Why I Can’t Tell You How To Self Care

Self Care Has Nothing To Do With What Influencers Are Doing.

It’s probably one of the top trending phrases right now. We see it being thrown around by influencers, companies, brands, bloggers- there is even scientific data that proves taking care of our needs and happiness before others is a key to our livelihood and longevity. However, I have always struggled with the term.

Self Care. 

What is that supposed to mean for me? My first (self identified) exposure to this concept was back in 8th grade. A close friend had recently passed away and I had tremendous anxiety going back to school. My parent’s guided me to the conclusion that maybe I needed a few more days “for myself” before I went back. Those “self care” days weren’t filled with under eye gels and my favorite treats, they were filled with sitting with deep grief and hard emotions. They allowed me to cry unapologetically. I was so lucky to have parents that nurtured the need to take care of my mind and soul, just as much as society puts pressure on us to take care of our bodies. 

Hey social norms- why am I allowed to take a sick day when I have a cold, but I shouldn’t take a sick day when my heart is broken? 

I think true self care challenges the notion of societal norms. It allows us to do what feeds our soul, not what feeds the media.

From a young age I have challenged the notion of self care- it seemed like a fraud, an idea that tangled you in a web of “be selfish, put yourself first- but not too much!” It seemed like a term that was beautified by flowers and candles and essential oils. It never seemed practical.

When we see “self care” in the media, we see beauty rituals, yoga retreats, face masks and spa days, inspo board creations and cleanses. If I am not going to put cucumbers on my eyes and wear a face mask before bed, did I even self care? There are days I reflect and think, what did I do for myself today? There was no skin care routine, there was no massage, there was no hour long meditation that left me floating. 

But I think that is the point- realizing self care will never be a destination and it will never be what everyone else is doing. Self care was never meant to be a noun we can hold on to. It’s a verb, a practice, an ongoing dance with navigating life. An ebb and flow of learning how to fit in such an important practice of self love into our daily chaos.

So here is the secret. I view self care very similarly to how I view faith/religion. It’s very personal and it’s going to be different… for every. single. person. 

I cannot tell you how to self care. I shouldn’t tell you how to self care- the term itself speaks to who should be in charge… the self. You. Not me. Not the media, not your friends, not your family members. 

It’s easy to look at other people, especially those we look up to and/or admire, and think, “Well, what is THEIR self care routine?!” Thinking a magical flick of the self care wand will lend its healing powers into our own soul. But the minute we start looking to others for our own self care routine, is the minute we hand over that power of self reflection and self guidance. We are intuitive beings, it’s in our nature to know what we need. 

Self care doesn’t equate to happiness and peace, self care sometimes means doing the hard things. It can be budgeting, setting boundaries. Self care can be forfeiting something you want immediately, for something you want long term. It can mean holding yourself accountable, establishing discipline.

Honoring the fact that self care can change day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year- allow this transformation. Start paying attention to what is filling up your cup. Start paying attention to your emotions- no matter what they are- and validate them. Self care doesn’t have to be a constant battle of striving for happiness, peace, and beauty. It can mean allowing pain to be there. Self care can be in the big moments and in the little moments.

Here are a few examples of my own self care “rituals”- some daily practices, some only once in a blue moon. Maybe some apply to you, maybe they don’t- both are ok.

  • 10 mindful breaths in the morning
  • Sitting with my cup of coffee, not rushing it into a to go cup and running to my car (which also happens)
  • Being in nature in any and every form
  • Writing and journaling
  • Strengthening my yoga practice, even if that means starting in childs pose and then going straight to savasana
  • Creating a “To Do” list and starting with the thing I dread the most
  • Falling asleep to making a list in my head of the things, people and experiences I am grateful for
  • Hugging the people I love
  • Cleaning the house, especially when I don’t want to

Self care will always be whatever you need it to be. I will not sit here, typing on my laptop (hello writing, one of my own deepest forms of self care) and prescribe to you the perfect self care routine- but I can offer you guiding questions on how to help yourself get to that point.

Here are a few prompts to ask yourself, in order to connect to that which will serve you most. I recommend journaling to these. With writing down your answers, you might find patterns in your thinking and feeling that will connect you to realizing what your soul needs most.

  1. How are you, really? 
  2. What filled you with enthusiasm and livelihood today? 
  3. What drained your energy today?
  4. What is something you wish you could have done today, that you didn’t?
  5. If you could plan the “perfect” self care day for yourself- what would that look like? Be specific.
  6. What are three things you do daily that you absolutely love? If you cannot think of three- what three things could you add into your daily routine, that you think you would love?
  7. What action items do you dread doing, but always feel better after you do them? Make those a priority.
  8. How is your heart? How is your soul? Do they feel connected? Why or why not?
  9. What sets your soul on fire? 

I will leave you with this- whether you despise the term “self care” or you live for it, I hope you establish a practice of choosing yourself over and over again. If the term self care doesn’t work for you, try self love, self courage, self correction, self forgiveness, self reflection. Just know that each of these terms starts with “self”. 

Your world starts and ends with YOU. Act accordingly.

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