It took me a while to learn the difference between self care and being selfish, but as I got older and wiser, I became a firm believer in self care. The confusion that I experienced in trying to identify one from the other stemmed from observing the generation of women before me who lived by a silent code of self sacrifice.
I am fully aware that I have directly benefited from each and every single sacrifice made for me, but I also remember wishing that they would treat themselves more often, but those were very rare occasions. After seeing the negative effects that resulted from this lifestyle of self sacrifice in their lives and ultimately their health, I decided to steer myself off the beaten path and live a life governed by the philosophy of 'putting on my oxygen mask first'.
After personally experiencing multiple burnouts and ridiculously high stress levels while trying to be everything to everyone, the first thing to suffer was my mental health quickly followed by my physical health. The best yet harshest of teachers, experience, taught me that it is indeed difficult and draining to pour from an empty cup.
Please know that self-care is not reserved for Sundays, but should ideally be a spice that is sprinkled into your daily routine. This is not to say that self-care Sundays aren't important, because for some of you, it can be the one day that you have to a little time to yourself. Below are a few tools you can use to get your self-care journey started, or jump start it if you fell of the wagon. You don't have to try everything on this list, but at least try one thing, until you're able to do more. I myself have tried some of these with pretty good results and I intend to try the rest!
This is something that is easier said than done in my opinion, but it does get better with practice. Start off with ten minutes of quiet time preferably in the morning period, so that you can set the tone for your day.
Quiet time may be in short supply in your household because of your current living arrangement, but make that extra effort to wake up ten minutes earlier than everyone else and try to clear your mind for at least five minutes each morning. YouTube does have guided meditation videos that can help you get started if you're a beginner.
There are millions of books with a variety of genres, so if you're a bookworm like me, you should find a book to suit your taste.
Reading is an activity that has many benefits which can include helping reset your mind and habits, immersing you in a completely different world temporarily or helping you on your spiritual journey. Ths activity can done an hour before your bedtime to help you go to sleep. One important tip to note, is if you're using a smartphone or tablet, turn on the blue shade option and turn your device on 'Do Not Disturb' to prevent distractions while reading. I'm currently re-reading 'The Year of Yes' by Shonda Rhimes. It's a few years old, but the message is timeless!
This can be incorporated into any of the other activities to further calm your nerves. Scents such as lemon, lavender and jasmine are really good for calming stress and anxiety and can be used at the end of the day before bed to help you unwind.
Rosemary, cinnamon and peppermint help with mental fatigue, gives you clarity and helps you to focus. These three are perfect to use during the days that you're working from home or during intense study sessions.
Unbox those scented candles that you got as present last Christmas and light them, or pull out that essential oil diffuser that has been sitting on your dresser and finally put it to good use.
Keeping active and getting your blood flowing is helpful, not only because of the weight loss benefits (and I know a lot of you are currently trying new recipes), but it also helps with stress relief.
YouTube and Instagram are full of workout videos for every fitness level and even offers short targeted videos if you are pressed for time.
Make good use of those dumbbells, resistance bands or exercise equipment that you purchased ages ago. Dust them off and pick them up from that forgotten corner of your house.
It can be tough to carve out time in your busy schedule to pamper yourself, especially when you're trying to balance work, family and sometimes school life. However, you can't really give of your time and yourself to help everyone else if you're stressed, sick or burnt out.
While pampering yourself daily is nearly impossible, schedule an intentional weekly or fortnightly pamper session. Start off small by doing one thing at a time and you can include other things as you go along. For example, you can start off by simply painting your nails or soaking your feet in warm water.(especially if you stand for most of the day). Once you're able to do more, you can make your Sunday evening baths a spa like experience by lighting your scented candles and listening to some soothing music while you bathe.
Find a Hobby
As children, most of you had hobbies or a past time that you enjoyed. As most of us enter adulthood, hobbies became less and less of a priority until it was eventually phased out of your life.
Schedule time to revisit your childhood hobby to see if it's something that still brings you joy, or try something new that's fun. For some of you drawing was something you enjoyed, if so, purchase a sketch pad and start drawing some simple sketches. YouTube is a great resource for almost any hobby, since there are dance, sewing, craft and even drawing tutorials available for all skill levels. When starting your hobby, try not to dwell on achieving perfection, because it will defeat the purpose and just make you frustrated and even more stressed.
Filter out the Negative
The practice of filtering negative influences from your life is an often overlooked part of self-care. Sometimes we indulge in practices that don't make us feel good or better about ourselves, in fact, it does the opposite.
I personally, limit my consumption of daily news because it is most times mainly bad news day after day. I usually try to read or listen to books or podcasts that give me a daily dose of positivity.
One way you can filter negativity is by removing yourself from WhatsApp or Facebook groups that have a negative undertone. Sometimes seeing certain messages or posts can inadvertently cause a dent in your positive mood/mindset.
Remember that self care is not a one size fits all affair and that what may work for someone else may not work for you. You may prefer going to the movies, having your hair professionally done or going to brunch with your girlfriends, however, the most important thing is to do what makes you happy. Ask yourself this question, if you don't prioritize taking care of yourself, who will?