When I work with groups (usually in non-profit settings) to help them develop self-care, there are always a few skeptics in the room. “What if I’m not into ‘woo-woo’ things?” they ask. “What if I like going to the movies or dancing in clubs to unwind?” “What if I [they always get quiet] hate yoga and meditation?”
All good questions. And I will tell you, I’m never, ever offended, even though I’ve been a yoga and meditation practitioner my whole adult life. Why?
Because I know that my self-care won’t look like your self-care.
Self-care is different for everyone. In order to be self-care, it need to be custom, not cookie-cutter.
Different things that feel good and rightful for them.
Each of us has a different schedule, budget, source of inspiration. We have a different set of priorities, interests, and things that bring us joy and healing. We have different bodies and unique personalities that shape what feels nourishing, replenishing, and healing.
Custom self-care honors our unique selves with unique care.
So, when I’m teaching in groups, I never offer a self-care prescription. It’s more like a treasure hunt or a choose your own adventure. It’s not something that anyone can ever create for you.
For self-care do its true restorative work, it needs to be completely customized to you. Like a fingerprint.
Custom self-care honors your sacredness.
Cookie-cutter self-care only squelches your spirit.
Your custom self-care may not even look the same day to day, week to week, or season to season.
This is truly custom self-care: care that adapts itself to your ever-changing life and ever-evolving needs. Once you understand this, and how to create this customized self-care, you have a practice that will last you a lifetime. Because it’s never over. There is always an opportunity for that restorative healing to take place – whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.
If you’re looking to create custom self-care, I recommend beginning with these three questions:
(Seriously, take out a journal or notebook and answer each of these for yourself.)
What do I know?
You are already an intuitive expert in yourself. In fact: no one will ever know you as well as you already know yourself. Which means that you’re the person best positioned to be an advocate and champion of your self-care.
Write down: What do you already know about yourself? What information is already available to you?
What is my life actually like?
Not the life you wish you had. Not your Pinterest-perfect life. And not even your Instagram-filtered life.
Your real, actual life. No fixing or filtering.
This doesn’t mean you can’t make meaningful life changes. It just means that, for today, your self-care needs to meet your actual reality face-to-face in order to be effective and to feel joyful.
What are the circumstances that lead you to seek self-care? What are the limitations in your way? Finally: what is possible, right here and now? Begin there. Don’t be afraid to evolve, but be even less cautious about beginning.
What feels good?
This is important, and loops us back to those initial questions I get from my skeptics. What feels good for me, won’t necessarily feel good (or even be appropriate) for you. Which is totally okay!
It just means that you need to get really clear on what does feel good. What lights you up? When do you feel most yourself? What kinds of activities are you always glad you did?
Knowing yourself well enough to know what brings you pleasure is a deeply important dimension of self-care. While self-care can lead us to uncomfortable truths or through tough emotions, most of the time, it should be something that brings us comfort, joy, and a sense of well-being.