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Put in the simplest terms, self-care describes any intentional action(s) you take to care for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. As women, there are a lot of things we are responsible for nurturing and giving ourselves to, including children, significant others, home life, loved ones, school, and work. If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves operating out of an empty cup or with a drained battery. In fact, more often than not, women have a spot reserved for themselves that is at the bottom of a list of tasks, chores, and responsibilities. Many of the women that I encounter often associate self-care with selfishness and because of this feelings of guilt are not far behind even the thought of self-care.
According to stress management expert Elizabeth Scott, M.S., “people who neglect their own needs and forget to nurture themselves are at danger of deeper levels of unhappiness, low self-esteem and feelings of resentment.” To this point, I believe it is also helpful to consider the powerful words of Audrey Lorde when she declared that, “self-care is not about self-indulgence, it’s about self-preservation." When we consider the work we do as women serving as caretakers, teachers, lawyers, mental health professionals, and an array of other titles and positions, it becomes imperative to consider the importance of self-care. We fulfill roles as wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, directors, and co-workers, but what about our commitment and responsibility to love and tend to ourselves?
How likely is it that a mother would tell her daughter, “Don’t love yourself daughter, that is selfish and unnecessary?” Although, this message may not be explicitly stated, let us consider the many ways this implicit message is being sent to women and girls every day. As women we are expected to give and serve and tend and nurture tirelessly. We have many thankless and self-less expectations placed on us from all angles. Because of this, it is all the more important for us to remind ourselves and one another to take time to evaluate our mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical state as the vessels of life we are. All of us are familiar with the aircraft safety regulation, in the case of emergency, that instructs us to place the oxygen mask on ourselves before we attempt to assist any one else. So it is in the case of our every day lives. It is an illusion for us to think that we can effectively help and serve others when we haven’t given consideration to our own needs and empty spaces. This is not sustainable or wise.
As women, it is a necessity that we prioritize nurturing ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. In her article about self-love published by the Huffington Post, Christine Arylo states “self love is one of the foundations of everything in our lives - our relationships with others, our health, our career, our finances, everything. Focus on the foundation and the rest of your life gets stronger.” This message from the founder of The International Self-Love Movement begs the question: If a woman is engaging in appropriate self-care and self-love, how might this impact her functioning? Choosing self-love and giving oneself permission to engage in self-care may just unlock the joy, peace, and contentment that so many women seek.
So, what are some things that women can do for self-care? A woman can engage in a full range of activities and practices for self-love and self-care. There are more active self-care practices that include but are not limited to getting massages, exercising, and engaging in a hobby. There are also more reflective self-care practices including but not limited to journaling, reciting positive self-talk statements, engaging in mindfulness, and meditation. There truly is an unlimited amount of ways in which women can engage in self-care, many of which do not even have to take up additional time in our day and can be easily folded into our regular routines. For example, as a full time doctoral candidate who also works and is in a long-distance relationship, I have found it personally beneficial to be more mindful when I take showers and eat meals. During these regular activities, I am sure to be aware of what I see, pleasant aromas, calming sounds, and positive feelings. Also, first thing in the morning, while driving to school or work, I meditate and pray in silence. Proactively and intentionally incorporating these practices into my routine have greatly impacted my energy level, optimism, and ability to be more prepared to be effective in the roles that I am committed to.
In closing, a major benefit of self-love and self-care can be summated by the following sentiment of Sanaya Roman, "people who love themselves come across as very loving, generous and kind; they express their self-confidence through humility, forgiveness and inclusiveness." How much more impactful and effective could each of us be if we lived life in a more self-reflective, mindful, and self-loving way? My humble challenge for each of us is to do just that. Let’s start today! Cheers to a fresh start and new journey of self-love and self-care! We are worth it and the things we are purposed to accomplish depend on it.
Written by Candyce J. Burke, M.S., M.A.
Arylo, C. (2016, February 17). Do you have self-love? Retrieved March 3, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-arylo/do-you-have-self-love_b_9248642.html
Scott, E. (2014, December 16). The Importance of Self Care for Health and Stress Management. Retrieved March 3, 2016 from http://stress.about.com/od/lowstresslifestyle/a/selfcare.htm