Defining and Redefining Self Care

Self-care is something that we talk about SO much these days. As a yoga teacher I talk about it in my classes, and as a yoga student I talk about it with my teachers. Just about every self-help book on my shelf talks about self-care within the first few chapters. Podcasts talk about it…online articles, commercials, magazines – you name it. Self-care is a hot topic, which is really amazing. Millions of people are focusing on building a life structure that incorporates more self-care. I’m among them, and on this journey to live more intentionally and to seek joy, happiness and fulfillment, self-care is something that I put a ton of emphasis on. I structure most of my free time around practices meant to nourish my body and mind.

Lately though, I have been re-evaluating my interpretations of self-care.

 …if I am so great at self-care, then why am I SO damn exhausted all of the time?

For this week’s blog, I have decided to go through an exercise with myself. I am going to write out what I consider my current self-care practices to be, and then think about where they came from and how they serve me. Are they truly nourishing my body and my mind? Or, have I become so accustomed to my self-care practices that they have become habitual tasks in a structured day that I obligate myself to complete? Have I lost touch with the true meaning of self-care?

This should be interesting.

Do you practice self-care? Grab a pen and paper and join me! Let’s break it down so we that can make sure it’s building us up.

My current practices for self-care:

  • Wake up early to start my days with yoga, movement, and meditation. 5:30am on the weekdays, 7:30 or 8am on the weekends.
  • Get to bed by 10pm and fall asleep by 10:30pm (so that I can get my butt out of bed for said yoga and meditation).
  • Set aside 15-minutes in the morning to sit and have a cup of coffee with my husband, starting the day without rushing and enjoying a bit of Luke’s company.
  • If my destination is within a mile or two, ride my bike or walk instead of driving my car and being stressed out in traffic.
  • Walk at least one mile daily, outside in the fresh air.
  • Attend yoga at the studio at least a few times per week, guided by a teacher and practicing with my community. (I’m a vinyasa girl, so it’s always vinyasa.)
  • Cook homemade plant-based meals for dinner and pack myself healthy lunches.
  • Read inspirational books and write in my yoga journal.  Grow and expand as a teacher and student of yoga.
  • During the week, drink tea instead of wine (it wakes me up in the middle of the night).
  • Get my body moving with some form of cardio exercise (beyond walking and yoga) outdoors at least twice a week.

So, that’s my general list.

Where did these activities come from and how to they serve me?

Some of these activities have had a more profound impact on me than others, the biggest being my morning yoga practice. I have prioritized this practice so heavily over the past few years that I could probably count the number of times I’ve skipped it on a single hand. Whether I’m home, traveling, visiting friends or family, feeling sick or feeling healthy, I always find a place (private, ideally) for 45-60 minutes of morning practice. This may sound obsessive, and yea, it kind of is…but the difference it has made in my attitude when starting a day is incredible. Instead of waking up and immediately interacting with others, absorbing their energy and diverting back to whatever headspace I went to sleep with, I spend time with myself in quiet. I listen to the world around me, which is very calm in the early hours of the morning.  I listen to my breath and I move my body.  Starting in the dark, I notice the room grow lighter as the sun rises. I get to hear the first birds wake up and the night bugs grow quiet. Drawing in the energy from the new morning clears my headspace for the new day. Even when I’m super tired or in a pissed off mood when I get out of bed, nine times out of ten I will exit my yoga room an hour later with a completely shifted mindset. Getting out of bed at 5:30am to practice has just become a thing I do. Yes, it serves me. (And I’ve gotten to see some pretty stellar sunrises.)

Morning practice.  Sunrise just beginning to peak over Marble Canyon in northern Arizona. Beautiful!

The other items in my list serve a certain purpose, too. The list includes activities meant to honor my physical body by what I consume and how much I move. The list also includes activities meant to honor the potential of my mental and spiritual growth through continuous and intentional learning. The list emphasizes activities that get me outside in nature, which is very grounding and calming to me.

Homemade plant based deliciousness. Yummmmmmm

This is all good stuff that helps me to grow.

But reviewing my list, I realize that I’ve categorized anything in my life meant to catalyze self-growth as self-care.

While both are important, I don’t think they are the same thing.

How would I feel if I didn’t make time for the activities on my list on any given day? Self-care, after all, is meant to be something in my day that nourishes me, not something that triggers the “guilt” mindset if I don’t fit it in.

I had to brace myself for reality here, because if I were to skip EIGHT out of the ten things listed above, I would get into bed with a sense of guilt. GUILT. EIGHT of my self-care practices! Say WHAT!?

What about you? Did you make a list? How do you feel about your self-care activities? Honestly, I hope this “guilt” concept is totally weird to you. I hope that you look at your list with a big smile and an immediate sense of ease.

I’m guessing I’m not totally alone here on the “guilt” thing, though…

So, where do we go from here?

I am realizing that the deeper work of this exercise is to recognize that self-growth and self-care are two positive forces in our lives that are different from each other. We can – and should – honor and value both equally. Self-growth is great and important, but sometimes we need to rest and restore to make space for that growth to move in.

I do a lot of things for self-growth, but what do I do for pure self-care?

When I close my eyes and consider what would truly nourish me, underlying moments of longing float to the surface of my mind. How do I respond to these moments throughout my days? Honestly, I’ll generally dismiss the longing to do things that are restorative in lieu of action, unless I had already scheduled them into my day. Again, I don’t think this is totally unusual. We are part of a society that values DOING and productivity pretty highly, and it can be pretty freaking hard to give ourselves permission to slow down.

But, I think the longing for certain activities exposes the true gaps in my self-care. For example:

  • The longing to take a nap on my hammock.
  • The longing to get more sleep.
  • The longing to lay in the sun on my lunch break, instead of trying to squeeze in a walk.
  • The longing to slow down, which I could nourish by going to a more restorative yoga class instead of vinyasa.  I could also opt for a slower walk. Who cares if it’s a mile?
  • The longing to just have the glass of wine with dinner and not worry about it.
  • The longing to read a silly book or watch Bob’s Burgers and just let myself laugh and enjoy lightness more often in my days.

And WHOA, just reading through this I am realizing how hard I am on myself. Holy shit!  Like…half of the items above involve me laying down.  I’m tired.  Resting is not invalid.

Look for me here (..or maybe don’t…ha!)

It’s good to come face-to-face with ourselves. Every once in a while we have to step back and look at the structure of our lives so that we can see where we have hardened and remind ourselves to soften. Sometimes we harden in unpredictable ways.  We need to allow ourselves to lean into the longing for rest when it presents itself, and to lean into the longing for growth when it presents itself.

Both are valid and important.

Both lead to growth.

I think I will be taking more hammock naps these last few weeks of summer, and enjoying the use of my yoga bolster a little bit more.

Will you be adding in any self-care activities? Do you have any favorites that you currently practice? Share in the comments!

Let’s get the self care flowing.


xx Katie