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What Is Self-Care? (I'm so glad you asked!)

Self-care seems to be having its day in the sun. Seems you can't open the interwebs without seeing articles, ads, or posts about self-care and how important it is to our well-being. The old "put your own oxygen mask on first", "you can't take care of others if you're not taking care of yourself", and all that. We've heard it all before. We know.

The One Mom's Battle Facebook page shared a post today that asked a simple question: "What does self-care mean to you?" It got me thinking enough about it to go ahead and put my answer here in blog format. Immediately when I think of self-care, I conjure images of myself on a massage table, or getting a pedicure, or taking the day off to go relax by the river. And those things are all absolutely things that one might do in practicing self-care. Yoga, mindfulness, working-out--those are all self-care too.

In fact, I was curious, so I went and put "self-care" in my search engine just now. The result? An endless supply of lists and articles telling us that exercise, eating healthy, and mindfulness are all important components of self-care--and that self-care is very important. I think it's time to expand our collective expression about what self-care is.

What I'd like to see in that first page of search results is more information about self-care as anything that brings you peace or reduces stress and anxiety in your life. You just left your abusive partner? Way to self-care! Just quit your job where you were undervalued and treated unfairly? WOOP! Self-care, baby! You stayed in bed all day under the blankets because you were sad and needed a day to process your emotions? Self-care at its finest!

I'd love for there to come a day when the first thing that comes to mind when someone says self-care isn't automatically massage tables and pedicures. That doesn't' mean that those things can't very much be part of a self-care practice. That's another thing I'd like to add--the word "practice" at the end. Self-care should be a practice, not something you do every now and then when you feel like you feel like you've suffered enough to deserve a reward.

So what does "self-care" mean to me? Well, a self-care practice means that I value myself enough to recognize and take care of my own needs, or to advocate and communicate my boundaries and needs appropriately. The more I think about it, the more I'm thinking about a self-care practice as a bit of an anti-dote to codependency. We have to honor ourselves. We have to know ourselves and be kind to ourselves. We have to give ourselves the same love and grace we give to those we love. We have to practice self-care.

Self-care will look different for everyone. Some of you may never have a pedicure even. Some of you will get them every two weeks faithfully. One day maybe you plan to get a pedicure on your way home from a stressful day at work, but instead drive straight home and crawl under your weighted blanket in a dark quiet room and cry for 20 minutes. You'd get a gold-star for either of those in my self-care practice.

That's what self-care is for me--or maybe what it's not would be more accurate. It's not any particular act or thing--it's the practice of recognizing and honoring your own needs. It's communicating your needs and setting boundaries. It's about valuing yourself and creating space for you to receive the same grace and love that you give others--from yourself.

It won't be easy for anyone leaving an abusive relationship because you've been conditioned to put others' needs above yours at all costs. It won't always be so hard to practice and recognize the need for self-care. You can start by expanding your definition of self-care and starting to give yourself credit for things like getting out of bed or taking a shower--because they count too.

But the real first step is believing that you are deserving of self-care. You are, you know.

It's not always easy to practice self-care. It's definitely going to take some practice.

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