After my summer internship ended, I decided to take a few days to focus on school and myself. I started simple; I treated myself to an extra hour of sleep in the morning, indulged with friends, and took time to unwind. It was a newfound sense of zen I needed after a hectic summer. Except, very quickly these few days turned into weeks, weeks turned into a month – and now I felt directionless and worn out.
But why? Wasn’t this the ultimate form of ‘self-care?’ I was getting in more sleep, I was treating myself to my favorite foods, and I was binge-watching everything I couldn’t during the summer. Well, quite simply because this isn’t self-care. I bruised a moment of indulgence and let the cycle wash over for an entire month.
To be clear, self-care is a subjective matter and ranges from person to person. But, a distinguishment between indulgence and self-care needs to be made. Self-care is purposely marketed indulgently, primarily to get women to splurge on spa appointments, bath products, or even sweet treats. While all of the above sound like the perfect pick-me-up after a rough day or are the much-needed accompaniments to unwind, they’re not the ‘self-care’ routine you need for an extended period.
While the consumer market has pampered us with a holistic selection of ‘self-care necessities,’ it is vital to maintain a consistent routine. Self-care isn’t about finishing that tub of ice-cream, nor is it taking a detox bath. While you do deserve the amazing feeling of relaxation afterward, these activities provide a brief moment of gratification. And soon, no number of ice cream cones or packets of bath salts may provide you with the true fulfillment your body and mind need.
In fact, self-care is a form of discipline that is needed for our overall health. It is a personal daily commitment that helps you restore balance in your mind, body, and soul. Self-care is meant to refuel your energy, and help elevate your mood. If you find yourself feeling fatigued by the process, or can’t seem to find time for self-care, you might be confusing actual self-care with the consumer trend of ‘self-care’.
Self-care takes practice, which will eventually allow you to reach your optimal state of being. It doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. Sometimes, it can be as simple (or challenging) as switching your phone off to be present at the moment. It can mean eliminating negative distractions and altering your digital life. It can be a reminder to limit the constant need to check your screen. It may be a moment of self-parenting to avoid self-sabotage through procrastination or caving into toxic channels.
Other times, it can be a reminder to be compassionate and kind to yourself. It may be through scheduling a consistent workout routine or taking time to do some deep-breathing activities. Maybe, it can be monitoring your finances, and sticking to home-cooked meals instead. It can also mean limiting conversations with individuals who may be (conscientiously or unconsciously) hurting you. It may be setting healthy boundaries in relationships and knowing when to walk away.
Let’s say, you have a personal goal of getting fitter. Your habits say otherwise, but you have the right mindset and intention. You’re motivated – AND, you recently found a new vitamin pill that will help you gain/shed an extra pound. You’ve basically achieved your goal, you convince yourself. Right? Wrong. Reading just those two sentences, I’m sure you already understand that any form of the pill will not sustain long-lasting results. Getting fitter requires time, commitment, and consistency – it’s not a 1-day journey. Similarly, self-care needs time and space for you to take care of you.
Self-care is actually a “boring” disciplinary journey of you developing self-soothing techniques to increase your mental, physical and overall sense of wellbeing. It’s about making conscious changes in disruptive or sabotaging patterns in your thought or actions that don’t contribute to your wellbeing. It’s about committing time to yourself – whether it’s slipping in a workout, eating healthier, getting solid sleep, pursuing your hobbies, progressing towards your goals, learning a new skill, or just taking five minutes to breathe.
Self-care is allowing yourself to heal and grow. It’s not meant to cause a feeling of laziness or fatigue- it’s a preventive measure of burnout and a stepping stone towards rejuvenation. So, take some time for yourself today because you deserve to.