Bubble baths, days at the spa, retreat getaways to a tiny private island….this might be the kind of thing the words “self care” bring to mind. Maybe I’m going a bit overboard with the luxury vacay part, but you get the general idea. It’s all about “treat yo’self” this, and “YOLO – if it makes me happy!” that.
Wait, hold up.
The phrase “self care” has become a sort of buzzword lately, in self-help books, magazine covers, instagram hashtags. Somewhere along its journey into the everyday vocab, however, its meaning has gotten a little muddled. Often, the term is used to justify frivolity or self-indulgence. And while yeah, sometimes it is really nice to treat yourself to a spa facial or a fancy cupcake from that specialty bakery, a lot of the time, it’s a whole lot simpler and less shiny.
I think the truer meaning goes a lot deeper. Just like yoga is about tuning into your body and listening to what it needs out of a practice, self care is about turning to your heart and soul, and finding what they need. Some days, as much as you’d like to power through at full-power, your body needs a break, and (hopefully) you honour that with a slower, gentler yoga flow. Other days, you’re craving a good workout, and listening to your body means pushing yourself that little bit extra. Similarly, practicing self care is going to look different depending on what exactly your heart’s in need of.
Some days, it could be the more typical, “treat yourself” type of thing – stopping to pick up your favorite latte on the way to work in the morning, or painting your nails a new, peppy color when you’re in need of a pick-me-up. Others, it’s simpler – picking up the phone to call a dear friend when you’re in need of a laugh. Curling up on the couch with a coffee, a good book, and your sweet lil kitty cat. And some days, self care is going to look pretty damn boring. On days when you’re feeling your very worst, self care might mean pushing yourself a bit. Sometimes just kicking your ass outta bed to get a shower counts as taking care of yourself. Because as ho-hum as that sounds, as much as you may not want to do it, as much as it seems lightyears away from the fancy himalayan salt bath all the wellness magazines are raving about – you’re still going to feel better for doing it for yourself.
Like a lot of people who live in this kind of climate, I struggle with seasonal affective disorder. Or, more truthfully I guess, I struggle with straight-up depression, and cold, gloomy weather just kicks it up a notch.
To put it bluntly, the weather here lately has been the shits. Cold, dark, rainy days with temperatures in the single digits – and it’s the end of JUNE! On the third consecutive day of rain recently, I was waaaay down in the dumps. I spent most of the day wrapped in a big ugly shawl, mindlessly watching tv, and dreading having to go teach my yoga class at 7:00. Leaving the house, and seeing people, and talking to people(!!!) all just sounded toooo hard, and staying home at my own pity party felt like the much better alternative. If I was honest with myself at all, though, I knew the difference.
Anyway, by six-thirty I still hadn’t come up with a decent excuse for cancelling the class (not that I could have, at that last-minute, without absolutely dying of guilt), so I got ready and headed to the studio. Turn on the tinkly lights, turn on the soothing music, turn on the good-yogi smile. Fake it til you shake it, and all that good stuff, right?
But I didn’t actually need to fake it for long. Soon my personal raincloud lifted and I felt more like myself. Getting out of the house, and doing yoga, and seeing my lovely yogi students was just what my soul needed. Although earlier in the day I would have said it was the last thing I wanted to do, teaching that class was the self care I needed to do.
And that’s where it’s tricky sometimes. You really need to turn inward and be honest with yourself. What’s going to make you happier? What is your heart asking for? As simple or as silly or as “extra” as it may seem, you’ve got to listen to it. No one’s gonna know what you need better than you do.
So even if seeing the words “self care” being used to sell some overpriced luxury weekend retreat makes you roll your eyes, don’t write off the concept completely. Taking care of yourself is important, no matter what that looks like on any given day! Whether it’s easy and appealing, like a hot, vanilla-scented bubblebath, or not-so-fun, like going for a walk and some fresh air when you’d much rather stay in pajamas – do it! Ultimately, you’ll feel better for it. Your heart needs these little acts of love.
And if your idea of self care just happens to sound a lot like a luxury weekend retreat once in a while? No shame! Your soul needs that kind of pampering sometimes too 😉
Listen to your heart
Take care of yourself, friends
Mai pen rai