When was the last time you felt stressed? When was the last time you binged–watched Netflix, drank copious amounts of alcohol, or indulged in large quantities of desserts only to label it “self-care?”
Think about it. If we are putting stimulants in our body, are they not causing more harm than good? Late night screen time interferes with sleep. So that is disruptive, too.
We can all agree that 2020 was difficult, and the holiday season gives us “permission” to let go. But we are in the New Year, and we need to talk about the need for a balanced life, which includes daily doses of self-care.
Self-care can help lower stress and improve sleep quality.
The World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” According to this definition, self-care includes everything related to staying healthy. It consists of all the steps required for one to manage stressors and take care of one’s health and well-being.
Growing up in India, and then North Africa, I noticed that most women took care of their physical appearance (skin and complexion, specifically) but rarely spoke about their emotional or mental well-being. If you ever brought up exercise and movement, the response was, “I am married and have children. Now who is going to look at me?” While in India, trips to beauty parlors fell under the umbrella of self-care, our neighbors and friends in North Africa defined making wax at home and pruning body hair as self-care.
Most women were trained to believe that looking attractive for their man and keeping him interested in the relationship was of highest importance. Therefore, self-care meant facials, manicures, pedicures, and trying out homemade recipes for glowing/whitening hairless skin. A majority of these women did not exercise, meditate, or carve out “quiet time.” They cooked heavy meals to please their partners and children without paying much attention to nutrition. Granted, the 80s and 90s were not the best decades for knowledge-sharing, and the world was not really global. As a result, many of these women were constantly stressed but didn’t know they had options to manage it.
Even in 2020, which was draining on more levels than one, I found resistance when I brought up self-care (for just 20-30 minutes a day), with my female clients. Every time I suggested that they pause and recuperate, they looked at me as if I said something sacrilegious.
If you have five hours to watch Netflix, you can most certainly take out 30 minutes for your mental, physical and emotional health. Eating nutritious meals, moving your body, flossing your mind, finding stillness, spending time close to nature, making room for self-expression, they can all contribute to self-care.
Philadelphia-based Inder Kalra, a consultant psychiatrist at Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, Drucker Brain Injury Center says, “Self-care is of the essence and no longer a luxury in these times, [given the] high rates of depression and anxiety, especially with COVID.” She went to point out the impact of winter and major life changes on people and how self-care could help with it.
Let’s dispel the myth! Self-care is not synonymous with self-indulgence or being selfish.
“I think the biggest shift in my thinking about self-care in recent times is to realize just how fundamental it is,” says Sophy Dale, a writing mentor in Edinburgh, Scotland. “I used to see it as ‘nice to have’ if I had time, or as a reward for getting something finished. Now, two burnouts later, I see it as the foundation for everything else and not something that I only ‘deserve’ under certain circumstances,” she added.
Your self-care must include something restorative. Don’t forget the power of silence and stillness.
“Self-care is not a waste of time; self-care makes your use of time more sustainable.” ~ Jackie Viramontez