Self Care is Not What You Think It Is
Indulgence is not always what you need... so when is it time to indulge, and when is it time to take action?
Lots of things happen when we self-isolate: we find new ways to connect, we pick up new hobbies, and we do a lot of thinking. But we don't really notice that when we're apart from others, we depend on ourselves more, which means we need to know how to take care of ourselves.
Self care is defined as the ability to maintain or action of maintaining your own mental, physical, and emotional health. In other words, self care is making sure you are okay, mentally, physically, and emotionally. It's providing your own happiness and security.
Se lf care is advertised and talked about everywhere. That ad for a brand new mattress that will improve your quality of sleep is actually advertising self care. Ever had someone tell you that you're stressing yourself out too much, and you need to take a break? They're telling you to pursue self care. There are hundreds upon hundreds of examples here.
A lot of things we hear about self care sound indulgent and wonderful, but are not always realistic. I mean, who really has time to soak in a bubble bath for an hour? Who really has the time (or patience) to fill in an adult coloring book?
This is because the only type of self care we talk about is the "lean back and do what feels good" type. What we should be talking about instead? The "lean forward and do what's best for you" type of self care.
Think about it. If people only did what felt good, how would work get done? How would lessons be learned? How would problems get resolved? Now think about the second option. Doing what's best for you means you can focus clearly on your emotions, your needs, your desires, and the best course of action. This is active self care.
An even easier way to understand it: if you only do what feels good all the time, eventually nothing that feels good will help you take care of yourself. If you take the best course of action, you can be sure you're taking care of yourself the best way you possibly can.
At this point, you know that active self care is more necessary and practical than self-indulgence, but how can you practice active self care? And how can you tell when it is time to indulge?
It's actually easier than you may think.
How to Decide Between Active Self Care and Relaxation/Indulgence
It's time to practice ACTIVE SELF CARE when:
- ...You have a deadline, such as a decision you must make, a project you must finish, or a conversation you must have.
- ...You're noticing yourself procrastinating more than you usually do, especially if you're not usually a procrastinator
- ...You haven't been taking care of yourself well physically (for example, unhealthy eating patterns, not showering often enough, and/or an unhealthy amount of sleep)
It's time to RELAX and/or indulge yourself when:
- ...You've completed your tasks and responsibilities, or just finished doing something that caused you a lot of stress/took a lot of energy.
- ...You're physically hurt or in pain
- ...You're emotionally wounded and need time to recover
- ...You've been under pressure for quite a while
- ...You're dealing with the effects of a mental disorder/illness
- ...You're dealing with something mentally that's affecting your behavior
- ...You're on vacation (of course)
How to Practice Active Self Care
Active self care is all about doing what's best for you, so that you can reach your goals and feel in control, secure, and happy.
Some ways to practice this kind of self care:
- Take time to consider all the possibilities when it comes to making a decision.
- Set aside time for yourself to be productive
- Move your attention back to the task at hand when you notice your thoughts wandering
- Notice when you're feeling stressed and use positive coping mechanisms to bring your stress level back to normal, such as deep breaths or repeating a phrase until you feel better (e.g. "I'm okay. I'm okay.")
- Slowly return to healthy sleeping, eating, and showering habits if you've been having a hard time taking care of yourself.
Basically, any way that you can be self-aware, productive, and centered, you're practicing active self care.
Finding the right balance of active self care and relaxation in your life is the best way to be happier, more productive, less stressed, and feel in control.
You know what's best for you. You direct the course of your life. Make it a good one !