Why self-care is important?

Why self-care is important?

Gone are the days when indulging in self-care would be deemed selfish and arrogant. Carving out time for some serious self-care can nourish your body and soul

Contrary to popular belief, spending time and money on ‘you’ is not selfish.

Paleo, keto, vegan, raw juicing or gluten-free diets, Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop can tell you all about eating expensive and healthy food, but she does invest in a lot more than her food to look that good. Not to say that we wouldn’t like to look like her, but we could certainly do a lot more than eat like her to take care of ourselves.

Inevitably, the well-being and care of everyone from family and friends to children and pets take precedence over how you’re feeling yourself. It’s easy to say ‘take care’ or ‘look after yourself’ when you meet someone, but it’s way more complicated to follow personally. Our physical, mental and social well-being is actually a part of our ‘good health’, and not just, according to the World Health Organization, “the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Resolutions and promises become vague memories, even if it’s just been over a fortnight since the onset of the New Year. Every day seems to carry over the baggage of the previous day and ideas of how you could look after yourself are relegated to the last thing you have time for in an already packed day.

With no guilt

Forget the everyday dilemma of how to eat healthy, whether olive oil is healthier than rice bran or virgin coconut, there’s a lot more to consider when it comes to one’s well-being. A lot of one’s self-care begins with emotional and mental health. Tuning into how you are is something that no longer needs spending a week in the Himalayas. Stop what you’re doing for just a minute and plan to invest in yourself a little more. As the clinical psychologist and author Christopher Germer so perfectly put it, “Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”

Contrary to popular belief, spending time and money on ‘you’ is not selfish. No longer is it taboo to spend an afternoon away from family and work just getting your hair done, no longer is it wrong to actually go on a holiday in search of enlightenment on your own. The path to enlightenment on your personal well-being and care is not eight-fold but a mere three steps away.

Physical well-being

Eating better does help, and so does staying active. A burger every now and then is great, but a day of staying away from junk food and those super aerated drinks that do nothing to help your hydration works fine as well. There’s something to be said about the need for ‘dry January’. Perhaps our livers could do with a month of abstinence after the holidays and free-flowing alcohol and food. Joining a gym or the local yoga class could work just as well, but so does a half-hour of downtime on your own. Head out for a walk on your lunch break or take the stairs up to your apartment to clear your head. A little time spent outdoors doesn’t just relieve stress but has you feeling good, too.

Include some exercise in your daily routine.
Include some exercise in your daily routine.

Matters of the mind

Staying emotionally strong takes a lot more than just managing not to cry when you watch a good movie. Normal everyday activities are a lot more exhausting when coupled with a frazzled mind and stress. Taking care of your mental well-being can be a tall order when you are dealing with every aspect of your life, whether online or offline. If staying above board on a bad day means not accessing social media to see who the last person was that ‘unfriended’ you, don’t log in. Avoid the temptation of tracking a life that is not your own, especially if there’s no warmth in your relationship with the other person.

Just a minute or two of deep breathing could relax you enough to give you strength to make better decisions after. Maybe the laughter club at the local park isn’t so crazy after all. Spend some time with a friend who can make you laugh until your stomach hurts. There’s nothing that gets those endorphins going faster than some feel-good time with friends. Get creative with how you spend your downtime, watch a movie with a happy ending, go window shopping, eat an entire bar of chocolate on your own, drink a large cup of tea with a good book, or treat yourself to a massage. Anything that gets you to stop overthinking and sweating the small stuff.

Time to log out

Media notwithstanding, as humans, we’re meant to be social animals. We’re not cut out for isolation or hibernation, and that’s the whole point. Volunteer at a local NGO or spend time at a café with live music, especially if your day involves spending more time facing a computer screen than live people. Log off for a while, more often than not, to stay connected with real people instead of virtual friends. Meeting people does a lot more for your well-being than clicking the heart button on a social app ever could. Spend time with people who contribute positively and make you feel better about yourself. Staying social doesn’t cut it if your time is spent online even if you call it ‘social’ media time.

Peplau and Perlman conclude in their study, Perspectives on Loneliness, that although our very survival at one time depended on trusting and supportive relationships with each other, things have now changed. It no longer matters how technologically sophisticated we become, emotional connectivity remains a core part of being human. While we may not need each other to forage or stay safe from wild animals, evolution still means we need each other for psychological survival.

Being good to yourself and respecting yourself ultimately leads to others treating you better as well. Putting yourself first is also about better self-esteem, and you taking care of yourself shows others that they need to, too. The concept remains simple, take time out for yourself, guilt-free, and remind yourself that the only way to live life well is to relax and enjoy the ride.

Melodie Beattie, in her book on self-help and co-dependent relationships, tells it like it ought to be  — “Accept yourself. Love yourself as you are. Your finest work, your best movements, your joy, peace, and healing comes when you love yourself. You give a great gift to the world when you do that. You give others permission to do the same: to love themselves. Revel in self-love. Roll in it. Bask in it as you would the sunshine.”

Here’s to a year filled with lots of laughter and frolic in the sunshine, complete with that extra cup of tea and a good book or two.