I was talking to a friend about self-care and how it’s interpreted in today’s times.
In our parents’ generation—a lot of women didn’t fully understand the concept of self-care. Those who did, assumed getting a mani-pedi or a facial translated as taking care of self. That’s it.
I am grateful that we live in times where radical self-care isn’t positioned as selfish or misunderstood as a beauty regimen. In 2023, self-care is considered as one of the pillars of mental health, not just an external thing that you do.
I was in Toronto last week. I had a few meetings lined up, a book deadline for my publisher, and a friend to meet with. The trip was packed, and the weather turned out great. I love fall air and the crisp sun recharges me. After I reached the Airbnb and completed a few meetings, I decided to go for a walk. Before I knew it, I had hit six miles. Mind you, I had left home at 7 a.m. that morning to catch a flight. I was a little tired, but late evenings were my sacred creative time to complete the draft of my upcoming book, The Loss That Binds Us. I sat with a mug of warm water and worked until I had met my writing goal for the evening. I typically am in bed by 9 p.m.
Disrupt your routine occasionally:
When I woke up the next day, I felt a little tired. At home, I am out of the bed when it’s still dark outside (Brahma Muhurta), so I can do my morning rituals before the noise and distractions of the day seep in. I also like to cook a little before logging into work. I woke up in Toronto and didn’t want to do yoga in the morning. Remember, I had walked six miles the evening before and worked until late on my manuscript. I wanted to laze around and allow my mind-body to rest and “wander.” I breathed deeply as I lay in bed. Instead of allowing my inner voice to judge me, I appreciated the time to rest, replenish, and restore my spirit.
Allow yourself treats:
While I was in Toronto, a client confirmed a collaboration that I had been working on for over a month. It was a huge achievement for a small business owner like me. Over the years, I have learned to celebrate the journey more than the destination—it motivates me to show up consistently. Typically, my husband and I would have done something to commemorate the occasion, even if something small. But I wasn’t home. So, I walked to Tim Hortons (Famous, multinational coffee house and restaurant chain) and bought myself a warm Rocky Road Dream Cookie. I love desserts, but I limit the intake because white sugar is no one’s friend. But this decadent cookie lasted me for three days—it felt special without feeling excessive.
Stay away from labels:
For some people, late night partying and drinking until the cows come home is fun. For someone like me, not eating after 6 p.m. and being able to get into bed before 9pm is the highest essence of joy. But one evening, I met with a friend from my boarding school days. We hadn’t seen each other in a while. She had traveled an hour to hang out with me despite three little children at home, a husband, and a demanding job. She is a banker by day and motor bike rider over the weekends. She missed her bike group’s weekly hang out session to be able to spend time with me. That evening, I didn’t look at my watch or allow my mind to tell me, “It’s late.” I was tired and didn’t get to bed until 11 or 11:30 p.m. But my heart was so full, and the aberration from my schedule was well worth it.
Check-in with yourself regularly:
We are socially conditioned to think or assume that once a month facial or deep tissue massage or time with girlfriends or a weekend getaway with a romantic partner is what we need to get refueled. But life situations change drastically, whether we like it or not. I have written about how I lost both my father and father-in-law within two days of each other in the month of May this year. A spa day wasn’t what I needed as part of my self-care practices during the funeral. Making time for my emotional well-being, which meant some quiet contemplation, felt necessary.
Challenge yourself and ask yourself what you need. What is working? What isn’t working? For example, after three months of nonstop condolence visitors, my husband and I (though grateful) were exhausted and depleted on a cellular level. We decided to use the last two weeks of August to rest, travel, shut down, and spend time alone as well as together.
Be flexible with your boundaries:
I believe that one of the reasons people are so lonely these days is because we have become inflexible and rigid about boundaries. I get why profound self-care experiences include being able to say a no and choosing yourself first. But we might be misinterpreting these suggestions.
For example, I typically don’t take personal phone calls (unless urgent) when traveling for work—in my day-to-day life, I give a lot of myself to others. I implement this boundary so I can stay focused on the task at hand. I believe multitasking doesn’t yield high quality work. Travel and talking both increase vata dosha and a few of the consequences can be insomnia, digestive issues, mind chatter, distraction of thoughts, or a sense of nervousness. That said, there are a few people (aside from my husband) with whom I engage regularly, no matter where I am in the world. Calling or messaging or texting with them is nourishing for my soul. It grounds me. Think about it: by extending myself the flexibility, I choose me and practice self-care.
September is National Self-Care Awareness Month. How will you take care of yourself in a way that your emotional and mental well-being feel empowered?
“With every act of self-care your authentic self gets stronger, and the critical, fearful mind gets weaker. Every act of self-care is a powerful declaration: I am on my side, I am on my side, each day I am more and more on my own side.” ~Susan Weiss Berry