Over the past few years, “self-care” has become a sort of buzz word that some caregivers may roll their eyes at. Beauty companies and spas use the term regularly in their advertising, in hopes of coaxing tired clients to buy their products of pay for their services. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with treating yourself to a new lipstick or a massage – sometimes it can be just what you need to brighten your day. The problem is that self-care is often associated with spending money or as something that only those lucky enough to “have time” can do. This belief can prevent caregivers from making the time to practice self-care, which really is just that: taking care of yourself.
You’ve heard it before: “You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” Making sure that you can filling your own cup first will help you to be a better caregiver, parent, partner, or friend. How you fill your cup will be different for everyone, and it’s important to tune in to what makes you feel grounded, healthy and happy.
For myself, I know that I need to practice four different aspects of self-care in order to care for my loved ones with a clear head and heart. If you’re unsure of what you need, this may give you some ideas:
Exercise. I need to sweat, increase my heart rate and use my muscles 2-3 times a week. Currently, I hike, practice yoga, and get to the gym for circuit training. When I’m not exercising regularly, I feel lethargic, unmotivated, and stiff.
Sleep. I need 7-8 hours of quality sleep to feel my best. When I don’t sleep well, I am irritable, unfocused, overly emotional, and tend to consume more sugar and caffeine, which likely doesn’t help my other symptoms!
Connection. I must connect with someone at least once a week who knows me well. This can be a phone conversation, or even an email. The important part is that I’m able to really talk about how I’m doing and feel heard. When I don’t connect with someone on this deeper level, I feel lonely.
Creativity. It’s not a stretch to say that I’m a creative person. I write, play the guitar and sing, and have recently been experimenting with all things textile related (knitting, weaving, sewing, and natural dying). I need time in my week to explore these passions, even if it’s just an hour or two. When I don’t take the time, I feel listless.
As mentioned, these four acts of self-care are what I need to feel good, but they might look quite different for you. It should also be noted that I do not always exercise 2-3 times a week, sleep 7-8 hours a night, connect with someone who knows me well or make time to practice my passions. What I have learned, however, is to ask myself why when I’m feeling lethargic, or irritable, lonely, or listless. The answer is usually that I have not been making the time to practice self-care. I know then to ensure I fit these important things in. Sometimes this means cancelling plans or asking someone else to help out, and that can be hard. If I start beating myself up over not being able to do everything I thought I could, I take a deep breath and practice self-compassion. I remind myself that self-care is not selfish – that it’s quite the opposite. Taking care of ourselves first is what enables us to take care of one another.
How do you practice self-care? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!
Cassandra Van Dyck