If you look at trending personal growth hashtags you will see:
Photos that include #selfcare on Instagram are often of people getting massages, sitting in a yoga pose or staring at a beautiful nature scene with sun shining down, kissing their face with a warm glow. However, self-care is not a new concept, and it certainly is not only inclusive of days at the spa, bubble baths and going on a nature hike alone.
“History of Self-Care…”
Prior to the 20th century, self-care was seen within the societal expectations highly linked with affluence and privilege. In some cases, standards such as hygiene, diet, clothing and education were forced on others through colonialism of Western society. One of the first self-care/self-help books was published in 1859 by Samuel Smiles, simply titled, “Self-Help”.
In the early 20th century, self-care was used predominately by physicians on their patients who were mentally or chronically ill. The notion was that teaching these patients to foster healthy habits would offer a sense of autonomy over their heavily regulated lives.
In the 80’s Tony Robbins began marketing himself as a peak performance coach and motivational speaker offering presentations with “self-help” and “positive thinking” themes. As a society we began to measure our “self-care” with words like, productivity, efficiency and work-life balance.
In the 90’s we were introduced to Chicken Soup for the Soul. If you aren’t familiar with these series of books, they offer inspirational true stories of normal people lives’ and the ability those stories have on changing other’s perspective on certain topics.
In the last 5 years, the term “self-care” has been seen on social media, websites, magazines, podcasts and blogs developing guides and providing tips on the best ways to practice it. They tell us it is ok to take time and care for yourself before caring for the rest of the world. They share self-care tips such as:
- Get a massage
- Say no more
- Get outside more
- Get more organized at home
- Unplug from social media
- The list goes on….
These viewpoints are telling us that taking the time to take care of ourselves is vital, especially if you want to take care of anyone and anything else. But missing from these narratives is information about including others in your self-care practices or the fact that some people get anxious when they are trying to follow the top 10 list of things that are “traditionally” seen as self-care, because they don’t seem natural or stress relieving for them.
So, what really is this word and this concept that have been around so long, yet has a trending hashtag these days?
Self-care is not something you can just go purchase at a store; it includes a variety of activities tailored for each one of us. True self-care is figuring out what resonates with you, honoring what your needs are and working on those needs within your boundaries.
There also is nothing that says self-care must be done all alone. Sure, self-care is about yourself, but friends can be a huge part of your self-care strategy.
“We usually think about self-care as alone time, but relationships play a huge part in our mental wellbeing,” says Lora DiFranco, creator of Self-Care Master Plan. “Partly in response to the digital age that we live in, people are looking for human connection. I’ve seen a big increase in structured friend time through book clubs, low-key dinner parties, and home spa nights.”
“Create Your Own Self-Care Recipe…”
Just as we get to create our own recipe for creating a fulfilled, happy, joyful life that we don’t want to escape from [but one that also prepares us for the bumps in the road]; you also get to create your own recipe for self-care.
That is why there are a million different books, blogs, and podcasts on how to practice self-care. They are tools that offer tips and suggestions and allow you to pick and choose what works for you.
- If massages make you anxious, don’t get them.
- If you are allergic to every tree in nature and hiking makes you break out in hives, don’t hike.
- If you start a gratitude journal and realize you keep making a grocery list, then put the pen down.
- If you tried meditating and every time you say “Om” you immediately hear Cookie Monster saying, “Om nom nom nom nom”, maybe skip the meditation.
Find things that work for you. If you are searching the internet for tips and after trying them you are more anxious, stop doing them.
Self-care is not about self-improvement, it is not about “fixing” yourself because you are broken. It is more about taking care of yourself in whatever way feels right to you. Doing things that evoke a sense of peace inside of you. Things that “re-set” you in a sense, helping you to feel more joyful about your life as a whole.
I’m not going to provide you with the “Top 10 Ways You Should Practice Self-Care”, because my list would be my personal self-care recipe and would not benefit you, you need to create your own. Try things, explore, test out new ways, but don’t forget that sometimes self-care can be as simple as taking 3 deep breaths when you are stressed.
To state it as short and sweet as I can, self-care is you creating your recipe of taking care of yourself in a way that preserves and improves your own mental, physical and spiritual health. That is it!
Remember, You Got This!