Short- and Long-term Self Care
The online focus on self care is everywhere. You can find a million memes and quotes, a lot of advice and more than a few, rather pricey online courses, all telling you the how's, why's and wonderful benefits of engaging in regular self care.
Here's a few things I've learned about self care in my 40-something years:
You've gotta know why you're doing self care
If you haven't seen the problem areas, how can you know how to treat them?
Before assuming that a given form of self care is going to work for you, start by spending a self care session just sitting still, feeling how you feel (physically and emotionally). Tired? Sore? Sick? Lonely? Scared? Lost?
Defining the real problems your Self is dealing with helps you determine what to do next.
Short-term self care first (but don't stop there)
Most self care suggestions you'll come across on the internet are what I call short-term self care. They're acts designed to give you a small boost of self care to feel better in the moment.
And those are important! They do matter and they do make a difference.
In this category you might find:
a long bath
a sleep in
getting your hair washed and dried for no reason
going for brunch on a week day
having a wine with dinner
buying a fancy new pair of shoes
There's a million different choices, and what works for you is unique to you. Make sure you choose something that truly will make you feel better - a glass of wine might help but more isn't necessary going to continue to feel better.
If you find that you are reaching for short term self care acts daily, or several times a day, you're probably in need of a bigger self care picture.
Caring for your Self, long-term - the keys to the kingdom
The real self care that we all require is the kind that cares enough to begin changing the way we live, the choices we make and the life we're creating for ourselves. It cares enough to love ourselves, to make life choices that support our core desires and yearnings for life.
The woman who's self care extends to choosing movement and food and other physical health choices that create ease and health in her body is doing long-term self care.
The woman who does the work on her thinking, who puts aside self criticism and judgement, then puts aside judgement of others, who questions her thinking to free herself from beliefs and thoughts that no longer serve her true self's expression - she's a woman doing long-term self care.
The woman who recognises her emotions exist to be felt, to be honoured and to be moved through, gets long-term self care. She doesn't push feelings away, doesn't avoid feelings, doesn't deny them. She seeks therapy and help to unpack the hurts of childhood so that she can truly grow up and move on. She owns her feelings and listens to the parts of herself feeling them. She cares for those parts. Heals those parts. That's long-term self care.
And the woman who takes the time to develop practices that connect her to her deep self, and to her higher power, is practicing long-term self care. She seeks guidance for her life choices from the divine within. She allows herself the freedom and joy of believing she's got a purpose for existing, and she leans in to it, hearing what it's calling her to and then following that call. This is long-term self care.
How to start with long-term self care
Find some daily long-term self care practices that work for you
A few daily practices that really help begin the journey of the deeper work of long-term self care include meditation, visualisations, journaling, being in nature, turning off the phone/laptop/tv and only being IRL (that's In Real Life, for those not up on their texting acronyms). Simple, short, daily time spent disconnecting from our distractions, being alone with ourselves and allowing ourselves to listen, feel, release and connect will begin to open us up further.
Spend time asking yourself these questions
Asking yourself some self-care centred questions regularly can begin to open up your connection to your deeper self and help you identify the bigger life choices you need to make to really deliver a longer term self care.
How am I feeling today?
What does my body really want to do today?
What would it feel like to be well right now?
What would it feel like to be happy right now?
What would it feel like to have no suffering right now?
How can I help my body relax right now?
What would increase my sense of expansion today?
How can I bring more ease into what I'm doing now?
These kinds of questions help us access our deeper self's yearnings and needs. Listen to what comes up. Do what comes up. Give yourself the self care gift of wellness, happiness, less suffering, relaxation, expansion and ease.
Be Open to Learning that your Current Life Isn't Working for You
The hardest part about true, long-term self care is that it almost always means taking a long, hard look at where our life choices have gotten us to this point, and what needs to change. This can mean changing any and every thing. Maybe your job isn't right any more, maybe where you live isn't working for you, perhaps your relationships need to change, it may be time to set boundaries, change recreational activities, watch/read/listen to different things, consume different foods & drinks, do different exercise, change spending, sleeping, working habits...the list is endless.
So much change can seem overwhelming and almost always feels scary. Take it slowly, and do the earlier suggestions first. Don't make big life decisions till you're really sure it's the right thing. How do you know it's the right thing? Despite the fear and overwhelm, there's an undeniable, strong and growing yearning for it.
And feeding that yearning always feels peaceful, joyful and "right", even if it's hard, sad, lonely or unknown in the short term.