“Self-care is doing what you need for yourself to enhance energy, restore health and reduce stress.”
Self-care has been a term used so often these days I figured I’d share what it looks like to me.
Often when one thinks of self-care they might imagine bubble baths with candles and while that’s important, there’s so much more to it. Have you ever done all the classic ‘self-care’ items like taken a hot bath and gone for a massage and still felt awful? Sometimes we need more. Sometimes we need to go deeper and figure out why things aren’t feeling right. Perhaps it might be calling out someone who is hurting us, or asking for help, or putting up a stronger boundary at work.
“Sometimes self-care is also about doing the things we don’t want to do, but know will be good for us in the end.”
I believe that ultimately, self-care goes hand in hand with self-respect. And self-respect involves standing up for yourself like you would a best friend. It involves cheerleading yourself and making sure the people you choose to share your life with also treat you with respect. But in order to know how and what to do, we need to know how we are actually feeling. Which might sound quite basic, but some emotions and feelings have been drilled into us as “negative” or “shameful” as little kids and we have become so far removed from them that we don’t even recognise them anymore.
I’m still tweaking and refining what self-care looks like to me. It’s an exciting and fulfilling journey to discover the best ways to self-soothe and energise myself. As an “ambivert” (having both extroverted and introverted qualities) I need to balance both of these sides equally. Each of them has their specific and unique needs. I’m still learning about what works best for me and I love discovering different things to incorporate in my routine.
I’ve noticed that when I treat my extroverted side with the right mix of ingredients, the introverted side benefits for many days, even months. It’s sort of like a symbiotic relationship.
I have a tendency to go more for treating my introversion because for me it is much easier to manage. I like being by myself most of the time anyway. The extroverted side requires more energy, reliance, and of course the unpredictability and sometimes disappointment of other people. But some extroverted things can be worth the reward because when it’s done right it leads to what I like to call the ‘holy grail self-care.’
My extroverted side loves what most extroverts love:
- Making new friends
- Live music and easy-going concerts*
- Singing: those moments when everyone you’re with knows the lyrics to a song and everyone sings in unity – that is just a slice of heaven!
- Exercising: Zumba, yoga, hiking, walking
- Dinner parties
*not Coachella-type concerts, where Instagrammers are hitting you in the face with their phones and going to the bathroom involves lines that wind around the size of a football field and you end up losing your friends for 5 hours and start debating going home = opposite of self-care.
My introverted side also loves people, but in smaller numbers and in a more intimate way. It also loves:
- Reading memoirs/biographies
These types of books to me are a godsend. They are like the ultimate antidote to loneliness. No matter where I am, or what I’m going through, reading another persons life story feels like a simulated conversation that is raw and personal and fulfilling in every way. It allows me to escape into their world and vicariously live their life. It’s just an absolute gift. I’m currently reading “Educated” by Tara Westover right now and loving it!
- Deep and meaningful discussions
Talking to people who want to discuss everything from what is the point of life to what is their favorite type of cheese are my kind of people. I just love conversations that are open and free and honest in every way.
- Maintaining strong boundaries
Easier said that done and something I will probably always be working on. Having boundaries also means knowing myself better and really feeling into every situation of my life. Asking myself: does this feel good to me right now? We change so much throughout life so it takes a lot of attentiveness and care to understand our deepest desires. It’s so easy to go down the road of someone else’s dream and never stop to question whether it’s our own. Either way, instilling boundaries is super hard. It’s a work in progress for me, especially as a people pleaser!
The ability to unleash my thoughts and getting them out in the open feels like the ultimate relief.
- Going to bed early and getting lots of sleep
I love going to bed at 8pm and just laying there with zero responsibilities other than to fall unconscious. Being able to do involves setting boundaries as I’m usually the first to leave a party.
- Being in nature
Nature is so soothing. The ultimate for me is being in the crisp Vancouver mountains.
- Going for long walks listening to podcasts
Long walks and intellectually stimulating podcasts feel like brain candy. I could walk a million miles doing this, it feels amazing.
- Taking baths
This is the best part of winter and the saddest part of summer. I’ve recently started putting a few drops of lavender oil and Epsom salts in my baths too which makes it even more nourishing for my body and mind.
- Reading inspiring quotes
I just love a good quote! A single quote can literally lift my spirits for months. If you’re also a quotes person I have a bunch of quotes of inspiration here.
- Learning something new about psychology and therapy
I feel like learning new things about psychology and how to help others. It feeds my soul and brings me closer to my sister.
I struggle so hard to meditate. I really find it unbelievably difficult to not get pulled by the force of my own mind. But I know it’s important so I am trying to do this every morning.
- Cuddling animals
This is one of the best stress relievers ever!
- Painting and listening to music
Getting my thoughts into painting is a relaxing and playful way to release my emotions.
- Asking for help
This is a hard one but so important. Asking for help can mean asking a friend or my husband for support when going through a rough time, booking an appointment with a therapist, etc.
- Taking a break
Learning to relax and not having to productive all the time. It’s ok to take it easy every now and then.
The “holy grail” parties explained below satisfies both my extroverted and introverted self because it leaves me fulfilled on every level. It’s like the pot at the end of the rainbow but actually exists.
The holy grail of my self-care:
Going to a party or event where I am immersed in conversations that satisfy my emotional, mental, psychological and spiritual self. Most social gatherings hit the surface for me, they give me my fix of social interaction but there always comes a point where being at home in bed is more appealing. But then there are those parties, or events, where I connect deeply with someone or a group of people, and we can talk about everything and anything, and there’s good music playing and maybe even a few snacks scattered about – that to me is the holy grail. These sorts of things are rare unicorn moments but treasured and thought about for months.
The last time I had this was a few months ago. I went to a dinner party at a friends house in inner-west. Everyone at the party was buzzing with creative energy, all of them had unique jobs and interesting stories. There was a bonfire burning and dinner being cooked, it felt like a big family gathering. I barely knew anyone so I stuck close to my two friends and had amazing discussions about life and everything in between.
Later in the evening, while we were all sitting on the porch, a man dressed as a bee burst into the party. We all stood back to watch as he pretended to ‘pollinate’ the flowers, prancing around in the garden. Everyone stood back laughing. My friend turned to me and said quietly, “he’s a psychologist.”
I got to ask him questions and his ideas and thoughts and views on life were fascinating and insightful. I’ve always wanted to meet a psychologist out of their element, drunk and at a party! There was also a little girl there who told the group that she wanted to read a story she’d written about a post-apocalyptic world. I was stunned that she even know what that word meant. She got the attention of everyone at the party and instructed me and my friend, and I sit on a couch that acted like a podium on stage. The three of us sat squished together and read aloud paragraphs from her story (which would normally give me severe anxiety but somehow didn’t this time). The story was about consciousness and what it meant to be human in the digital era. I was floored that a young girl had all this inside her head already. It really exposed me to the thinking of young people nowadays.
I spent the rest of the time chatting with others and came home that night feeling unbelievably charged.