This is what self-care feels like

The other day, my husband told me something he’s been saying to himself lately: “This is what self-care feels like”.

Friday night, he got home tired and antsy and just wanted to collapse in front of the TV and binge on some Netflix. He’s learned that that antsy feeling means I need to move some energy, so he went to the gym for a workout. He said to himself, “This is what self-care feels like.”

When he takes the time to make a proper meal and get to bed on time, he says, “This is what self-care feels like.”

 I know what he means. I feel it, too. It’s the feeling of not drinking too much. It’s having tea instead of coffee.  It’s the feeling of saying “I can’t” when someone asks a favour and I know I can’t do it without feeling resentment.

It’s different for everyone.

Last week I was traveling, and when I got home my husband was helping me hang up the things from my suitcase when a glass bottle rolled out. I explained it was the bottle I’d used for the vinaigrette I’d taken with me to eat on my home-made salad in the airport. He pointed out I could just have bought a sandwich at Subway. I told him, “That’s not what self-care feels like for me.”

For me, it’s getting to bed on time. It’s meditating first thing in the morning. It’s pre-making a lot of my meals. It’s doing pottery, going for walks, washing my face before bed and putting on night cream. Sometimes it’s not answering a call, or sitting quietly in the waiting room instead of distracting myself on the phone. It’s all kinds of things, some of which I have in common with my husband, or you, or others, and some of which are just mine.

Self-care is also Other-care

Taking care of myself is also taking care of others. I started really taking this self-care thing seriously in the past few months,and I think it has rubbed off onto my husband. I know that it has also been an encouragement to other people in my life, friends and colleagues.

We just can’t love others more than we love ourselves. I think this is especially true of parents. If we don’t practice self-care, our kids won’t learn it. If we don’t model a balance, how can we hope they’ll achieve one? Do we want them to work themselves to the bone and not enjoy life? Do we want them to berate themselves? If we want them to have these things, we actually have to give them to ourselves.

It’s also true of any other type of leader. At work and in social settings, a lot of people need the encouragement to be kind to themselves. It’s not enough to just verbally support them to take some time off, or not be so hard on themselves. Sometimes, when we truly want to help someone, we have to set the example.

Taking my own medicine is the sincerest form of permission.

This is “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” in reverse.

I want my friend to take the time off work that she needs after her mom dies. I know my colleague will feel better if he gets more exercise. I want my dad to do activities he enjoys just because he enjoys them. I want to encourage them that they have permission to do these things. That it’s okay to relax and enjoy life.

But if I don’t practice self-care, it’s like saying, “It’s okay for you, but it’s not okay for me, which means it’s not okay for you either.” It’s a mouthful and it’s confusing. It is not self-care and therefore it is not caring for others.

holding handsIf I hadn’t started on this journey of self-care, maybe my husband still would have. But I kind of think he started when he did because he had seen me start my process. The credit is entirely his, because he could just as easily have chosen not to. I just think I was an important part of the process, and my actions enabled and encouraged him to take on his own practice.

What is your experience of modeling self-care to others? Leave me a comment below

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