What's your 'self care'?
'Self care'. The act of taking care of yourself. In this time of coronavirus and self isolation, self care is a task high up on the to do list, in fact, it is so important that self care really is the essence behind the to do list and the paper that it's written on. Because ultimately, not much will get done if you're not in the right mood or headspace. But what is self care? Why is it so important? And how can taking care of yourself help in the long run? Doing 10 deep breaths and downward dogging for hours is only really useful (and sustainable when all this is over) when you understand IF and HOW it can help you each day.
'Self care' is a concept covered heavily throughout the Creative Music Therapy masters course and it is a topic of underlying importance to everyone on this earth. For music therapists, and anyone working in health & care with members of the public, the bottom line is: when learning how to care for others, taking care of yourself becomes number 1. If you understand how to care for yourself, then you can successfully care for others.
Throughout the duration of the course, I researched self care approaches, learned about how other people structure their self care and reviewed my own self care activities. I ended up with my own list; things that make me tick, which I've named 'my ultimate self care' a gentle reminder of how best to spend my time at moments when I need reminding. This list could go into my little book of optimism (expect a blog about that another day).
Coronavirus has shut everything down, work, school, routine. We are being forced to take time to slow down and look at out lives from our living rooms and sometimes, this is a harder thing to face than we'd like to admit. We're tempted to set unachievable challenges and exercises to keep ourselves busy, and social media shows us how we 'should' be approaching our isolation. Some of us are resigning to doing nothing, hands up, white flag in the air, and as slow as this pace might be, this comes with its own guilty feelings like 'I should be doing something more productive' (learning Spanish?!). There are so many challenges living at home can bring, and I'm certain you are experiencing new ones every day.
This is where my list comes in perfectly.
How did I get to my ultimate self care list? And why is having one so important?
If you were to sit and think about one of your favourite activities (no one else's, truly just for you). An activity which allows you to think and have time to reflect on daily situations and interactions. Something that stimulates you, but grounds you to the moment. Something that relaxes your mind and body and helps you to sleep better at night, offering a moment to view your day with a different perspective.
Yoga, getting out in nature, massage, surfing, walking, having a cup of tea with a family member or friend, watching a favourite movie or band, playing a song on the ukulele, drawing or colouring in, playfully interacting with a friend, child or a pet. These are all things that spring to mind. What is important is that yours will be different, and completely unique to you. Sometimes it's a combination of these things which produce the ultimate 'self care'. Some activities can be more suitable at different times, e.g. 45 mins of yoga and stretching after a day of physical 'stress' and going for a jog on a costal path for a day of mental 'stress'. These things can be completely free of charge and found out in the environment around you, and adapted to the current restrictions on travel and staying at home, like setting up a music station or gym in the living room only with items you find around the house, relays in the garden or calling someone you think might like a chat.
Now choose one of these activities personal to you, and think about how doing them makes you feel. How does your mind relax? What happens to your body? Does it require someone else to be there and if so, do you share conversation or energy? How does this help? Does your breathing change? What senses are you activating? Sound, touch, smell, vision. Do you need to do it for a long time for it to be effective? Take a moment to think about this, and remind yourself why you love to do it so much.
In moments of stress, we forget about these feelings. We are in 'fight or flight' mode and quite often purely exist just to get through each day. Our senses, it seems, are forgotten about and daily tasks become just about achievable. The thought of picking up the guitar, going for a run, or the pressure of doing something for 'you' becomes a source of stress and this adds to the melting pot. Pressure from work, expectation that we need to do a good job or act a certain way, our physical and mental health, body image and healthy eating, too much to do and too little time, no money, loss or heartbreak. These stressors make it impossible to clear a path and things can seem unachievable and often end in failure or disappointment.
Especially at the moment, we are faced with so many worries, now is the time to take a little moment each day - just a minute or two - to take a breath and think about those positive feelings you experience when you're doing the things you enjoy.
These - our favourite things - are the strong foundations
of internal strength that are needed to move us forwards
out of this situation once it is all over.
Caring for the self and knowing what makes YOU tick is the absolute bottom line to 'self care', to reconnect with yourself and see everything from a different perspective. Walking at sunset makes you feel good? It 100% contributes to your ability to survive each day, and more than that, smash every day with confidence and finesse. Declining that walk is denying your self some well needed care and love. You are the number one in your life and if you can master the art of self care then you are taking big strides towards living a fulfilling life brimming with achievement (however big or small that might be), and will be more capable spread that sunshine to others.
Uncertain times as they may be at the moment, if we take time to work on our own personal self care now, then it will be easier to sustain when work starts again and things get really busy in the near future.
For me, the sticker says it all…. Surfing, or at the very least, jumping into the ocean works every time. Hot, cold, windy, calm, summer, winter. Any condition gives me the zest for another day on this earth. Sadly, surfing is out of the window whilst the pandemic is on the horizon, but I will look to find substitutes that make me feel as good and make space for it in my day.
Today, I choose playing some Bill Withers classics on the guitar like this one...
What's your self care today? If in doubt....