Self care: picture yourself wrapped in a soft white robe, hours spent indulging in an exotic bath scattered with rose petals, masseurs tending to your every need… Well, that may sound lovely – but who has the time or money for that?
Self care is often marketed to us as fancy potions, spa days and indulgent shopping trips. We associate it with costly, time-consuming, out of the ordinary activities.
But self care generally isn’t lengthy or expensive. No rose petals are required.
It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfectly packaged, and it doesn’t need hours to be effective. Self care is an everyday need. And it’s one that we all share – whatever our current state of physical and mental health.
What Is Self Care?
At its most basic, self care is about caring for ourselves on a daily basis – even and especially when we think we only have 3 minutes to spend on ourselves.
On a good day, self care might look like taking time to go to a yoga class, for a swim or a run, and eating something healthy for lunch. On a bad day, it might mean simply doing ‘the basics’ – getting ourselves up out of bed, getting dressed, and remembering to feed the cat.
Self care is about listening to our needs – understanding our capacity in this particular moment – and tending to ourselves the best we can with the resources that we have. It’s about making sensible daily decisions that truly support us, rather than looking for a short term fix.
Why Can’t We Find Time For It?
Our lives are busy – full of family responsibilities, work deadlines, friends in need, and numerous other duties and commitments. As we race from task to task, self care doesn’t seem important – it may even seem indulgent. And when time is our most precious commodity, we let ourselves fall to the bottom of the list.
Instead of establishing everyday self care rituals to boost our resilience and general wellbeing, we wait until the overwhelm finally hits – we get ill, we can’t cope any more.
Then we turn to ‘emergency self care’ – a duvet day, maybe even that spa day. Or we plump for short term unhealthy actions masquerading as self care – a whole tub of ice-cream, a bottle of wine, mindless scrolling through social media from the sofa. While some of these might work as an intensive one-off ‘quick fix’, none of them treat the deeper problem: that we don’t care for ourselves well enough every day. They’re a band-aid – addressing the symptoms rather than the cause.
So How Do We Make Time For Daily Self Care?
One of the reasons we don’t manage to fit daily self care into our lives is because we don’t value ourselves enough. So first, we have to agree that we matter. And that our health and wellbeing is worthy of our time.
If, as you read this, you’re still struggling to believe that you are worthy of being well cared for – it might help to pause and notice who else you are supporting in your life right now. Maybe it’s your work colleagues, family, children, partner, friends, neighbours. You impact on the lives of others in many vital ways. Remind yourself that these other people need you: by caring for yourself, you’re ensuring that you’re available to care for them.
Then, we start small. We learn to ask ourselves what we need. And we find ways to make getting that easy – and quick.
However overwhelmed and busy we are – we make a few moments each day to tend to ourselves. We can start by practicing a regular self care check-in. Because self care becomes easier the more we allow it to become routine.
What’s A Self Care Check-In?
A Self Care Check-In is one way that we can start to practice regularly tending to ourselves. It teaches us to pause and ask ourselves what we actually feel and need throughout the day – until that process becomes second nature. You can think of it as a little brain retraining exercise.
To try this for yourself, plan a Self Care Check-In once a day for a week – you could do this as you brush your teeth in the morning, as you grab a sandwich at lunchtime, in the last few minutes of your day before you slip into bed, or whenever you have a moment to yourself.
If you find it hard to remember, try setting a reminder on your phone at a certain point each day to remind you to stop and check-in.
Start Right Away
You can practice right now by asking yourself these three questions:
- How am I feeling right now?
- How do I want to feel?
- What small two minute step can I take to feel more like that right now?
And then, simply take the small step that you identified.
Here are some examples of how that might work:
You might answer that you’re feeling tired. You want to feel energised. So, you could pause to do a few yoga stretches, take some deep energising breaths, listen to a song that always makes you want to dance, or give yourself a five minute power nap.
Perhaps you notice that you’re feeling anxious. And you’d like to feel calmer. Here, you could try the 54321 mindfulness practice (identifying what you’re experiencing via the five senses), listen to a short guided meditation, light an aromatherapy candle, or sit under a weighted blanket for a few minutes.
Or maybe today you feel overwhelmed – and that means you don’t know how you feel or what you want – in short, you’re stuck. In those moments, pausing to pull a Sea Soul Blessings card can be a helpful way of starting afresh, offering a new direction to consider. To bring some movement into your day, you could try moving your body, moving location (getting outside is always good), or focusing on one tiny but easily achievable job – like clearing a small surface, washing up, or sorting a small pile of paperwork.
It’s SELF care, not ‘one size fits all’ care
If self care is a relatively new practice for you, don’t be surprised if you find this process hard at first.
You might struggle to identify how you’re feeling and what you need. You might start to put pressure on yourself to get self care ‘right’ – to know all the answers to these questions straight away. You might use all of this as another ‘failure’ for which to criticise yourself. All of those responses are understandable – and none of them are helpful.
If you find yourself getting stuck, remind yourself that this is all part of the process of discovering what works for you – not what works for other people. Things that work for you one day might not work the next day – and vice versa. We shift and evolve, and so do our needs.
That’s why continuing to pause and ask ourselves those simple questions as we go about our day is so important.
The more you practice, the easier it becomes. As your brain adjusts, you’ll experience less resistance. With practice, you’ll understand yourself better. Over time, you’ll discover what you need and be able to provide yourself with that sooner. It might not be rose petals, a tub of ice cream or wine ‘o’clock. It might be quiet rest, sea swimming or time with friends.
There is no right or wrong way to do self care. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t give up. And eventually, even when times are challenging, you’ll be able to pause and give yourself vital tender care.
Pippa Best is the founder of Sea Soul Blessings. By creating simple transformative tools that combine mindfulness, self compassion and nature – and investing directly in environmental projects – Sea Soul Blessings supports sea-lovers to change our own lives, and the world around us, for the better.