When I talk about self-care, you may be thinking about nice warm baths, spa treatments, getting your hair and nails done or taking a nice vacation. These things are nice, yet they are not what I am talking about. The kind of self-care I am talking about requires a lot of work. It is the work of getting yourself out of bed in the morning and doing the things which support you. Things like going to the gym, reading, meditating, eating good food. It is working toward your goals, mission and purpose. It is allowing yourself to feel your feelings and love yourself anyway. It is grappling with negative self-talk and learning tools to reverse that. It is forgiving yourself and others so that your mind and emotions can be at ease. It is practicing gratitude. It is figuring out what your boundaries are (often through them getting stepped on), setting those boundaries and defending them with love. It is saying “no” and “yes” when you want to. It is speaking up for yourself. It is having tough and courageous conversations with your loved ones, your friends or people at work. It is practicing discipline and making choices which support you well-being on a daily basis. It is learning to take complete ownership and responsibility for your life and your results, and believe me, this can be painful and hard at times! But the results are well worth the effort!
Here’s the thing though, self-care is a practice, not a destination. All the pieces don’t have to happen at once, (nor can they), and it’s not about being “good” at them already. It is a practice, and small actions taken consistently over time lead to great results! When you start out it might be something as simple as going for a 15 minute walk when you come home from work and before starting on your household responsibilities, or first thing in the morning. It might be stopping for a moment to appreciate the beauty of a flower. It might be giving yourself permission to ask for help. It might be going to the doctor when you are sick. It might be reading a skills-improvement book. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, it might be asking the question, “What else is possible?” It might be taking 5 minutes at the end of the day to journal.
Maybe you’ve got several of these first steps down already. For you, the next step might be asking for that job promotion and taking the time to learn the skills required for it. It might be turning down a job promotion that you know will drain you. It might be struggling through learning to budget and prioritize your time and money. It might be de-cluttering your home and keeping it that way. It might be ending a painful and draining relationship, (or several). It might be choosing to spend time with people you admire. It might be writing out your plan for attaining one of your bucket-list items and beginning those steps.
It is up to you to choose those actions which take you in the direction you want to go. It can be incredibly helpful to have a coaching along the way and/or an accountability buddy or group if you want to speed up the process, and we’ll talk more about this in a later chapter.
Adinah Barlow has been a massage therapist since 2007 and Self-Care Coach since early 2017. She believes that when people prioritize their own well-being, everything else and everyone else in their life becomes exponentially better.