How to Rediscover the “Self” in Self-Care

Self-care, so hot right now. So hot. It’s a term tossed around the wellness world often, leaving it subject to many different interpretations.

Some suggest it looks like an acai bowl with a shit-ton of toppings (chia seeds! Organic, gluten-free granola! $75 sex dust, thanks Gwyneth!). Others might imply yoga on the beach is best, bonus points if your ass is showing.

Not to say these things are wrong, necessarily. But when we stick to such a limited, surface level scope of what self-care looks like, we’re missing the point entirely.

The thing about self-care, is that it can be messy and imperfect, and it’s certainly not always Instagrammable. But it’s vital for our emotional and physical wellbeing.

What then, does true self-care look like? Enter: Sofia, our guest author on the blog today. Enjoy, friends.

Self Care’s Rise to Stardom

Of all the things that could be “in” these days, trust me – I’m the first person to jump for joy that self-care and wellness are at the top of the list. Meditation classes? Check. Pop up acupuncture studios? Yes please! Personal growth retreats? Count me IN. I think it’s straight up awesome that self-care and wellness have become buzzwords and are considered the “cool” or “trendy” thing to do. I’m a firm believer that self-care is a necessary ingredient for living life well.

But you know the saying that too much of anything can be bad for you? Well, it applies to our culture’s near-obsession with taking care of ourselves too.

I know, I know. You must be thinking, “But how is that possible? Isn’t this a really good thing?” But hear me out. There is so much information out there when it comes to practicing self-care – Girls night! Manicures! Hygge! – that it causes us to look externally for ways to take care of ourselves. We’re constantly bombarded by too many answers, suggestions and words of advice, and they’re distracting. Self-care has become prescriptive rather than a practice rooted in listening to our bodies and minds for information. How can we practice self-care if we’re not even sure how we’re doing beneath the distractions of our daily lives?

I believe that the only way to practice self-care is to tune in, turn inwards and be mindful.

What is Mindfulness?

Like self-care and wellness, mindfulness is another buzzword that’s risen the ranks of popularity in recent years. The gist of it is pretty well publicized – be aware of and in the present moment – yet there are key elements of the practice that modern discourse (innocently!) ignores. According to John Kabat-Zinn, arguably the man responsible for bringing mindfulness to the West, mindfulness is defined as “the awareness that arises through intentionally attending to one’s moment-to-moment experience in a non-judgmental and accepting way.”[1] The second piece of this definition is my favorite part, and in my opinion crucial to fully understand what mindfulness entails. It’s so much more than just a practice of being in the present moment. Mindfulness is, at its core, a self-compassion practice.

Another thing I want to note is that mindfulness wasn’t created in the West, and it’s not new on the scene. It has been around for thousands (and thousands!) of years and originates from Buddhist philosophy. According to Buddhism, mindfulness is a way for people to deal with the undeniable truth that nothing lasts forever, and change is inevitable. Mindfulness helps us ride the waves of change, be present with and kind to ourselves when the inevitable ups and downs of life – and our emotions – arise.

How to Infuse Mindfulness Into a Self-Care Practice

What does this mean for self-care, you ask?

Well, it means that self-care is so much more than all the big action items, activities or “to-do’s” we read about online, on social media or see in stores.

It’s an internal game and has so much to do with our thoughts and mindset. Developing and honoring a self-care practice can be as simple as…

  • Noticing how you’re feeling and not beating yourself up about it.
  • Honoring where you are in the moment and accepting it as is.
  • Letting go of trying to “fix” anything and celebrating yourself right then and there.
  • Becoming aware of how you’re thinking about something and then considering a fresh perspective that serves you better.
  • Choosing to sit with your emotions for a beat so you can respond to a situation rather than react immediately out of impulse.
  • Taking time to check in before you take action.

I’m definitely not saying any of this is easy, but can you see how and why the second piece of mindfulness, self-compassion, is so important? First you tune in find clarity. And then you do your best to not let your mind or inner critic sabotage your progress. Be kind to yourself! If you’re not, it’s difficult to figure out the kind of self-care practice you really need. Plus, let’s be real here: beating yourself up for how you’re doing is pretty much the antithesis of self-care.

Remember: Self-Care is a Practice

Now that we’re aligned on the link between self-care, mindfulness and how to go about re-infusing the “self” into self-care, I want to remind you of one key thing: Self-care is a PRACTICE.

As in, takes time. Ongoing. Not a one-and-done quick fix.

Self-care isn’t something you can check off the list after one yoga class, healthy meal or night in (or out!). Being mindful teaches us that everything is always changing, which means that what we need in any given moment is too. It’s never going to be perfect or exactly the same.

Self-care is fluid and may look entirely different than what your favorite blog or website is telling you to do. It’s an attitude, mindset and even a way of life.

I challenge you to check in with yourself this week: How are you feeling? What are you thinking? Use this information to honor your needs, be nice to yourself and find exactly what self-care looks like for you.   

[1] Kabat-Zinn, 2003; Shapiro, Carlson, Astin & Freedman, 2006, p. 842

About Sofia Adler

Sofia Adler is a Mindset and Transition coach who empowers you to honor your truth in transition and navigate change with clarity, confidence and ease. She helps her clients tap into who they really are using mindfulness and mindset work so they can avoid the myriad of “shoulds” or advice out there in the world and intentionally create the life they’ve always wanted. She graduated from Colgate University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and has a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and Education with a Mind/Body practice concentration and Coaching Emphasis (100+ hours of training) from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her Master’s degree, mindfulness meditation teacher training, and yoga teacher training inform her coaching philosophy, which is rooted in three pillars: positive psychology, mindset/mindfulness, and resilience.

Visit her site at www.sofiaadler.com.

Bridget

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