Self-care is a popular term these days. I believe the meaning has been watered-down or misinterpreted to the point that when we say ‘I’m going to take some time for some self-care’ it often implies a time-out perhaps for some solitude, rest or indulgence in something that we love or think is good for our health. But many (including myself) have experienced the dark side of this so-called ‘self-care’ movement. When self-care becomes another item on your list of things ‘to do’ or an added pressure or expectation in an unrelenting pursuit of better health, it can become the antithesis of self-care and I think we are missing the whole point of it.
To me, self-care is more of an approach; a philosophy and a dynamic process, that guides your every moment and is constantly changing. Sure, self-care may include rest, solitude, stillness, social connection, laughter, physical activity, time in nature, music, play, dance, boundary setting, a difficult and honest conversation, a fun conversation, meditation, crying, a warm hug, silence, being sad, being angry, effort or service; but these activities aren’t ‘self-care activities’, they are just activities. Self-care is about when and how you choose or allow these and how you respect your own needs during the process.
This self-care process involves awareness, attention, self-reflection, insight, courage and action.
I do believe there is one consistent feature of self-care, and it is self-compassion. Self-compassion includes having a clear non-judgemental awareness of your needs and having the courage, kindness and love to meet those needs, including asking for support when needed.
In summary, I try to think of self-care as an ongoing process of self-compassion and way of life, and not a list of activities to check off.
(And for the record, self-care (redefined) and self-compassion are not selfish; rather, they are essential so you have the inner resources available when required to care for and serve others).
Stay tuned for more on self-compassion and check out Neff & Germer’s research!
**This post has been inspired by the research, reflection and writing I’ve been doing for the upcoming textbook I am co-editing and co-authoring with Neil Pearson and Marlysa Sullivan, along with numerous contributors:
“Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain”
Singing Dragon Publishers