"Nobody said it was easy" sang Coldplay's Chris Martin. He was probably talking about a breakup, but if you ask me, the same also applies when talking about self-care.
Self-care has become a bit of a trend lately, popping up all over social media with grandiose images of bubble baths and manicures. And while these things can be self-care, they tend to glamorize the reality of what self-care actually is.
Self-care is as is sounds: literally caring for yourself. You can get a manicure every week and take bubble baths until you're good and wrinkly, but it won't do you much good unless you're also getting enough sleep, eating well, staying hydrated, keeping up with personal hygiene, and getting some movement in your day.
Self-care really is about the basics. And you know what? They aren't as easy as they sound. Especially if you're a person who has been through trauma or suffers from a mental or chronic illness. If you are conflicted about caring about yourself (aka, you are resentful and unaccepting of who you are as a person and do not see yourself as worthy of care) then you are unlikely to be able to follow through with the self-care items I listed above.
That's why we have been talking about self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, and self-worth...because if you haven't set the foundation with these things, your automatic response will be to continue to neglect or punish yourself instead of care for yourself.
If you subconsciously believe you aren't worthy of having your needs met, you'll stay up watching Netflix, sleep past your alarm, skip brushing your teeth, grab fast food on your way to work and for lunch, scroll the internet mindlessly while you're there, eat a bag of chips for dinner, and rinse and repeat. Sound familiar?
BUILD SMALL HABITS, REPEAT
Notice that all of these actions are about avoidance. Avoiding doing the activities that you know would benefit you. And yes, I realize that sometimes it all seems like a bit much. But try to focus on one habit at a time instead of doing it all at once. Start with a commitment to brush your teeth every day. After a few weeks, try setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier every few days. Once you have that mastered, start to plan your meals in advance and create shopping lists.
WORK WITH YOUR INNER SELF
If this is proving to be difficult, you might need to do some inner work first. Taking a yoga challenge or signing up for a weekly class might help you to re-arrange your relationship with your inner self, making the other activities a little easier. This isn't just caring for yourself, but caring for your Self. It's about tuning in to what's happening in your mind and body, and learning to be more compassionate towards the parts of you that feel neglected.
DO IT FOR YOUR FUTURE SELF
Once you learn to be on your own side, self-care becomes much easier. Another way to re-frame self-care is to imagine you are doing your future-self a favour. Having a shower at night time will let future-you have a bit more sleep in the morning. Working out or doing yoga or going for a walk will prevent future-you having a sore neck or back by the end of the day. Meal planning now will stop future-you from getting frustrated about the lack of food in the fridge later in the week.
Once you get into the habit of self-care, then the manicures and bubble baths are just the cherry on top (and by all means, go for it!)
What are your favourite ways to engage in self-care? Let me know one practical way and one 'glamourous' way that you care for yourself in the comments!