On July 24th, we are celebrating International Self-Care Day and it’s a good time to be reminded of importance of it. Self-Care is a lifelong habit of practicing individual ways of looking after one’s health in collaboration with health and social care professionals if it is needed.
Some of the main things that come to my mind when I think of self-care are: going to a spa, treating myself to a new haircut or spending money on luxury items. I may be rewarding myself with another pair of shoes or full body massage. Sometimes self-care is viewed as indulgence, but it’s important to refrain from judging ourselves or others, because we all have unique approach to self-care.
Some things are obvious when it comes to self-care, we don’t need to be reminded of washing our faces in the morning or brushing our teeth, but going outside and spending time in nature, practicing meditation are also part of the basic routine practice, that many of us may be neglecting.
For a simple reminder, here are just simple, basic ideas:
- Drink plenty of water daily
- Clean/tidy your space
- Write something positive or do a sketch
- Reconnect with someone
- Do the thing you have been putting off for a long time
- Get enough of sleep
- Move your body daily
- Set boundaries with toxic people
- Stop people pleasing, practice saying ‘no’
- Meditate and journal regularly
- Be compassionate with yourself and others
- Do annual medical checkup with your doctor
We practice many of these great examples without even thinking twice about them, but there may be areas we struggle with. For me personally, I feel I need to be spending more time unwinding, relaxing, doing nothing, and less on pursuing projects. After all we are human beings and not human doings.
What is wrong with doing nothing? Sitting on a couch and just looking into the distance, doing some daydreaming? I know many of us may feel such guilt at a thought of it, but doing nothing is actually doing something great for yourself. It’s when we relax our bodies and turn off the brain and allow ourselves to drift into other state of mind, when we are at ease despite dirty dishes calling us from the sink, unsolved life puzzles trying to get our attention. It’s when I take that moment for myself, I may even enjoy cleaning my kitchen counter half an hour later, while I create from that space of relaxation, great solution to life puzzle may show up in my mind out of nowhere. Doing laundry won’t even feel like a chore, but a ritual of washing my clothes, sorting out my closet, getting organized. Getting up and moving my body, doing these things, energize me.
Since pandemic started in March 2020, we had adjusted our lives to new normal in the last 19 months. We learned great ways of practicing social distancing while staying connected with each other. All zoom meetings, attending online social events, virtual travels to favourite destinations and even virtual concerts with your beloved musician soon will become a distant past.
Since the second vaccine roll-out already taking place in many places in Canada, we soon will be facing returning to our “old” but less familiar routine. We are not the same individuals since pandemic started and the pre-pandemic lifestyle is a foreign territory now. Let’s take a look at some areas that may be challenging to many of us and will call for some self-care preparation.
- Sleep. Let’s face it. Some of us may have accustomed to roll out of bed right into a Skype meeting with Assistant Deputy Minister or another Executive of our organization, still wearing fancy or less fancy pyjamas, undone hair and yawning into a computer screen, brewing your magic drink in the background. I know I am guilty of it, but I did try to work on my sleep routine during pandemic. At the beginning of it, I managed to go to bed early, and during the day, I would actually put a make up on, fresh clothes and fancy shoes. But who am I fooling here? The longer the pandemic lasted, the pendulum swung into the opposite direction. Bye, bye going to bed early, who needs make up or fresh clothes if the only person I am going to meet that day is me, myself and I. Lights out past witching hour became more frequent. Zombie emerged from me each morning, dragging myself out of bed to turn my computer on just on time for meeting our leadership and waiting impatiently for my java, like a fresh blood supply.
- Doing Laundry. I recall talking to my co-worker on Skype, discussing our new life-style during pandemic and she expressed how much she loved working from home, and how she could do her laundry on her break or lunch hour. While I admired her dedication to housekeeping during her breaks, I don’t do any chores on my breaks. In addition, during pandemic I let my laundry to pile up. I don’t have to be anywhere or see anyone, so I don’t fuss with washing my clothes on my breaks. Coffee breaks are sacred to me. Whether you love doing laundry during coffee breaks or let it pile up, like me, both of us will soon have to adjust to a new world order, return to the office
- Napping on my couch or dancing during the break time. This is just another nice reality that comes with working from home. On a long, rainy fall or winter day, one can just cozy up on a couch in a living room. Close one’s eye’s and drift off. On other occasions, I love to put music on, and get my hips moving to my favourite music “Ride it” by Regard, and dance silly like no one is watching. Both of these activities would not be appropriate in the workplace. I am just trying to picture the scene in my mind, sitting in front of my computer screen at work while dozing off or moving my limbs wildly. Pause. Hmm, no. It would be just plain weird. The solution? May have to consider quick, brisk walk around the block to get some fresh air, to feel more energized.
- How about folks who worked at their place of employment, in offices, grocery stores, pharmacies during pandemic? What are you looking forward to or what are you dreading in our post-pandemic life?
I think many of us feel anxious about post-pandemic return to “normal”. We have been wanting to go back to things we have done in the past, like meeting a person for lunch, do our favourite yoga class in person, attend Sunday matinee with other strange souls occupying the same space with us. Until now, we have been told we were safe in our bubble, with our person, even though this may be farther from the truth. We feared being next to the person we didn’t know. So despite being fully vaccinated, it will take long time for our brain to adjust to another, unfamiliar territory, post-COVID reality. Many of us will not feel safe despite full vaccination. In the last year, we could not enter any indoor facility without a mask, it will take long time for our brain to adjust to another, unfamiliar territory, and learn how to navigate it. We still don’t know what’s considered safe in the post-COVID world.
So, how do we take care of our anxiety? It seems like no matter where we are, pre-pandemic, pandemic or post-pandemic, anxiety is our old, lousy friend. I am not a psychologist to give anyone an advice, but I know few things, including what to do when my computer is not co-operating with me. I then hit restart and it works every single time. So, one thing I know it helps with dealing with anxieties is physical activity. I have written previously a blog on the joy of movement and mentioned a book titled exactly that, “Joy of Movement” by Kelly McGonigal, which I wholeheartedly recommend.
McGonigal, who also suffered from anxiety and depression, writes that exercises produces certain bliss and it can be experienced after significant effort of physical activity. Heafele, the accountant mentioned in her book, describes how she feels after vigorous exercise: “After a race, I’m in love with everybody, and sometimes it lasts the whole day. The person who’s selling me a coffee at the convenience store on the way home, I’m like, ‘I love that guy.’ I’ve never done ecstasy, but that’s how I imagine it is: All’s well with the world, everybody’s wonderful. If all you have to do is run thirteen miles to get that, it’s so worth it.”
Ultimately, self-care is about creating more happiness in our lives. Feel free to share in the comments below about your ideas of self-care. What do you love to do to invite magic into your life? Has pandemic made you more aware of the importance of self-care? Are you looking forward to post-pandemic life or are you dreading it? I look forward to hearing from you.