Self-care is on every lip lately. On social media as well as other digital platforms, the visual concept linked to this hashtag is dragging some attention. Good or bad, the opinions are conflicted on this very trendy topic so here are my "two cents" on the subject.
Although it may look glamorous, self-care remains a very vague concept. What does it really mean? What is required of me in order to care for myself?... So many questions ran through my head as my life was unhealthily spinning out of control for the past year; I really needed to figure this out.
While trying to wrap my head around ‘’self-caring’’, I couldn't help but notice, a perception often associated with an expensive lifestyle, not everybody can afford it. This superficial imagery of self-care, I am sure, is creating some frustrations as it seems unfair to the rest of the people who are not able to ‘’self-care’’ the way it is often portrayed.
Do not get me wrong, people are free to do what they want and call it ''self-care''. Maybe it is ‘’purgatory’’ to them in a way but self-care goes beyond the materialistic things. I believe self-care should involve activities that are positively impacting the body, the mind, and the soul, no matter what I choose to do.
I define ''self-care'' as a meeting with myself, a moment where I choose to focus on the positive, a zone free of anxiety & stress: a moment of physical, emotional, or mental rest. In the best of all possible worlds, self-care should be a daily practice, a routine that consists of a mix of satisfying activities and reflection. The short term goal is to forget about my "ninety problems" for a minute while the long term would be to focus on improving my mental and physical health. I am therefore careful not to create an unhealthy addiction while picking a ''self-care'' activity.
I also find that regularly practicing or doing something I am passionate about, nourishes my soul. For example, reading or listening to a motivational message keeps my mind on a positive tone so I try to incorporate Bible mediation and Praise&Worship in my daily routine. Once I am in sync from the inside, I am then able to make better choices to take care of my body. In this context, even doing nothing is still considered a self-care activity, as long as it participates in my well being.
That being said, a ''self-care'' activity does not necessarily rhyme with expenses. It could be as simple as reading a book, taking a nap, taking a walk, or could be a luxurious trip to your favorite place, going on an adventure … The sky is the limit! But if "self-caring" activities vary from one individual to another, one thing is for sure: self-care requires TIME. Whether it is five minutes, two hours, a whole day, or more... it is important to be able to focus on yourself and nothing else for a moment. That's when it becomes tricky for parents, single parents, or immigrant parents with young children.
As a single parent myself, I have learned to plan my time and efficiently utilize my resources to make it possible. Here are five tips I find helpful to practice ''self-care'' during this season of my life; raising a two-year-old ''busy'’ boy while working full time, volunteering, writing songs, and doing many other things.
- Create a "Self-care" place in your house. Although the ultimate goal is to have a ''me '' time every day. Let's be honest, it is not the case for all of us. I have days where I can’t even function properly. Times where my mind is focused on everybody and everything around but myself. So in order to be intentional about sparing some time to focus on my mental health, I have bought a nice chair, some pillows, and a dimmed light, to create a nice quiet place in my living room and bedroom. There, I can sit after I put my son to bed and try to relax by reading, meditating, writing a song... Usually, I will grab a cup of tea, a piece of cake, and just indulge. This place is just a reminder that I need to slow down my thinking process after a long day.
- Get your family members and friends involve ( if needed)! I talked about it in one of my previous posts, there is no shame to ask for help. Usually, I will ask a friend or family member to babysit, when my son is napping or sleeping so it’s not too much of a work. I can then utilize those couple of hours to care for myself and have my time alone.
- Find an activity that you and your children both enjoy doing. If it is hard to find someone to watch the kids for a couple of hours, you might as well find an activity that is also relaxing for you and the kids. I love swimming. Thankfully, my son loves that same activity. So we get to spend some time relaxing together in the pool. I know, it is defying the purpose of ''self-caring'' as you are not really focused on you but you get to at least, practice a sport you love and release some of that anxiety. Another idea would be to find a club which offers childcare services and voilà!
- Open a ''self-care'' piggy bank. Even if it is a dollar per week, please save up to allow yourself some well-deserved vacations or pay for a sitter or take yourself out on a date. Now, I said self-care does not necessarily involve spending money and it does not. But everybody likes a good treat and deserves a reward after some hard work. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed... Go for it! If it is not possible for now, think about your career in the long run or look for ideas to become financially flexible (a second job, side hustle...). It takes time but you can start building a better future for yourself and your family now.
- Live a purposeful life! This is probably the most important point and the hardest. When your soul is not at ease, caring for you can be quite challenging ... You can do things that will temporally satisfy you but never fill that void deep inside. This situation can allow unhealthy addictions to quickly settle in and affect your mental health. I find, doing something that fulfills me, to be one of the best mental health protectors because it brings such a sense of accomplishment and meaning to my life. Through sharing your passion in various ways or caring for someone other than you, you will find something bigger to live for and this will bring great relief to your soul.
At the end of the day, there isn’t an exhaustive list of do's and don’t's that can define taking care of you. You know yourself your likes, dislikes, your budget or familial context, your mental state. It is more a matter of the soul than anything else. Find in you the right reasons to do the things you do, knowing that you matter, your presence on earth is not vain… you have so much to give and to receive. Do not give up taking care of you! Bye for now...