When you hear the phrase “self-care,” what do you think of?
You might think of something like getting plenty of rest, drinking water, or having a massage. All good things!
But you need to look after yourself in lots of ways, and self-care is much more than spa treatments.
I sometimes say that you are your greatest security. You have to have confidence and belief in yourself.
After all, you are the most important person in your world.
Therefore—how will you care for yourself?
From Autopilot to Intention
Much of our self-care is on autopilot. Unless we’re extremely depressed, most of us don’t forget to take a shower. Even if we have poor sleep or diet habits, we still eat and sleep sometimes.
Because those patterns are somewhat hard-wired, however, it’s easy to miss lots of other things.
That’s why self-care has to become intentional. Simply put, you need a plan for looking after yourself.
Life In the Matrix
During the first year of the pandemic (and, let’s be real, much of the second as well) many people struggled. Pretty much everyone I knew was having a hard time, and some of the ways we’d normally care for themselves were no longer available.
It was hard to see your friends, it was difficult to travel. Therapy was limited to virtual sessions, which didn’t work well for me. You couldn’t even go to a restaurant for the first few months!
Personally, I cycled back and forth through highs and lows. At first I was all “Let’s use this time as an opportunity!” … which worked until it didn’t.
Then I got better before getting worse, and then eventually it all came full circle. (Now that I think about it, in some ways that’s a normal year for me. Hmmm…)
But then, as many people found, some parts about the pandemic ended up being positive. The forced season of reflection inspired a built-in reorientation for many of us.
I didn’t learn to make sourdough bread (I cook almost nothing, thank you Door Dash) but I did find other hobbies for the first time in many years. I started playing video games again. I learned a lot about electronic music composition.
I even got plants! And most of them, or at least a good number of them, are still alive after all this time.
Back to the Plan: A Simple Question to Start With
A critical part of modern self-care is understanding what you need. You can do this right now. Just ask yourself: what would make me feel better?
Because you can always be better than you are now, you don’t have to be feeling bad to answer this question.
Still, most likely you’ll find yourself reflecting on self-care when you’re not feeling great for one reason or another.
When that happens, sometimes the best answer is an action:
- Go for a walk
- Clean up your calendar or to-do list, removing unnecessary items
- Do something fun (whatever “fun” is for you)
- Make a short gratitude list
Other times the answer is to reflect outward:
- What’s a simple thing you can do to help someone else? Amazingly, this often contributes to you feeling better.
- Who might need something that you can provide?
- Who can you check in on?
Finally, sometimes the answer is just to sit with it.
- Acknowledge that these things happen and it’s normal and that nothing lasts forever.
That last point is worth repeating: nothing lasts forever, everything is temporary. This too shall pass.
Remembering that fact has helped me to navigate several dark seasons over the past 5-7 years. I’m not sure I always BELIEVED it during some of those seasons.
But perhaps that’s part of what made some of those things so difficult—the fact that I didn’t understand that whatever I was feeling wasn’t permanent.
Now, I understand that. Even though life is a constant work in progress, I try to prioritize self-care. I try to ask myself what I need and how I can be better than I am now.
Take care of yourself over there!