“Take care of yourself”. We often hear this expression, but do we not find it a little hard to (really) put into practice? Here are a few pieces of advice to get back in touch with yourself.
In the miniseries The best version of oneself [La meilleure version de soi-même] on French TV channel Canal+, stand-up comedian Blanche Gardin brings self-care into the mainstream unbeknownst to her. In an ironic, sarcastic way (what else?), the comedian does the rounds from naturopaths to shamans and magnetisers, etc., to cure her stomach ache once and for all. She makes us laugh a lot – at her, and also through her, at ourselves.
Joking aside, the self-care trend refers to “taking care of oneself” in a fully comprehensive way: physically, mentally and emotionally. Some celebrities, like American actress Gwyneth Paltrow with her Goop site, and Estelle Lefébure with her Orahe method, promote this new approach to life: eating better, breathing better and sleeping better. We have heard a lot about self-care through the various lockdowns, and this trend is certainly here to stay.
Is self-care really for me?
If you sometimes feel overwhelmed by your emotions, snowed under or altogether on the verge of a burnout (whether due to work, personal matters, parenthood or your love life), then yes, it’s high time you refocussed on your own needs. They are the bedrock of everything. If they are being met, everything’s fine. If not, it leaves the door open to unhappiness, sadness or even depression. The thing is, from infancy onwards we’ve been led to believe that other people would be there to meet our needs (the story of Prince Charming, etc.) and have not necessarily learned to meet them ourselves. Why? Because taking care of yourself is selfish. Thankfully, according to new personal development theories, the better you feel (in your head, your own skin and your body), the more you can be there for other people. So it’s a resounding yes to self-care from us!
What is self-care in practical terms?
Becoming a self-care devotee is about making a pact with yourself. Yes, I promise to do everything in my power to take care of myself, make good choices and work day after day to improve myself. So are you ready to embark on the adventure? Self-care puts forward a holistic view of wellness. Taking care of oneself as a whole means taking care of oneself in terms of the body, mind and soul. Here are a few pointers to follow, but they are not limited to what is listed here!
- The first thing to do: Cut out (or cut down on) the parasites in your life. Cigarettes for smokers, alcohol for alcoholics, and also sugar, etc. What applies to the inside of your body also applies to the outside. Basically, say goodbye to toxic relationships, friendships that drag you down and flings that don’t bring you any real affection. Cut them all loose and go it alone.
- Go right ahead and keep a logbook to review your progress, long- term aims or current emotions.
- If necessary, start a course of therapy to shape up your life a little, unpack any subconscious patterns that see history repeating itself, analyse fears that leave you frozen in time and stop you from moving forward.
- Allow yourself breaks of a few minutes each to have a breather, meditate and engage in navel-gazing. Are you all right? Is everything OK with you at the moment? If the answer is yes, carry on the same way. If not, sit down and have a think about what you could change about your life to help you feel better.
- Schedule in a family spa day! Manicures, pedicures, scrub treatments, massages, etc. Taking care of oneself is also about bodycare. To shed the old skin and reveal the new, we can recommend (dry) skin brushing before taking a shower. In your self-care routine, you can also try out new beauty concepts: double cleansing, detoxing sleeping creams, oil serums or Gua Sha skincare treatments. If you have a daughter(s) in your household, organise a self-care session together! If you’re the only girl at home, don’t forget to take care of yourself, and even get the lads into it (a long bath with a perfumed candle, self-massage of the body, face, scalp, etc.). They too need to be able to allow themselves breaks.
- Unlock your body. Self-care is also about (re)taking charge of your body. Sporty types – keep up your routine. Non-sporty types – it’s time to get into one. No need to run the New York marathon. Just fit a few sessions of gentle physical exercise into the week or weekend: stretching, yoga, brisk walking. Anything that gets your body moving again is worthwhile. As long as you do it regularly. It’s better to do three sessions of 15 minutes per week, every week, than an hour and a half once a month.
- Perhaps you’re more artistic than sporty? Then give your creativity free rein: drawing, scrapbooking, knitting, crochet or puzzles. Anything that gives your artistic soul a boost is worthwhile.
- Cook for yourself! From meal prep over several days to healthy packed lunches, take the time to cook. Picking out the right foods, seeking out the right recipes, creating flavour combinations… Cooking is a simple and effective way of taking care of oneself.
A piece of advice: if you’re cooking for one, pay special attention to plating up your food and laying the table attractively. Make the most of your meals to treat yourself to a little peace and quiet, without the TV on and without your phone, and eat mindfully.
Strike the perfect balance: analyse what is and is not going well in your life, resolve to take action and change everything that can be changed. Self-care is the art of adapting to restrictions in the best possible way. It’s about trying everything possible to feel better and be better.
Self-care is also about the art of chilling
Ultimately, in our packed schedules we have very little time to ourselves (when was the last time you had a spa day?) and even less time to do nothing. Chilling, as the youngsters call it, is the “ability to relax and just be” without doing anything else. Allow yourself breaks to listen to your favourite playlist, read a book from cover to cover in one go, watch a TV box set… Without doing anything else. Once you’ve reached Chill Level 2, you will be able to sit on the sofa without even thinking about starting a load of laundry! So what’s the key to self-care? Learning to slow down. So you totally can run yourself a bath, lie in bed for a while, spend a weekend in your pyjamas or take a country walk and take in the beauty around you. Embracing the self-care mindset is about finding out what intrinsically does you good and brings you tranquillity.
Self-care is also about your home
It’s well known that when you feel good about yourself, you feel good about your home, too… So (re)discover the art of Feng Shui and see to it that there’s harmony in your home. Perhaps it’s the right time to have a big sort-out to declutter and clear your head? Maybe it’s also the right time to get some Hygge into your life. Hygge (pronounced “hue-gah”), is the idea of wellness in Denmark, where it gets very cold outside. Scandinavian home decoration is super cosy, with soft, enveloping fabrics to make you feel comforted and secure. You’re safely in “your” home, content and in the here and now. It’s a state of mind. You have to learn to enjoy simple pleasures: lighting a candle, getting snuggled up in a blanket, seeing a tidy home when you look around you or enjoying a nice hot chocolate. This is the kind of cocooning that is also nice to share with your nearest and dearest. Comfort, emotional warmth, la dolce vita, such are the wellness rules. Some reading: The Lagom Book [Le livre du Lagom] d’Anne Thoumieux et The Hygge Book [Le Livre du Hygge] de Meik Wiking, First Editions.
Self-care is also the art of loving oneself
What is self-care for? For taking care of oneself in every way, and also, and most importantly, for learning to love oneself in one’s entirety.
Self-care is about putting yourself first ahead of others, boosting your self-esteem, being kind to and going easy on yourself. The important thing is firstly to muse over it, then to get started and lastly to stick to it. You don’t switch from one state of mind to another overnight! Self-care is first and foremost about finding your own path to it, your own way of taking care of yourself without copying other people (let alone the self-care you’ll find in Instagram stories). Self-care is like happiness: it thrives when you keep it to yourself.
In times of crisis like the one we are going through right now – and given the uncertainty that comes with it – it’s particularly important to take care of yourself. Self-care still has a bright future ahead of it.