Social media has shed some light (more like a stadium full of flood-lights) on the concept and ideas for self-care lately. Self-care in general has been reduced to wearing masks and a lot of me-time. The concept in simple words, is that if you do not take care of your own mental+physical well-being, then you cannot be the one to take care of anyone else. Self-care is not always the picture-perfect pleasant activity that gives you instant gratitude. Read on to know the tips for self-care you should be implementing right away, and why self-care is important!
Self care in Indian culture, while being a woman is another level of obstacle. While the newer generation is bolder, marriage and motherhood still end up consuming the female me-time and self-time in cultures like India. Women feel pressured to say yes to a lot of things and to constantly put the wishes of their family first. Rather than make the family work with them towards everyone’s collective needs, they end up working for the family to meet their needs. In Indian culture, we come with an ingrained sense of guilt if we ever think about ourselves. The whole mindset is to serve. Parents, husbands, in-laws, children. And any time that we take to un-wind, is seen as selfish and unbecoming. In Indian culture, the burnout for everyone is stronger because the hustle to keep up and earn a livelihood is harder. The culture is much more laid-back about health and good food; even in affluent households, money does not equate sense and awareness about planning for health and security.
You will see the words self-care pop up a lot on your socials these days and most would be in reference to enjoying a beauty pamper-session or taking a mental health day. They are all correct but do not present the entire picture. There is more to self-care than beautifying yourself or taking a day off work. Self-care means acknowledging what must be done to secure a happy healthy future; and doing it even if you hate doing it in the moment. It can range from taking an hour to get a much-needed hair-cut, to telling someone off if they are draining your time/money/energy, to sitting and working out an actual plan for budget, or to making your health check-ups a priority. Here are my 11 top ways to practice self-care:
Identify what causes stress in your life
Self-care is anything that reduces stress. Recurring and most widely-induced stress is a result of any activity that puts a strain on:
– peace of mind
– financial situation
– physical health
Anything that is a constant source of stress affects mental health, and further physical health. Stress mainly arises from not being prepared for responsibilities and duties; the ones that we can’t escape. Keeping up with responsibilities and balancing it with my wants, is what stresses me out personally. It is pretty much adulting 101. Self-care is preventive health-care for your body, mind and soul.
Seemingly small steps, done consistently, are the key here to keep you happy and healthy. Discipline in taking care of yourself to keep your batteries charged looks a little less glamorous and insta-worthy. But discipline is the strongest form of self-love. Here are my top 9 ways to practise self-care, so read on to check them out and keep the stress at bay! This is in mixed order to balance between boring tasks we must do and not so boring tasks.
Discipline is the strongest form of self-love and self-care
Keeping all your paperwork in order
Keeping all our important affairs in order is especially taken for granted in Indian culture. Making a will for example. Indian culture does not believe in taking care of assets or making a will. In western cultures, most people when becoming parents, make sure to have a plan for their children and have a will in place. But in Indian culture, they act as if having to do this somehow jinxes their life (rolling eyes here)! Paperwork is the most unglamorous and essential part of living. Bills, banking, mortgages, EMIs, legal work, all inescapable realities. And since they tend to get complicated, it is better to pay attention to them when you are in a good place; not at the last minute when they become an emergency.
In Indian culture we are taught to constantly worry about future and money and stress about it. Yet having a solid plan for it isn’t exactly a priority! How ironic! And the societal pressure to keep up with stupid norms makes all this even worse.
Taking care of your skin, hair, nails and hygiene in general
Half of our mental health and self-esteem suffers because we compare ourselves to others. Let me tell you, paying attention to just keeping things clean and tidy is the best way to keep things low maintenance and always appear well-groomed and sophisticated. Besides, they are a part of our health and the society has come up with fun ways to make these things a pleasant activity too. Indulge once in a while.
Cancelling plans and staying in to relax
One of the best ways to recharge is to cancel plans when they feel like an extreme social obligation. Your body and mind can recharge on a calm evening at home. Socialising can get exhausting. A smart person said, if a conversation/interaction doesn’t give you financial gain, knowledge or entertainment of some sort, then it is a wasteful exchange. As adults, valuing your time over anything else and spending it wisely is the key. Purely obligatory plans are ok to cancel upon to conserve time and energy.
Your body is a temple and it should be treated as such. What we put inside it directly affects our physical and mental energy. We can glorify eating junk all we want as having only one life and blah blah. But we all know bad food habits on the regular will eventually punish the body. Self-care is to find discipline in your food habits, anticipating your cravings and weaknesses, and making a plan to handle those pro-actively. Make a plan to enjoy that slice of pizza occasionally in moderation too! And planning gives us time to include healthy items in non-boring and delicious ways. Meal-planning has been positively life changing for husband and I. For useful meal-planning tips, read my blog post from before.
