Treat yourself: this is the usual understanding of what self-care is. Mention self-care and the thought of indulging in pleasurable things abound.
But this is a misunderstanding. Even if it sounds pretty straightforward—taking care of myself—it’s the execution that’s hazy.
Stop and think: Is what your idea of self-care going to make you better than you were before?
Ideally, what you do must reflect how much you cherish yourself.
According to Raphael Inocencio, RPsy, Managing Director and Consultant Psychologist at Better Steps Psychology, Inc., “Self-care is taking steps to ensure that your well being is preserved, so that you can optimally function in your daily life, makes one feel better about oneself and could re-energize you to take on the daily challenges and demands that you have. It can be seen as stress-relief techniques, but self-care can also be preventive rather than as a reaction to your situation.”
Carol Angeline Macawile, a registered guidance counselor, says that when someone practices self-care, it makes a person “happier, healthier, and more resilient. Self-care means engaging in activities that give priority and importance to one’s own physical, emotional, and psychological health and well-being.
The immediate benefits after engaging in self-care activities would be feeling more calm and relaxed, and recharged and energized. It can help a person develop a more positive outlook and disposition, and affects not only our physical health, but our mental health as well.”
Russell Roi Tuazon, MAEd, RGC, a guidance counselor and growth facilitator at St. Mary’s College Quezon City says that one of the many benefits of self care is the ability to understand ourselves better. “It will help us realize what we really need and love to do, since it allows us most of the time to be introspective.”
Why do I need to do Self-Care? Isn’t that what I do everyday?
“As long as you are alive and functioning, you are doing self-care. Taking care of ourselves has several levels. Mostly, people fail to do it for themselves because either they don't realize they need it or it just doesn't fit into the routine,” Inocencio says.
From the negative way we talk to ourselves, to mindlessly eating junk or sleeping late, we could all use a daily dose of self-care.
“In today’s busy and fast-paced world, it is necessary to unwind, slow down, be grounded and centered," Macawile says. "Otherwise, we would all end up feeling burned out or physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted.”
But isn’t it selfish?
There’s a saying that goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” When you’re running on empty, you can’t be of help to yourself, to your loved ones, or perform your responsibilities at your best. “Many people would say that they are focused on their priorities so they do not have time to engage in self-care activities that are considered trivial or less important,”
Macawile says, “Some individuals, like mothers for example, tend to feel guilty if they put themselves first, because of the societal expectation that mothers ought to be selfless.”
But Macawile points out that self-care can only be selfish if it’s done excessively, or to the point of neglecting other important aspects of life. “Self-care is essentially done to promote balance in our daily lives,” she continues, “It ought to be practiced with the right mindset and intention.”
Inocenio agrees, saying, “As a therapist, whatever works and helps you, as long as you can afford it and you're not hurting others in the process, then I say go for it.”
But who has the time to squeeze in me-time in their schedule?
Tuazon says that the main hindrances in doing self-care properly are stress and time management.
“In my experience as a guidance counselor, students often push themselves too hard, which makes them feel tired, motivated, and even guilty to do other things that make them enjoy and appreciate their life more. Self care, in reality, could be what they need to keep going.”
Okay, so what self-care activities can I do?
Macawile suggests making time for self-care, really scheduling it into your daily or weekly routine, rather than waiting for some free time to roll around (because it won’t.).
Self-care routines are not “one size fits all.” And neither should they be expensive. Check out the list below and see which routines feel right to you.
Choose a physical activity that you enjoy
Getting your body moving — whether it be walking in the neighborhood or hitting the gym — releases endorphins, hormones that make you feel happy.
And you don’t need to commit to an entire hour—a brisk, 10 minute walk or a 7-minute full body workout would do wonders in clearing your mind from negativity.
Find your small indulgence
Is it a longer than usual mani pedi? A massage with matching facial mask? Or maybe your favorite food that’s a bit over your daily meal budget? Treat yourself, but remember: overindulging is when self-care tips over to being selfish.
How would you know? If you’re spending money earmarked for your electricity bill to get yourself a brand new dress, then that’s not self care anymore. And besides, indulgences become less and less special when you do it all the time, so it’s best to treat yourself far and few between.
Eat to live, not live to eat
While hardly anyone would say that carrots are their comfort food, you know how you feel after eating certain foods. That afternoon slump you feel is probably because of that heavy lunch you had. Nourishing your body with healthy eats, choosing healthier options, or even just knowing when to stop eating, are great ways to take care of your body.
Many studies tout the benefits of meditation, but a lot are turned off by it because it sounds—well, boring.
But meditation is a useful tool that can be done by everyone, once you find what’s right for you. It helps you stay focused, present, and clear your mind. For beginners, set your time to five minutes. Focus on your breathing for around five breaths, and repeat a mantra (or saying) in your mind. It could be an affirmation to help you get pumped up about the day (try “I am happy, healthy, and whole!”), or simply repeat a word over and over again, like “relax”.
Pick up a hobby
Remember those coloring books geared towards adults? One of the reasons behind its success, and the success of other hobbies, is that doing what you love makes you happy to focus on what’s right in front of you. You’re completely in the zone and fully present.
Raise your hand if your bedtime routine usually ends with a quick scroll through social media… until you find out it’s been two hours and you’re still at it. Yikes! Unwinding after a long day means making your bedroom off limits to any devices, reading or listening to music, or even something as simple as journaling.
Life coach Aurora Suarez has published The Sunday Night Journal, which promotes taking some time off every Sunday night to help you focus on your goals, set intentions, recognize things to be grateful for, and help you deepen your connection with yourself.
The next time you feel like self-care is a luxury, or me-time is completely unnecessary, remember this: Being happy is contagious, and the energy you give out will benefit those around you. You will be of better service to others when you care for yourself! — LA, GMA News