time and effort to ensure that you are taking care of your physical, mental and spiritual health. It is ensuring that you are not functioning at depleted levels, which poses a threat to your health in the long run. Or, think of it this way: when taking care of a young child, as a keen and caring caregiver you would ensure that child is well-fed and clothed, kept safe, and is soothed when distressed, right? Self-care is about treating yourself as you would that child.
Here are a few other things to remember about self-care:
1. Self-care isn't selfish
It is such a misconception that engaging in self-care is a selfish act. It is not. In fact, it is a necessary part of maintaining one's physical and mental health so that one can function effectively in everyday life. When you're depleted physically and mentally, you not only risk significant health problems (heart disease, compromised immune system, etc.) and mental illnesses, but there are also ripple effects extending to your relationships and overall quality of life. By engaging in self-care you are acknowledging your value to the various facets of your life, and are willing to ensure that you can continue to effectively engage and enjoy them.
2. There's no right or wrong way to do self-care
What self-care looks like is highly subjective. Different people will find different things soothing and self-gratifying. Therefore, there really is no right or wrong way to do self-care. It could be taking a walk, cooking your favourite meal, spending uninterrupted time with family and friends... It really depends on what you need, what is available to fulfill that need, and whether or not it's effective.
3. Protect your time
Taking time for self-care has to be intentional. This means setting aside and protecting the time to do it, AND doing so by maintaining strict boundaries. This means that unless there is an emergency, the time you protect for yourself should not be prioritized for something else.
4. Protect your mental/emotional space
Protecting your mental/emotional space involves noticing a shift in your mental/emotional energy, and taking the time to effectively address it. For example, if you find yourself in a mood slump, you may want to avoid people or activities that perpetuate that mood (drinking, isolating yourself, toxic relationships/behaviours).
5. Increase positive feelings
Do something you are likely to enjoy, whether it's doing a favourite hobby alone, or doing a fun activity with friends. If it evokes and/or increases positive feelings, ensure that it is part of a regular routine (daily, weekly or monthly).
6. Do it without judgment or guilt
Whatever you engage in as part of your self-care routine, do it without guilt or self-judgment. As stated above, there is no selfishness in self-care, and is therefore not an avenue meant to evoke or perpetuate feelings of shame and self-loathing.
If you find you are struggling with taking care of your own needs, or experience shame in enjoying good experiences, there may be deeper-seated issues around shame and self-identification that may be worth discussing with someone. If you would like to discuss further how therapy can help to address this, feel free to contact me by calling 416-688-5274, or booking an initial consult here.
It's International Self-Care Day, but self-care doesn't have to be limited to today. Start your own self-care plan and make it a routine!