Making some sort of work-out a part of your daily routine
Working out or pursuing some physical activity as a part of your daily routine is always advised and is a great mood-elevator. It is scientifically known to release endorphins and reduce stress. Even if it may feel like it is the most burdensome task to do on some days, do it anyway because once you are done, you will NEVER regret it!
Self-care is preventive health-care for your body, mind and soul
The days when I feel blah due to PMS or something, I still push myself to do something light instead of the regular gym like dancing or yoga; even 30 mins or so on such days is enough to help me de-stress.
Paying attention to what is keeping you from having a routine in place
A major issue with living in over-crowded and under-equipped (infrastructurally) country like India, is having to constantly fight the grind. To actually be able to follow a routine, one has to be able to have some variables under control. Traffic, work cultures as a majority that do not respect the normal times, are a few factors which won’t even let you eat on time; or even find enough hours to be able to sleep!
The solution: calculate and undertake any new responsibility (like having another child) after taking all this into account; because that will further put a burden on your tight schedule and leave even less time for you to look after yourself.
Engaging in relaxing hobbies and activities
Pursuing some hobby is the best way to pursue an activity that is calming and energising at the same time. Find something that engrosses you and feels like meditation.
Burning out is an inevitable part of normal life. That never ending to-do-list of adulthood that keeps refreshing every time you seem to get it done – that is the chain reaction waiting for explosion if left unchecked. Sitting in one place and feeling your shoulders drop in relaxation, doing something that makes you lose the concept of time, is one of the ways to give yourself a break. I can’t do actual meditation for the life of me; but indulging in something artsy absolutely feels like it.
Enjoying some quality time with a loved one watching movies/TV or reading books, all such great activities to bond while feeling relaxed too!
Fun Fact: I HATE mundane morning chores. Like brushing my teeth. So I have now begun reading a book when doing morning things to make it more fun. I mean one can’t skip oral and personal hygiene but that doesn’t mean you can’t improvise!
Get enough sleep
Guilty of not following this enough myself. And of being the teen+adolescent who spent the whole night on the phone talking to a boy. sigh. How I wish I had respected all that sleep-time. The power that sleep has on efficiency and productivity (physical and mental), is unreal. Next to good food and work-out, quality sleep is quintessential. It is also a common theme with all successful people on the planet! On a side-note, also great are the naps at times when you need a break.
Do not ignore your to-do list of adult duties to ‘yourself’
Plan a trip and travel places
Studies show that the anticipation of vacation can bring just as much psychological reward as the actual vacation. Shane Lopez, a Gallup senior scientist and author of “Making Hope Happen,” calls this “nexting”. Understandable that not all of us have the luxury to be able to travel as much but whenever it does come, savour it and make the best of it to prolong that feeling as much as the actual trip itself. If you aren’t a fan of travelling, replace the same with anything that you are looking forward to.
Catch up with your favourite people and avoid the ones that drain you
We tend to keep our low feelings to ourselves, for many reasons. I can assure you, 90 percent of the time, simply sharing those feelings changes your mood significantly! Engage in conversations and company that feeds your soul, intellect and body in a mindful way.
At the other end of the spectrum, avoiding people who drain you in any way, is even more important. Society, gender, culture and such things are shoved on to us to guilt us into tolerating a lot of stuff that wastes time and efforts and doesn’t serve us. Also included are activities that are just enabling other person’s incapability and laziness (again in the name of family or duties or whatever). Identify those and just stop. Limit your constant availability at the cost of your resources. Learn to show up for actual emergencies for people you love and not be on their constant beck and call. Focus that energy and time on your to-do list of adult duties to self.
In a nut-shell, Self-care is to be disciplined enough to foresee what is beneficial and good for us in the long run. Eventually when it becomes a disciplined activity, it does give us instant joy too! Why we often fail at self-care, is because many of us fail to develop a routine that incorporates healthy and mindful activities. We consider this to be a fix, rather than an ongoing way of life. We wait for a rock to hit before we realise that we need to prioritise our health and happiness first. Women particularly fall in the trap of burning out and letting their family and societal obligations over-power them.
Sure often take a break to pamper yourself and wear that mask or take that day off. But the aim, is to build a life where you don’t feel the stressful urgent need to take constant breaks!
Where’s the hygge?
The whole purpose of self-care is to find peace of mind and revere that calm+content feeling.. Self care is the way to take control of your stress and win as a responsible adult. The feeling of hygge, like 80 percent of the time in life, comes from peace of mind and not having pressing matters that cause stress!
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