#askingforafriend: What is self-care?
By Caitlin Rudgear
GCU Office of Student Care
Why is it that when we are stressed, the first thing that leaves our list of priorities is self-care?
When we encounter stress, we often deem self-care as something that is no longer important and claim that we no longer have time to prioritize caring for ourselves. Instead, we compromise sleep, exercise, creativity, nutritious food, socialization and fun to push ourselves to do whatever it is that needs to be done.
Self-care has become a buzzword that seems to have lost its true meaning and has become watered down. Its definition, depending on where you look, has become confused with activities that often seem as though they promote numbing and avoidance strategies instead of engaging with ourselves.
We see memes on the internet that promote self-care as being indulgent: people putting on face masks, binge-watching Netflix and isolating themselves from others in the name of “taking care” of themselves.
Using face masks, watching TV, and having time alone are not inherently bad activities. It’s when we use those activities to escape, rather than engage, with ourselves and our lives that they can become problematic.
Let’s take a minute to clarify what self-care is not: It is not selfishness or self-indulgence. Nor is it a lack of boundaries or avoiding our responsibilities or other people.
Conversely, self-care involves setting boundaries around your time so you have space to participate in activities that help you feel connected to yourself.
Self-care is a way to “care for yourself using all the effective tools and resources available so that you can then function in the world and contribute back to others.” Read more here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/view-the-mist/201803/self-care-is-not-self-indulgent
Self-care can start with more basic tasks, such as showering, brushing your teeth and getting enough quality, restorative sleep. Self-care also can involve prioritizing your time to ensure you eat more than junk food, spend time with friends or family who are socially engaging and enjoyable, and involve yourself in things that help you feel joyous, alive, filled up and/or calm.
Self-care can involve activities big and small and can even include:
- Spending time in nature
- Art (painting, drawing, ceramics, etc.)
- Listening to your favorite music or podcast
- Reading a favorite book, comic or poem
- Diffusing essential oils
Sometimes, there are barriers that can get in the way of participating in and prioritizing self-care. Some of those barriers can include negative beliefs about ourselves that tell us we don’t deserve care or don’t deserve good things, or even a lack of organization or structuring our time.
Counter negative thoughts with simple solutions: Focus on what is actually true (that we deserve good things and deserve to be cared for), and use a planner or a calendar.
The other key to self-care is to start small! Find a book that you haven’t read yet and give yourself permission to start reading it for 30 minutes a day. Go for a walk around your neighborhood or call a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile.
Regardless of what activities you choose to care for yourself, remember that you are allowed to have time for yourself to enjoy your life.