What is Self-Care?
In an ideal world self-care would be as simple as how it is portrayed on social media. But in reality self-care is so much more than just a long warm bath and scented candles. More often than not self-care has been misconstrued! Blurring the line between self-care and self-indulgence.
Self-care means different things to different people. For some self-care is the act of self-indulgence which helps to momentarily reduce psychic tension and restore brief harmony and balance. While for others self-care entails crushing goals, meeting deadlines, developing skills, and doing everything possible to excel in their careers or personal life.
Dr. Kate Siner explains that one person’s self-care may very well be another person’s self-indulgence, and a self-care act that is used too often might eventually turn into self-indulgence. Thus, self-care is highly subjective and depends greatly on where we are in our life’s journey! For this reason, there isn’t a universal manual for self-care.
But before we continue, take a moment to gather your thoughts, and do this little activity:
- Make a list of your go-to self care practices(if you haven’t been doing any this would be a good time to just think of some that you would like to do but for some reason or another you haven’t been able to.)
- If you do have your list ready, go through it and make a note of whether it warrants as a self-care practice or it falls along the lines of self-indulgence.
Self-care is not always pleasurable, often times it can be uncomfortable, unpleasant, and anxiety provoking. Genuine self-care has the ability to render us vulnerable and bare and often requires braving momentary unpleasantness in order to experience long-term satisfaction and well-being. An ideal self-care act challenges you in healthy and adaptive ways, gently guiding you out of your comfort zone and closer to your ideal self.
Self-care involves any activity that is undertaken by an individual for the sole purpose of promoting, enhancing or managing their overall physical and psychological health and well-being. It is a continuous practice established to nourish us at our very core. Self-care done right strengthens our capacity for delayed gratification and in-turn helps us achieve our long-term goals faster.
Whereas self-indulgence involve any activity that when undertaken provides transient feelings of pleasure and euphoria, yet does not move beyond that. Self-indulgence is like a drug… very addictive, very hard to overcome, and often does us more harm than good. Self-indulgence encourages our desires for instant gratification, our desires of receiving immediate rewards.
Parenting is a good example of how self-care should look like. Parents make sure their children; eat healthy and nutritious meals at least once a day, have enough hours of sleep, are well groomed, go to school, do their homework, perform age appropriate chores, take them on play dates to develop and nurture their social skills, and occasionally spoil them with toys, sweets, and ice cream.
Today I hope to share with you some essential self-care components that will guide you towards the path to your highest most functional self.
We can’t honestly accept an experience unless we see clearly what we are accepting. –
In a nutshell self-care practices should propel you towards your highest self, bring you closer towards self-actualization, assist you in bettering yourself, help you in achieving your ultimate goals and help you establish harmony and balance between your mind, body and soul.
To awaken your highest potential, it is crucial that these two elements are present and guide your self-care practices.
Tara Brach author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing your life with the heart of a Buddha explains mindfulness as the ability to recognize exactly what is happening in our moment-to-moment experiences.
Mindfulness is a very simple yet complex state of being. It requires conscious awareness of our environments, bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings in our present experience. This conscious awareness of our moment-to-moment experiences is merely a time of noticing and gently observing our reactions without feeling the need to control or alter anything. Simply taking in our experiences like an onlooker who is genuinely interested in observing and vicariously experiencing.
Imagine observing someone else’s reaction in a specific moment. We might not be able to perceive what thoughts or intrinsic feelings that the situation is eliciting, however what we can do is observe their overt reactions. What mindfulness suggests is that we look at ourselves, look for understanding not judgement, look to simply notice and acknowledge our moment-to-moment experiences without changing or avoiding them.
Only after we have clearly seen our experiences in this way and accept our experiences as they are can change occur.
Self-compassion together with mindfulness are extremely important components of self-care. Without self-compassion one would not engage in mindfulness and without being mindful of our subjective experiences our fundamental needs will go unnoticed and unmet.
Compassion refers to our capacity to gently and empathetically relate to our experiences and perceptions thereof. Compassion requires kind consideration of our thoughts, feelings, sensations and experiences. Treating ourselves with compassion does not mean feeling sorry for ourselves rather honouring our experiences and embracing our subjective experiences wholeheartedly without judgements! Without justifications!
Dr. Kirstin Neff suggests that there are three elements of self-compassion which include,
- Common humanity
Thus as we engage in self-care our capacities for mindfulness and self-compassion are called for. Nurture these and afford yourself better tender care and loving.
Self-Care is often misrepresented with being selfish or being narcissistic with the need to “spoil yourself” but there is absolutely nothing narcissistic about taking care of our mind, body and soul and don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise! just make sure your not blurring the lines of self care with self indulgence 😀
As always looking forward to hearing all your different self care tips and tricks, as well as any other opinions you may have xx 🙂
Author: Nadia Ahmed
Nadia Ahmed is a Psychologist and an assistant lecturer. She is a Yoga and Ayurveda enthusiast and a Kanga Yoga practitioner. Nadia is a strong advocate of mental health, and a firm supporter of both traditional as well as alternative therapies to achieve well-being. She is always looking for opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute to society. Your typical “superwoman”.