Self-care is a big topic online these days, but what is self-care, really? And why is it important? Find out the truth and why you need to make it priority.

 Self-care is a big topic online these days, but what is self-care, really? And why is it important? Find out the truth and why you need to make it priority.

Self-care is a buzz word (and has been for awhile now). A lot of us feel like we know what self-care is. The hard part is actually finding the time to do it.

But do we really know what self-care is? In the chaos of our lives and lack of time to actually practice self-care, have we ever stopped the think about what it actually means and how to implement it in our lives personally?

I know I hadn’t. So I decided to change that.

So What is Self-Care, Really?

At its very basic definition, self-care is to take care of oneself. Obviously.

But what does that really mean?

I think when a lot of us moms think of self-care, we think about the things we don’t really get to do, but that make us happy. Things like painting our nails or watching The Bachelor or hiding in the closet eating a secret stash of chocolate.

And while those might be forms of self-care, they might actually be the opposite of self-care.

The practice of self-care is actually related to our health–physical, mental, emotional. Self-care is so much more than getting a pedicure or taking a bath. Self-care is about giving our bodies what they need to thrive.

When we look at self-care this way, it can (and does) include things like:

  • Eating a salad
  • Taking vitamins
  • Admitting we made a mistake
  • Crossing that to-do off our list we’ve been avoiding for months
  • Regularly going to the doctor
  • Going to bed early
  • Forgiving someone who hurt us
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Talking with a therapist
  • Asking for help
  • Getting to the gym
  • Cleaning the house

Does this mean that taking a bath or painting our nails isn’t self-care? No. Sometimes what we really need is a nice relaxing bath. Getting a manicure can give us the rejuvenation we need to get through a hard week. Going out with friends for ice cream can give us the connection we need to nourish our emotional well-being. These can all be forms of self-care. But they are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Important Distinction

The important thing is to evaluate WHY we’re doing what we’re doing, and if we’re using the label of self-care to justify it. Is stuffing our face with chocolate in our closet while our kids scream to be let in on the other side really a form of self-care? Maybe, but probably not. But eating a square of chocolate on the back porch while watching the sunset and journaling about our day? Now that sounds like the perfect way to give our minds a real break from the kids and nourish our mental health.

So when we engage in one of these activities, we should think about why we’re doing it. Listen to our bodies. What do they need? What would uplift them? What will make us feel a little bit stronger–physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually– and better equipped to keep going on this tough journey of motherhood? The answer to those questions will lead us to true self-care.

Self-care isn’t avoiding doing the hard things. It’s doing the hard things even though it takes all our strength, because we know it’ll make us better in the long run. Self-care ins’t all fun and games. Self-care is doing the work so we have time for fun and games. Self-care isn’t an escape from our lives. It’s creating a life we don’t need to escape from.

Why Self-Care is Not Only Important, But Necessary

Okay, so now that we know what self-care is (and what it isn’t), let’s talk for a second about why it’s important and debunk the myth that self-care is selfish.

Let’s take this back to the old airplane analogy about putting our own oxygen mask on before helping another. It’s a tough concept to swallow as a mom–the idea of getting your oxygen going before your kid’s. But when we really think about it, it makes sense–if we black out from lack of oxygen before we’re able to get our child’s mask on, then we’re both out of luck. But if we can get ours on first, then we have more time to secure our child’s and assist him as necessary throughout the rest of the ordeal.

Now let’s relate this to self-care. If we spend all our time caring for others–our children, our spouse, our neighbors–we’ll eventually wear ourselves down and won’t have anything left to give. Many of us have probably experienced this before–not getting enough sleep due to middle-of-the-night feedings, then crashing in the afternoon. Pushing ourselves until we make ourselves sick. Forgetting to eat because we’re rushing to and fro then feeling dizzy and lightheaded. It happens all too often.

So while the idea of self-care might appear selfish from the outside, it’s really the opposite. When we’re not taking adequate care of ourselves, we simply can’t take adequate care of others–at least not for long. But if we take the time to focus on our own health, we’re better equipped to give our everything to the ones we love.

Now for the challenge: set aside some time this week to spend an hour or so in a deliberate act of self-care. What does your body need from you? Figure it out, then schedule it in.

When was the last time you engaged in true self-care?

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