By Cori Davis
Self-care has become such a buzz word in the media that we can barely go a day without hearing it marketed to us from all directions.
Whether it is to buy the latest skin care item or yoga class, self-care has become the marketing catch all used by everyone from big businesses to healthcare, but what is self-care? And will of its promises really bring us a better quality of life?
Will forcing myself to yoga class or taking better care of my skin really make a difference in my mood? Will it reduce my stress? Enhance my relationships? Or is it just another marketing tactic used to get me to buy a product and be disappointed in myself for not seeing the changes it promised.
Unfortunately, the commercialization of self-care has led us to miss the point of self-care in the first place, which is to take care of ourselves. Instead of focusing on what the next best self-care purchase is. We can invest in being self-caring, which may lead us closer to the quality of life change we have been looking for.
What does it mean to be self-caring?
The act of being self-caring is notably less cool than the spa day or meditation retreat and usually comes back to listening to what our body needs, whether that is a nourishing meal, taking our medication, or gently moving our body. The act of being self-caring is a lot more focused on routinely checking in on ourselves and what we need rather than what new, fancy thing can act as the cure to our wellness.
“If self-care is a fancy new Mustang, the act of being self-caring is your trusty Toyota Camry.”
Developing a practice of self-caring is much less about the latest and greatest thing and more about getting in touch with your mind and body and listening to what it needs. This could be a daily reflection every morning or touching base with how you are doing weekly with a therapist.
Here are some simple ways you can invest in the act of self-caring:
1. Nourishing our Bodies
While nourishing our bodies may sound like a simple task, many of us struggle to know what our body needs when it comes to nourishment. This may mean listening to our body when it tells us we are hungry or thirsty, making meals that make us feel full and satiated rather than going for a calorie deficit or quick, easy fix. This can also be paying attention to our bodies telling us we need to stretch or do some light movement rather than staying on the couch or killing ourselves in the gym.
2. Regulating our Nervous System
I don’t know about you, but I can get halfway through a stressful day at work before I realize that I have tensed my shoulders for the last 4 hours. While I am trying to detach my shoulders from my ears, I wonder how I could go so long without realizing how much pain and tension was in my body.
If this strikes a chord for your nervous system regulation may be for you. Take time to check in with yourself. Are your jaw or shoulders clenched? Are your hands cold because you are so stressed and you aren’t getting blood flow to your fingers? Is your heart beating fast like you were out on a brisk walk, but you are just sitting at your desk?
All of these are signs that our nervous system is dysregulated. To combat this plan regular check ins to assess how your body and mind are feeling, create cues in your life like red dots or cue words that trigger you to unclench your body. Maybe set timers to take breaks or do some deep breathing to slow your heart rate and increase blood flow to your fingers.
3. Checking and Feeling our Emotions
Checking in with how we are feeling emotionally is not always our favorite thing to do but can carry some benefits when we are focusing on being self-caring. Sometimes it is easy to get stuck feeling exhausted or frustrated without really know where these emotions came from or giving ourselves the time and space to process these feelings. Doing this for any length of time can result in us carrying around a lot of heavy emotions. Regular check ins on emotion can happen in therapy or on your own maybe with a journal or taking time to think introspectively. Giving ourselves the gift of processing through our emotions and shedding some of that emotional baggage is a wonderful way of being self-caring.
Wherever you are in on your journey of being self-caring remember that you do not have to go on this journey alone. A well-trained therapist can help you get back in tune with your body and mind and making small sustainable changes that impact your wellness. Don’t hesitate to find a therapist in your area to help. You’re worth it!
About the Author: Cori Davis is an intern family therapist at Family Solutions Counseling. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Medical Family Therapy program at East Carolina University. She is trained in EMDR and biofeedback.