The term ‘self-care’ has been around for centuries, but in the past few
years, thanks to a global pandemic and the increase in activist movements,
we’re more aware of our self-care than ever. The problem is that self-care has
been swept up in the world of consumerism, where your next ‘best self’ is just a
facial, holiday, or Goop product away. And this aspect of self-care is not what
its origins had in mind.
Some of the earliest mentions of self-care date back to 5th century BC, when
Greek philosopher Socrates declared self-care to be the journey of examining
and improving yourself, to the benefit of the world around you. Fast forward to
the 1950s & 60s, where the term was used by medical professionals and civil
rights activists to describe the importance of preserving your own emotional
and mental wellbeing.
But in the past decade, the term was picked up by beauty brands, pop culture,
and retail stores, turning self-care into a quick fix, ‘treat yourself’ kind of action -
one that promises fulfilment and peace with your very next purchase.
But at its core, self-care is still about looking after your inner wellbeing - so
we’ve got a few useful ways to prioritise that type of self-care practice.
Three steps to authentic self-care
Start with the basics
It’s easy to think your worries will be cured with a quick flick of the credit card or
some trashy TV - and while sometimes that’s true, it’s often a bandaid fix for
something deeper. Despite popular opinion, good self-care often involves some
hard work and tough choices.
This is where we introduce the Wheel of Life; a beloved tool in the coaching
world that asks you to rate the various areas of your life and identify which ones
need some TLC.
You can download your wheel off the web or draw your own,
featuring the categories of: Money & Finances; Career & Work; Health & Fitness;
Fun & Recreation; Environment (home/work); Community; Family & Friends;
Partner & Love; Personal Growth & Learning; and Spirituality.
After reflecting on each area and giving a score out of 10, you’ll be able to
notice what aspects of your life are lacking, and as a result, the types of self-
care you should prioritise.
For example, if your finances feel out of your control, a simple budget that you
update weekly might bring more ease and understanding. Your Environment
might score low, in which case some fresh low tox bedding and a spritz of
lavender on your pillow could help. Or if - like so many of us - your schedule is
devoid of anything fun, then plan to revisit a happy childhood activity or carve
out time for a hobby you love.
By adding this resource to your self-care toolkit and redoing it whenever you
feel uninspired, you’ll get better at recognising the areas that need addressing
and what it takes to find balance.
Get intentional about self-care
It’s one thing to participate in the art of self-care, but add in your intentions and
you’re taking it to the next level. For some, intention setting might sound a bit
witchy, but in reality, bringing intention to a task merely clarifies what you
actually want to get out of it.
Picture this: a woman finishes the working week feeling tired and tapped out.
A quick glance at the #selfcare posts on Instagram suggests she needs a bath,
a glass of wine, and a romcom. But what if she feels low because she hasn’t
seen her friends or spent quality time with her partner? Having a bath alone isn’t
going to solve this problem!
Instead of doing whatever self-care ritual springs to mind, take a moment to be
intentional. Reflect on what needs have been neglected and what type of care
you actually crave. Following this, you can intentionally choose an act of self-
care that aligns with what you’re seeking.
And yes, if you’ve had a very social week, it might be the bubble bath and
romcom duo. But if there’s another part of your life that needs some love, this
mindfulness will help you better fill your cup with authentic self-care.
Have a back-up list
With all this said and done, sometimes we just need self-care to be simple.
On the days where it’s too hard to reflect or journal or be intentional, we need
someone to take care of us - and that person can be ourselves.
Our past selves…
Next time you find yourself in a good headspace with some spare time, create a
list on your phone or in a journal. This evolving list is where you can record all
the types of self-care that have helped you rest or recharge in the past. You can
break them down into categories, like the Wheel of Life, or you can divide them
based on how hard (or easy) they are to achieve.
By writing and adding to this list, you’re building a resource of self-care acts
that feel authentic to you. So when you’ve had a hard day at work, argued with
someone you love, or just feel a bit low, your past self has done the hard yards
of rounding up your favourite self-care hacks.
Your list could include the link to a go-to guided meditation, a playlist of joyful
songs, the recipe of a comforting meal you love to make, or simple actions that
soothe you (like changing your natural bedding and getting to bed early!)
Whatever calms you or just helps you get through, you can add it to your self-care list.
An authentic practice of self-care
We love a good self-care hack as much as the next person, but ultimately, if you
want to build a strong foundation for your own wellbeing, there will be a bit of
work involved. Sometimes, self-care is easy and just calls for a good night’s
sleep and a hug from your partner. Other times, self-care calls for improvement
or accountability, even a hard conversation.
Just like Socrates and the civil rights activists, you can use your self-care to
propel you forward and build a more authentic way to look out for yourself. We’ll
never underestimate the power of a new haircut or a really good massage, but
without knowing what you need, self-care won’t ever be the solution.
And no amount of scented candles can help you there…