The term ‘self care’ can conjure up all sorts of images that can feel irrelevant to the life of a busy human, a cash strapped human, a human with a hectic lifestyle that involves two jobs, two kids and an ageing parent. It can smack of luxury, middle class indulgence and spa days.
The truth is that ‘self care’ as a term is simply manufactured by people who want to make a huge amount of money out of you. They will pray on your fears, tell you ‘you’re worth it’ and then ask you for your credit card.
But what if you understood self care as the necessity that it is? And that actually it is something that you’re body requires in order to operate at it’s optimum level AND that there are things you can do that require few resources. What if you understood a little bit about Biology and had the tools to know when you needed to look after yourself or know in advance that your body was going to start ‘acting up’?
Let’s break this down. The first step to really managing your body is self knowledge. There are two pieces of knowledge you need.
The first piece of knowledge we need is about what things will cause harm to your body’s well state. So this is the stuff we can learn from educational research. Most people understand that smoking, drinking beyond moderation, eating high fat/high sugar/high salt foods has an impact on us. That doing these things can be a precursor, depending on our DNA, and risk/protective factors, to diabetes, heart disease, addiction, obesity.
The second piece of knowledge we need is having awareness of when something doesn’t feel right. This is actually the hardest one. I’m not sure exactly why it is such a challenge to be in touch with your body, but I suspect it is a heady mix of busyness, denial and normalising sensation; these are probably in there somewhere. BUT if we don’t know how we feel, it can be a mighty challenge to observe when something might not be right. Am I sleeping more/less? Am I eating more/less? Am I more tired? I’m feeling more/less anxious. These are reflections that require us to pause in order that we can think about them.
So imagine that self care was the knowledge of what is potentially harmful coupled with not doing those harmful things while simultaneously learning about the sensations in your body that might alert you when it was time to rest. If you want to move on to an advanced level, then it’s all of those things but then not waiting for the sensations that tell you that you need to SELF CARE. Just doing them daily to maintain balance and homeostasis.
That is about it! The body is designed to work at it’s best when it has time to rejuvenate and recover. If you work around trauma and/or you have experienced trauma yourself then your self care is even more vital as your system has been placed under enormous pressure and needs strengthening which for the purpose of this conversation, I’m going to call ‘recovery’.
So you see, it’s not all about spa days at all. It’s not a luxury. It’s a real thing. How do you give you that yourself? How does the organisation you work for enable you to do this? Do your relationships support the body’s need to rejuvenate? Thinking more broadly, how does the political system we live in understand the needs of it’s citizens and ensure they have enough resources to look after the mind/body? Hmm…. now that’s another blog post!
My top ten self care practices can be found here.