When thinking of self-nurturing, also referred to as self-care, it is easy to fall into the marketing industry trap that implies you have to spoil yourself with extravagant purchases like £440 golden caviar infused eye cream, 1000-thread count bedding or a new pair of Manolo Blahniks every month. Self-nurturing is not spending a lot of money on indulgences, it is much more than that. Proper self-care requires discipline but it can also lead to the formation of bad habits if performed with the wrong intent.
When nurturing yourself is seen as a way to self-soothe when things go wrong, instead of dealing with problems or considering how you think about your problems, it can become a crutch and lead to unhealthy behavior. Think of the person who “rewards” themselves with a chocolate bar on their way home from the office every day because they managed to make it through the day, or the person who “takes time for themselves” by going outside for a smoke break. Acknowledging accomplishments and taking time for yourself is self-nurturing, but bad habits develop when self-nurturing is used as an excuse or justification for repeated indulgence. The media also seem to imply that self-care requires the purchase of products, often luxury items, for the self-care routine to be really effective. This of course is not the case if self-care is used as a way of refilling your emotional cup so that you can deal with the stresses of life in a healthy and uplifting way.
I agree with Tami Forman when she says: “Self-care is not an indulgence. Self-care is a discipline. It requires tough-mindedness, a deep and personal understanding of your priorities, and a respect for both yourself and the people you choose to spend your life with.”
I have found this to be true in my own self-care routine.
- I prioritize a healthy weight. An example of a self-nurturing act is that I will try to keep track of how many pieces of Liquorice Allsorts I eat, otherwise I could easily end up eating a whole packet. This requires a lot of discipline! I grew up in a house where food was a reward. It still requires self-discipline to choose a trip to the beach or a park over a milkshake and chocolate cake when I need a pick-me-up.
- I care about what I give my attention to. This means that I will get up from the sofa to read a good book instead of flicking through the channels and running the risk of wasting my time on Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
- I care about who I spend my time with. I prioritize the people who leave me feeling uplifted at the end of a conversation, over those who drain me with negativity or egotistical talk, even if it means having to have the discipline to say “no” to invitations.
- I pay attention to how I look, which helps me build my self-esteem. Having clear skin, healthy hair, and painted nails make me feel good which enhances my self-esteem. Every Sunday evening, I apply a face mask, a hair mask, and paint my nails. It makes me feel ready for the week and I like taking care of myself. I also consider taking supplements (multi-vitamins and collagen) every morning part of my self-care routine. Being a member of a yoga studio is important to me. I pay a fee each month. Seeing the debit on my bank statements reminds me that I value my fitness highly enough that I would pay for it. My husband is a member of a different gym so the yoga studio membership is really just for me. In addition to the obvious benefits of exercise, it is 45 – 60 minutes of alone-time that I put aside every day. Something I’ve learned from yoga instructors is to thank myself for allowing myself the time to exercise and to congratulate myself for “showing up to the mat”. This act of thanking and congratulating myself at the end of a session helps to reinforce the idea that I am doing this for myself, that I showed discipline, and to be kind to myself.
- It is important for me to keep my thoughts in check and to focus on the now so that I don’t overthink. If I am not disciplined with myself I can spiral into problem-focused thinking about the future. I use self-care to protect my own emotional wellbeing, but it has a direct impact on those around me as well because when my emotions are balanced, I’m easier to live with. At the first signs of overthinking, I step away from PC (if it is work-related) and breathe deeply. Taking a bath, going for a walk alone, or listening to soothing music are other ways that I rebalance my emotions.
An area that I need to work on however is feeling guilty for valuing myself high enough that I allow myself the time to nurture my body, spirit, and mind. I have family members who, even though they have access to a wealth of information about health and wellbeing (not least the Instagram videos I’ve been making about what I’m learning on this course) they remain problem-focused and resistant to change. It takes discipline for me to not feel responsible for their wellbeing and to accept that they have to want to change. When I feel guilty I am causing myself unnecessary anguish. Just as my wellbeing is my responsibility, it’s their responsibility to look after their wellbeing.
Taking the time to look after ourselves is an important part of achieving emotional and physical wellness. I intend to continue with my self-nurturing practices and will encourage coaching clients to find ways of nurturing themselves as well.
*This blog post is based on the assignment I completed for Module 9 of my Integrated Resilience & Wellness Coaching studies.*