Self-care: What Does It Really Mean?

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Self-care.

What does it really mean?

Fiona Points

The term self-care is everywhere. But in many cases, it seems that there has been a misunderstanding about its meaning, and even some clear misuse for financial gain.

A quick search for #selfcare on Instagram returns hundreds of posts promoting weight loss, beauty products and fashion retailers. The overwhelming message? ‘Dropping five pounds and buying these thigh-high boots will make you happy in yourself, omg’.

Sure, on an individual basis, losing weight or wearing make-up can absolutely equate to self-care. But it doesn’t have to. Similar to Pride corporate washing and feminist advertising, from companies that do very little to enforce their own “values”, self-care has become a marketing ploy used to perpetuate a beauty myth and promote unrealistic standards. It’s ‘Made in Chelsea’ Louise Thompson’s ‘Body Positive’ all over again, but on a much wider scale.

Here at She&Co we want to reclaim the concept of self-care and take it back to its roots: making mindful choices to protect our mental, emotional and physical health. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a few examples of the minor changes you can make in the interest of sustainable and effective self-care.

"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation." - Audre Lorde, from her 1988 book of essays A Burst of Light.

 

LEARN TO SAY NO

Yes, FOMO is a real thing, but it doesn’t control you. Sometimes a night in on your own is all you need to recharge your batteries. Whether your perfect night involves cooking a nice meal, taking a bath, or just heading to bed early with your favourite book, this is the time to forget the outside world and focus purely on your own wants. Try to forgo technology for the evening too – though we totally get it if a Louis Theroux documentary is just the thing you need to unwind!

TRY AN AT-HOME YOGA OR MEDITATION PRACTICE

Just fifteen minutes of yoga a day has been proven to help increase energy and concentration levels, reduce stress and combat depression. If you’re new to the sport you may not want to spend money on an, often expensive, yoga studio, but to get you started and to fit around a busy schedule there is a wealth of free guides online.

Yoga by Adrienne is a YouTube channel showing yoga classes of any length from five minutes to over an hour, and Asana Rebel is a free app that offers the same: though some options you do have to pay for.

Headspace is the go-to app offering free guided meditation. You’ve probably heard of this one already, and its rave reviews make it worth a try in our book. Give any of these options a go for fifteen minutes a few times a week, and see if you feel the benefits.

SWITCH UP YOUR COMMUTE

Commuting can be the most stressful part of anyone’s day. Public transport is so busy, so hot, so...everything. Switching up your commute, even just once or twice a week, can be a great help in making sure you arrive at your workplace feeling positive and ready for the day. Try taking a longer, but quieter route and listen to a podcast on the journey to engage your brain and distract from unwelcome thoughts.

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS

This final point is the most important. Often when we are stressed and overwhelmed, we start to compare ourselves to others and focus on all the things we want to change about ourselves or our lives. Whenever this is happening, and even when it isn’t, just take a moment to reflect on all the great things that you have achieved. Give yourself a figurative – or literal, if you feel like it – pat on the back when you overcome a problem at work or reach a new personal goal. On some days, maybe even for just getting out of bed in the morning. It can do wonders for your self-esteem.

No matter how you choose to take care of yourself, the vital thing to remember is that there is no ‘right way’. Just figure out what is right for you and find the time to do it.


Leanne Gannon