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Self-care has become a buzzword in recent years. It is one of those phrases that gets thrown around without anyone really thinking about what it means. Lots of things are marketed as self-care without much thought of if they will actually help us care for ourselves. Everyone can list a bunch of activities that are considered self-care. We all know that having a bath, doing a facemask or lighting a candle are activities that wellness culture deems self-care activities. Side note: it’s interesting how acts of self-care are always marketed at women.
But, what does self-care actually mean? I could very easily look up a dictionary definition and recite word for word what self-care is (or is meant to be), however, self-care is an individual experience. You can’t look after yourself if you are following another person’s (or even societies’) idea of self-care.
My own personal definition of self-care is doing something for me in the present rather than me in the future. The self I am caring for is the one who is currently here. I often find that I am so concerned with being productive that simply stopping myself from thinking about the future or the goals I am working towards is self-care. It is me prioritising myself. This is a fundamental factor of self-care. In fact, it underpins most self-care activities. Yoga and meditation, two of the most stereotypical ideas of self-care, are both explicitly about the present moment.
In a similar vein, a lot of my self-care activities are to do something unproductive. This then depends on what I view as productive at the time. Activities like reading or watching a TV show might for most people fit into this category, and it often does for me too. However, if I am nearly finished with a TV show, finishing it can become an obligation (I know this sounds stupid, but it is something my mind does). So, instead, a self-care activity would be to watch a film or some YouTube videos (I am fairly certain it is impossible to watch YouTube videos productively).
Self-care for me, is also, not thinking about time. Doing an activity without imposing a time limit or thinking about what I have to do after it, is the ultimate self-care. Let’s be honest, ignoring time is basically the concept of a holiday. But, don’t fret; you do not need an extended break to feel timeless. The other day I had a great time exercising without looking at the time. So instead of thinking I would like to exercise for 40 minutes, I decided to not impose a limit and just see what happens. I let myself get distracted by my music, I took breaks to dance and sing along – don’t worry, I was in my own house. Sure, this probably is not the best way to exercise your muscles, but it was great for my mind – I had a great time.
Are any of my self-care activities revolutionary? No. But, they are what works for me. What is self-care if it isn’t for me? I am now more aware of myself and how to look after me, not a generic consumer. Although saying this, it probably won’t stop me from putting a sheet mask on and pretending everything is fine.