Do you think of self-care as a reward or a requirement? Do you put off taking care of yourself and your needs until everything on the to-do list is done and then “treat” yourself? Or do you start with taking time to care for yourself before tackling everything that needs to get done? For many people it’s the former.
At this point in the pandemic (and third lockdown for my fellow Ontarians), I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and isolated. While self-care might be the furthest thing from our minds, I think it deserves some serious attention, now more than ever.
Self-care has been shown to improve our immunity, increase positive thinking and makes us less susceptible to stress, depression, anxiety, and other emotional health issues (1). You’ve probably heard the analogy of the oxygen mask on the airplane – we must take care of ourselves first before we can be of any use to others. How then, during these strange and stressful times, do we foster and maintain self-care as a priority – a requirement – when the reality is that our circumstances are often demanding, and we are forced to be disconnected from our in-person communities? I believe Dr. Gary Chapman’s 5 love languages can be applied into 5 languages for self-care or self-love in ways that are practical…and free!
In his book, “The 5 Love Languages”, Dr. Chapman describes our feelings like fuel gauges on a car. Positive emotions reflect a full tank and negative emotions indicate that your tank is on empty (or maybe you’re even running on fumes). Although Dr. Chapman focuses on the 5 ways others can express love to us and “fill our tank” I think these languages can be translated into self-love, or self-care, too. Rather than relying on others to have positive emotions, we can apply the 5 languages to ourselves and fill our own tanks.
What would the 5 languages of self-care look like? Here are some ideas:
Words of affirmation. So much of our self-talk is negative. To bring in more positivity, try writing or journaling with an intentional focus on giving yourself kind words instead. Write out letters to your past self to commend your skills, abilities, or accomplishments. Spend time in meditation, also with a focus on kind or grateful words to yourself or your body. The goal here is to really focus on being kind to yourself generously with words! The inner critic is not invited. Talk to yourself like you would to a close friend. You can also reflect on positive feedback or affirmation that you’ve received from others in the past that meant a lot.
Acts of service. I know it might seem a bit weird, but I think it’s possible to do acts of service for yourself. Instead of buying groceries and coming up with the weekly menu, order a food service box. Hire a housecleaner for a day (or permanently). Pre-set the coffee machine to be ready for you in the morning. Do a babysitting swap with the neighbours so that you can get some down time for free (the kids can play outside and socially-distanced). The goal here is to make life easier for yourself for a few moments or even a whole afternoon.
Physical touch. Again, I know it might seem a bit odd, but we need to give our self some physical love too. This could include things like going for walks, drinking lots of water and herbal tea, choosing fruits/veggies, or doing a cleanse. It can also be things like cuddling with a pet, wearing your comfiest clothes for the whole day (or week), napping, or going for a massage. The goal here is to express love to your body.
Gifts. This can be fun without being expensive. Maybe it’s hitting the drive-thru for your favourite drink at Starbucks or investing in a new pair of sunglasses. Do you like to bake or cook? Then make your favourite dinner or dessert. Do you like to make crafts or build things? Then knit yourself a scarf, make a scrapbook of your favourite family trip or head out to the workshop to build yourself a new coat rack. You might choose to indulge that little bit of extra spending money this month on a little something just for you. The goal here isn’t to spend a fortune, and certainly not to spend what you don’t have, but to intentionally make or buy yourself a little something that you wouldn’t normally do.
Quality time. As an introvert spending time alone, preferably in nature, is truly nurturing to my soul. A relaxing bath with candles and a good book is a close second. Extroverts, however, might need to make time for a virtual coffee with a close friend or take-out-dinner date night with their partner. Those with a spiritual or religious connection might choose to spend time in meditation or prayer. The goal here is to spend a designated amount of time how you want to spend it. Undistracted, un-rushed, and unapologetic amounts of time with/for yourself (see craft idea above with awesome by-product of a gift at the end). It really doesn’t matter what you do as long as the time is spent in ways that are only energizing for you, not draining or demanding.
We’re fourteen months into this pandemic and, realistically, we’ve still got a long way to go. In order to get through these stressful times, we must prioritize self-care. It’s not an indulgence, a luxury, or reward it’s a necessity!
So... what do you do for self-care? How are you going to prioritize yourself today and this week? We'd love to hear from you!
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(1) Nertney, Bibiana (2017). The Importance of Self Care. Retrieved Feb 11, 2021 from https://www.mycpid.com/importance-self-care/#:~:text=Practicing%20self%2Dcare%20not%20only,and%20other%20emotional%20health%20issues.