Long before Britney Spears read her emotional testimony to a Los Angeles court, self-care was the new buzzword. So, what is self-care and how do we practise it?
Literally, self-care is caring for oneself. It's making yourself a priority and looking after your body, mind and soul, however that looks to you. Although not limited to women, it's another phrase that women are expounding en masse online and in female-focused media.
New Zealand women are notoriously poor at self-care. We have an incredible ability to get s**t done, even when we don't know how to do it. We move through life with a mix of humility, stoicism and feeling. However, most women put themselves at the bottom of the list. We come after our kids, husbands, jobs, pets and wider families. We struggle to say "No", we are serial sorry-sayers and we are people pleasers. In short, we suck at self-care.
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As it's an "each to their own" situation, self-care often includes practices to enhance our physical appearance, and I'm guilty of this, but it is so much more than that. True self-care goes beyond the physical and beyond the commercial. Unfortunately, self-care is so encompassing that once again the catchphrase has been co-opted by big business, in the same way that wellness and wellbeing have. There is money in self-care, and don't they know it.
Why is it that we take care of others by giving them what they need to feel good, but we ignore ourselves? When our kids are exhausted, we remove things from after-school schedules to relieve the pressure. If our friends are overloaded, we drop in a home-cooked meal. We remove devices from teenagers at night so they sleep better. Self-care is looking after yourself as well, or nearly as well, as you look after others. There is nothing selfish about it.
In a marked increase since Covid-19, women have signed up to meditation, yoga and Pilates apps and loungewear by the millions. We have embraced soft bralettes, crop tops and clothes that are comfortable to wear. We drink juice and green powder smoothies with collagen. Women without kids enjoy elaborate nightly bathtime rituals.
While these are all valid examples of self-care, you could argue that when combined with nails, hair, skin, workouts and so on, this form of self-care exponentially adds to the pressure that women feel to present the best version of themselves at all times, as physically perfect as we can possibly be. When this is the case, self-care is another bloody job.
A holistic approach to self-care can mean turning off the noise, making yourself unavailable for a little while, switching the phone to silent for a bit each day or each week. Creating and then respecting your own boundaries. Saying "no" to events or requests that drain what energy you have (difficult when you have a "yes" partner like mine).
Create a schedule for your day that works for you, time block and avoid empty distractions that mean you're on the emails again late at night when you could be doing something that decreases your adrenalin. In most cases, things can wait until the morning. Get into breathing exercises in the car. Create a space at work or home that will engage and inspire you. If you can, schedule meeting-free or appointment-free days to complete tasks without distraction. Eat at least one nutritionally sound meal each day. We'd expect nothing less from others we care about.
It may be a poncy term, but there is nothing pretentious, selfish or wrong about true self-care. It's here to stay.