In case you didn’t know, July is Self-Care month (so is September) and today (Wednesday, July 24) is the official International Self-Care Day.
This doesn’t mean that we should not be engaging in daily self-care, but if you ever felt like you needed permission to indulge in caring for the most important person in your life (YOU), then this is the month to have at it!
Self-care requires us to be aware, acknowledge and apply that which makes us look and feel good from the inside out.
I’m not talking about indulging in all the sweet and fatty foods that we want, truth is, that doesn’t leave you feeling very good afterwards, does it? I’m not talking about punching mean co-workers in the face either, again, actions like that leave pain for you and for someone the other person.
I’m talking about those things that make you grin from your toes to the top of the head. The things that you know are the right thing to do at every moment of the day.
Here is the best way I know to illustrate self-care:
Think of someone in your life who is very important to you. What does it look like when you show care for them? How does it feel after you’ve done something caring for them? That is self-care.
In a lot of cases, we tend to show more care for others than we do for ourselves and in some cases (caring for your parents or children) that’s ok, but even then, we are expected to be mindful of our own care.
Self-care is what enables and empowers us to properly care for others and if we want to do a good job of caring for those who are important to us, there are a few keys we need to keep in mind about caring for ourselves.
I start with the spiritual because I am a woman of God and I couldn’t bring the full authenticity to this article if I didn’t talk about my own primary means of self-care, that not only brings me joy but also aligns all other aspects of my life.
My faith is the area that reminds me about who I am and what makes me deserving of self-care. Spending quiet time alone in prayer and devotion to God brings me so much perspective and clarity that I can’t help but to always be mindful about what’s important.
Some of you may also meditate which is 100% a big contributor to your overall self-care. I meditate on God’s Word and study His principles and draw meaning, substance and life advice from His teachings. It’s the greatest gift to my spiritual growth and the number one way in which I care for my self. I abide in Him and He abides in me. (John 15:4)
Fitness & Nutrition
In 2017, I decided to reset my life with God as the foundation and fitness and nutrition as the building blocks. It became my way of honouring God and showing my gratitude to Jesus for the work He did for me on the cross, but it was also a way for me to care for my body and give it what it needs to carry me through the rest of this life.
Caring for myself through fitness and nutrition meant that I would experience that ‘feel good’ feeling and have a sense of accomplishment when I knew I was doing the right things.
Rest & Recovery
A lot of people take rest for granted, so don’t feel alone. I used to live off of only a few hours sleep and that was mainly because I was so in love with my work that I didn’t even feel the need for rest until the days when I was literally burned out.
The body needs rest to be able to heal properly and also to recharge your batteries for the next lap of whatever you have going on in life, whether it’s raising children, running a business or preparing for your next big life transition.
The brain is a muscle that needs both exercise and rest like any other muscle in the body, so how do we give our brains the exercise that it needs? It’s simple, exercise. That’s right, exercise is exercise, no matter what part of the body you’re moving or not moving.
In the Quartzy article on The Best Types of Exercise for Brain Health, Andrew Merle talks to Dr. John Ratey who says: “The best exercise is something that you enjoy, with someone, done outside, in nature, and something that you’ll come back to,” Ratey continues to share that the ideal exercise is something that will get your heart rate up and force you to use your brain. He adds that; “You have to pay attention when you’re outside, which is why a trail run is much better than running on the treadmill, for example.”
Dr. Ratey’s top exercise suggestions are dancing (my personal favourite), as well as diet and making social connections. But you should do your own research to determine what types of brain exercises work for you.
Overcome Guilt & Shame Through Forgiveness
Nothing can rob your joy more than feelings of guilt and shame. What makes these feeling so harmful is that it’s directed to us, by us. It’s a dark grey cloud that we hold up over our own heads causing us to feel bad about a situation that usually cannot be changed.
I beg you, find it in your heart to forgive yourself. Acknowledge what happened; acknowledge that you’re only human; acknowledge that we’re meant to make mistakes and then acknowledge that you deserve forgiveness because you do.
The mistakes we make are meant to grow and shape us, not keep us down. I tend to go into my room and pray and ask for God’s forgiveness and it opens the way for me to forgive myself.
If you are the one holding the cards of forgiveness over someone else’s head, that is also a form of hurting yourself because you’re holding onto negative feelings in an effort to maintain your stance of unforgiveness and you likely have hopes that you’re hurting the other person, but you’re not. Learn to let go and let God and move on to the next lesson aka mistake.
Love & Kindness
Sometimes forgiving yourself starts with focusing on showing yourself love and kindness despite your mistakes. Maybe you messed up yesterday, but today, you can do something nice like buy or make yourself a great dinner, treat yourself to a movie or you can do something nice for someone else, even if it’s as small as complementing what they’re wearing; we all know that a little goes a long way and we all know how good we feel when we can put a smile on someone else’s face.
Maybe you can’t wrap your mind around forgiving yourself, so that’s when you use some action like repeating positive affirmations in the mirror, hugging yourself or buying yourself a small gift. Taking action often brings the feelings and motivation to go with it.
Overall, the best way to practice better self-care is to remember that you are worthy, you come first and to make it mandatory. Forgoing self-care is not an option. During her talk at the Essence Music Festival, Michelle Obama said: “I always try to remember that I’ll be the best me I can be if I prioritize myself,” she said. “For me, getting the right exercise and sleep and time to recharge, it’s not an option, especially when I’m responding to pressure.”
Happy Self-Care Day!