What comes to mind when you think of self-care? We often picture bubble baths and pedicures, but self-care isn’t just about the actions you take and the things you do. I want to show you the importance of letting self-care evolve, and how to identify what it means to you so it can help you as you lose weight.
What is real self-care?
Self-care starts, like all other things, with our minds. It includes all components of your health: physical, mental, and emotional. It’s not the actions we take or things that happen outside of us that create the feelings we want. It’s always our thinking that does that.
Let’s use a bubble bath, for instance. You may think that a bubble bath is relaxing. You want nothing more at the end of the day than to run a hot bath, slip into the warm water and let the worries of the day just melt away along with your favorite bath bomb.
But it isn’t the bath creating the feeling of relaxation for you. It’s your brain. You are believing thoughts like, “This is just what I needed,” or “Nothing else matters right now, I love this.” Those thoughts are what create the feeling of relaxation.
We know it’s your thoughts, not the bath itself, creating the feeling of relaxation because not everyone has the same response to a bath.
When I’m in the bath I have thoughts like, “This is disgusting,” or “It’s too hot in here and I’m bored.” I do not feel relaxed in the bathtub based on these thoughts I have.
Because of this, there’s no exact prescription for self-care that’s going to be the same for everyone. There’s likely not even a prescription for self-care that will be the same for you every day, every week, or every year for all of time.
Seasons of self-care
We want to connect to what self-care looks like for us and be open to it changing, expanding, receding and evolving over time. I like to think about it like the clothes of different seasons.
In the summer, it may feel amazing to put on a sundress and flip flops. In mid-January, the same outfit does not feel so amazing. Winter is the time for sweaters, boots and scarves, not sandals and sundresses.
We look at the weather and we decide what to put on based on what will be best for our bodies in that weather. We don’t want heatstroke in the summer because we’re bundled up or hypothermia in the winter because we didn’t pay attention to what we needed to wear.
In addition to weather and seasons changing, styles change as well. Just like you won’t wear the same type of clothes for every season, you also may not want to wear the same clothes every winter. Your emotions are like the weather. They’re always there and always changing.
We want to tune into those emotions, so we know how to best care for ourselves in that emotional season.
When I needed new self care for a new season
I noticed a few months ago that I was retreating inward and disconnecting in many areas of my life. My thoughts were looping in negativity almost all the time and it felt like and I was feeling low much of the time as a result.
In this COVID season of quarantines and cancelled activities and lots of family time at home, my self-care needed some readjusting.
I really thrive when I have quiet, alone time. At that time, however, my family was home all the time, watching TV, talking to me and asking me questions. I love them, and I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to be together, but I was doing that at the expense of my precious self-care time.
In regular life, my kids go to school and to activities and spend time with friends and so I use some of that time alone to read, listen to music, exercise, or draw.
With my kids home more, I had to re-evaluate how to find time for self-care on purpose and find new ways of getting that quiet space for my brain.
New season, new self-care. You may currently be in a space where self-care includes food or eating or you may be in a space where you have no idea what self-care would even look like for you.
I want to teach you a simple way to help you identify what self-care is to you right now and how to re-evaluate it as you go through different phases and seasons.
What does self-care mean to ME?
As always, it starts with questions:
What is the purpose of self-care for you?
Why do you want to take care of your mind and body?
What do you need?
What do you want?
Really think about this. Write down a list of reasons or write the story of why this is important to you and what you need and want.
Then, look back at it and come up with some feeling words that encompass your “why” and pick one. Choose the one that feels most important to you right now.
Self-care equals ________.
It may be self-care equals balance, self-care equals peace, self-care equals fun, or self-care equals strength.
This word can then act as your guide. This is the feeling that you’re trying to get by doing these things. This is why we go out and “do” self-care things. We want this feeling.
One important aspect of self-care is that it’s not a separate or independent concept — it’s not like we “do self-care” from 3:00-5:00 on Thursdays. It is a thread that runs through everything. If self-care is taking care of your physical and emotional health, and you live in your physical body and are driven by emotions… then there is a component of self-care in everything you do.
So, what feeling does self-care mean for you?
What my self-care looks like
For me, self-care equals kindness. When it comes to exercise and moving my physical body, I ask myself, “What would kindness look like here?”
Sometimes I work out early in the morning. My “toddler brain” likes to tell me that kindness would be pushing snooze and not showing up to work out because I’m tired.
But, my adult brain knows that kindness sometimes means choosing what I want most (which is a strong body and a healthy heart) over what sounds good in the moment (sleeping in).
Now, there are times when I do choose to push snooze and stay in bed instead of working out. Self-care or kindness then looks like not beating myself up for that choice.
I own the choice and I can choose to do something different in the future, but I know that berating myself for “being lazy” or “letting myself down” doesn’t serve me.
It’s important to take care of ourselves when we make mistakes as well as when we feel like we are killing it in life.
Self-care isn’t always comfortable
Self-care isn’t always rest. Self-care, at times, is signing up for discomfort in the name of our goals or growth.
Sometimes self-care looks like freedom, and sometimes, it looks like loving limits. Sometimes self-care is honoring what I need over what my family needs from me. Sometimes self-care looks like two cookies instead of 10.
Sometimes self-care looks like pushing myself to try new things, and sometimes it looks like saying no.
When I use kindness as my guide, it’s simple to see what to do to take the very best care of me no matter the season.
As the seasons and the phases of your life change from day to day, from year to year, or even sometimes, moment to moment, keep coming back to the feeling you identify with self-care and let that feeling guide you.