The Many Shapes of Self Care

I believe there are misconceptions that “self-care” means pampering yourself or participating in specific activities, for example: meditation or a day off.  Maybe it’s because I’ve never been much of spa/mani-pedi girl, but I take a broader perspective.  For me anything that helps or supports you physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally is self-care.  

The idea of getting a massage actually makes me tense and anxious, but if you find it helps to restore your emotional balance, then heck yea its self-care.  I have a friend who thinks essential oils are just a fad with no real value, I actually use them frequently and find them really effective.  This tells me that what works is personal.

Then there is the idea that it has to be a certain type of activity, but I don’t buy that either.  It could be choosing not to drink soda, reading up on social issues or yodeling.  It doesn’t need to be deep breathing or hiring a nutritionist, it does need to be what helps you – regardless of the form it takes and if it’s useful to someone else’s wellness.  Though I’d appreciate it if you weren’t yodeling too close to me.

Here’s a personal example: most mornings I set aside time to play Candy Crush or Seekers Notes.  (I know, I’m old school, right?!)  Admittedly on the surface this looks like goofing off.

It’s not.

I started this practice while struggling with my sleep quality – when mornings were not going well.  I needed time to let my brain become fully awake.  I could get up, make coffee, feed the dogs and start the laundry but if you asked me to handle a complicated issue or a meaningful decision, I could not make that happen. 

My morning routine morphed to include all of those aforementioned “starting the day” activities and then I added in time on the couch, with my coffee (decaf) and a game.  Initially I felt guilt about this.  I was constantly saying there wasn’t enough time in the day but…here I was literally playing games.  After a while I had some realizations:

  • It has a legitimate purpose.  Mentally, I needed that time to become productive and efficient (two key things).  Making time for that was just as important as going to the gym or attending a webinar. 
  • It’s useful, until it’s not.  I don’t set a time limit; I check in with myself and play until I no longer need to.  Surprisingly, there is always a moment when my brain kicks in and says “OK we’re done here.  Let’s go.” I feel ready.  If I wrap up and get going at that moment, I have practiced effective self-care.  If I continue playing, then I am dipping into the realm of “goofing off”. 
  • It’s restorative. Ok I’m not saying its meditation, but I am saying that it has a similar recuperative impact.  Even more interesting according to my wearable, it often shows the same physical response as a ten-minute meditation.  On a few occasions it has marked the time as “light sleep” even though I was clearly awake and playing.
  • It primes specific capabilities.  No seriously, it does. Candy Crush invokes strategy (as I plan out how to meet their goal) and Seeker’s gets my cognitive processing going (determining what is meaningful and what is superfluous).  If I’ve been killing it finding hidden objects, I choose to begin my workday with the tasks that are more focused on data or research.

These insights eliminated the shame of spending time on silly games each morning.  If you’re wondering about something you’re doing and if it truly fits in your self-care repertoire, ask yourself a few simple questions: How is this contributing to my wellness? What aspect does it support (mental, physical, etc.)?  Am I doing anything else to support that? 

I’ve come to understand how we care for ourselves is just as unique as we all are.  There is no one proven activity. As you are thinking about ways to support your wellness, particularly now in such stressful times, don’t be misled into believing there is a right or wrong way to do it.  Use what works, regardless of what other people do and be unabashed about it.  Your self-care is all about you in whatever shape that takes.

#SelfCare #PersonalGrowth #MeetMaple

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Christine is a consultant, coach and collaborator. Her vision is a tool to nudge people towards the insights that are just out of reach; connecting their deeper thoughts and truest selves to make big leaps forward.

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