Growing up, my mother was (and still very much is) my queen. I idolized her (and still do). She was beautiful, vivacious and had this “hustle hard” mentality that I adopted early on in life. She hardly went on holidays and was defined by her business. I loved her #bossbitch attitude and wanted to be successful and independent just like her. What I didn’t see was how much she suffered. Her constant ailments, her carpal tunnel, her perpetual exhaustion. She was so good at hiding it.
Early on in my writing career, I worked in entertainment journalism in Hollywood where the competition was fierce, news never slept, and we worked round the clock to maintain our status as one of the top weekly celebrity and entertainment magazines. I never left my desk. There was a dull, achy pain in the top of my back that was slowly creeping up to the base of my neck. My relationship with my boyfriend was strained because he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t put down my Treo (yeah, it was that long ago). I kept bailing on my friends until some stopped calling me altogether. It wasn’t until I experienced my first panic attack that I realised there was something painfully wrong with the way I was operating. Back then, I had no idea about the concept of self-care. When life is on overdrive, taking care of yourself (like going to the gym, stepping out for some air, or even having a proper meal) is usually the first thing to go. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done all I could to explain to my mother just how necessary self-care is.
What Is Self-Care?
Taking a literal meaning, self-care is just that. “Self” is you; “Care” is paying attention to. Paying attention to yourself. It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. Finding time out for yourself is essential. Being healthy mentally and emotionally is just as important – if not more – as being physically healthy. A few years ago, mental health activist Jace Harr created an interactive guide “for people who struggle with self-care, executive dysfunction, and/or who have trouble reading internal signals.” Titled You Feel Like Shit: An Interactive Self-Care Guide, it’s like a game that asks you a few pointed questions about how you’re feeling and provides a discerning analysis and suggestions to help take care of yourself. The questions may seem obvious to some, but when we consider how easy it is to neglect ourselves when we’re busy, this flowchart may come in handy to anyone who is having a difficult day, or who doesn’t realize they’re not looking after themselves properly.
Why does it matter?
To put it in a different perspective, think about the oxygen masks provided on an airplane in times of distress. As we are all aware (or else you seriously need to be paying more attention to those airline safety videos), you need to don your own oxygen mask first before you can help anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Studies have shown that proper self-care will curb stress, decrease burnout, increase productivity, and reinvigorate focus. We are taught at an early age to treat others with kindness and compassion. But how often do we follow that motto on ourselves? Women especially tend to shoulder a lot of the burden of daily life for their families. They spend much of our lives nurturing others. Neglecting our own needs often leads to stress, resentment, unhappiness and thus, prevents us from being our best selves. If or when you become parents, self-care is even more crucial since it is easy to lose yourself when you are caring for tiny humans. The Washington Post wrote a brilliant piece on why self-care is an important part of parenting that is definitely worth a read.
How to practice self-care?
Fortunately, there are many accessible ways to practice self-care. It could be something simple like listening to music you enjoy or sitting outside and soaking up some sunshine. Make sure to get enough sleep, or make room in your life for a nap. Spend some time with friends or take a yoga class together. Put a face mask on and some cucumber slices on your eyes and CHILL. Don’t use your day off to run errands or tick off your to-do list. TED has an awesome playlist on the importance of self-care. We also compiled five easy ways to be more mindful in everyday life for self-care. Wanderlust offers some helpful tips to practice self-care as well.
So while Momma Lor is still a workaholic, my siblings have begun dragging her on vacations to try and relax. I’ve taken to FaceTiming her daily as an e-companion to go off on an evening stroll around her block. Self-care is about taking proper care and treating yourself as the valuable, competent and deserving person that you are. Start taking care of you, for you, by you.
All images courtesy of Pexels.