What does self-care really mean?

What does self-care really mean?

Remember the pre-lockdown times when many of us imagined that working from home would be simpler and easier? When we thought cutting out the commute would give us those two extra hours that would make all the difference to our day?

As Chandler would say, “Could we be more wrong?”

We are busier than ever, juggling chores and child care and work — and what slips through the cracks? Self-care.

Self-care is more than a trending hashtag

What does self-care mean anyway? Celebrities and social media influencers talk about it. Ads try to sell you scented candles and bath salts in the name of self-care. But it runs deeper than that. We think of self-care as good practices and little habits that nourish us, inside and out. More importantly, it means different things to each of us.

Here are some of our favourite self-care habits.

Stay hungry, stay foolish — NOT.

They say, “a hungry man is an angry man”. A hungry woman, on the other hand, can still juggle a dozen different tasks and look unfazed by it all! We are proud to be the superheroes that we are. But putting on that cape too often and for too long, is neither sustainable nor healthy. So what should you do?

Don’t skip or delay your meals, no matter how harried you are. If you don’t have time for a sit-down meal, munch on chikkis, nuts, or yoga bars; put yourself on mute and whip up a smoothie; or scoop your rice & curry into a bowl and eat up with your camera turned off!

Work out when to work out.

Ideally, set aside 15 minutes a day (or an hour a week, if you prefer that) for a simple workout. If you aren’t a regular, try quick, fun things: play a Bollywood party number or a koothu song and dance like no one’s watching; switch to a standing desk set up and do some stretches for your legs and back while on your work calls; if you have long calls at work or with family, walk while you talk. You’ll be surprised at how every bit of movement helps.

Water works. Really.

There are apps and reminders to help us to stay hydrated. But we’ve found that the easiest way is to fill a big glass bottle with water (1 litre, no less) and keep it handy — on your work desk or the dining table or wherever it will catch your eye. Take a few sips every time you look at it. It worked for you in the office; why not at home? Your only goal is to finish up the bottle before bedtime.

Get your dose of Vitamin D.

The early hours of sunlight are precious and utterly beneficial for our health, physical and mental. But this is probably when we are in a mad rush to get ahead of the day’s to-dos. Try a few routine switches to get some sunlight; for instance, why not sip your coffee on your balcony instead of inside? Or volunteer to walk down to the gate to pick up the milk or paper and sneak in a few extra minutes of the sun? We know someone who even moved her breakfast prep to the balcony to catch the early rays.

Prefer the real priorities

Watching a movie is a preference but getting your financials in order or finishing a work proposal is a priority. The first is easier and fun — but the second is vital for a stress-free day. So we count getting things done as a vital part of self-care. Here are some ideas to try.

A lot of people swear by the ‘Eat that frog’ rule, which means you tackle your biggest, ugliest task of the day first thing in the morning; that way, you’ll be relaxed for the rest of the day.

Plan your day by your energy level. If you’re a morning person, schedule your important work/personal tasks for the morning. If you feel sleepy right after lunch for a couple of hours, ear-mark this time for a bit of rest; if that’s not possible, then wrap up light tasks that do not need much mental energy. For example, folding laundry, putting dishes away, or tidying surfaces.

Combine something you like with something you don’t. This turns your mind away from the tedium and towards things that give you a serotonin boost. While doing the dishes, you could play some music or listen to a podcast. If you’re on a boring work standup and just idly listening, do some art on the side: doodle, sketch, colour away!

Keep calm and keep going.

Sometimes if we are out of sync with ourselves, we might find ourselves unable to give our best to what we are doing. There’s no “one size fits all” method to find our groove, but give these a shot.

If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a long, slow breath, hold it for a few seconds, and release. Do this 5-10 times and you’ll be surprised at how much calmer you feel.

Overestimate your calendar time. Assume everything is going to take 10 minutes more than it will and accept meetings/calls accordingly. This will give you some breathing time in between to walk around, rest your eyes, get a snack, or take a wee!

Put your phone away the last 15 minutes before bedtime. Don’t try to catch up on reading or scroll mindlessly. Put everything aside, sit up in bed in the darkness and let your mind and body wind down. Stretch your limbs tightly and slowly release. A few rounds of this should help you drop right off.

Have you been practising any of these? What self-care habits have worked for you? We’d love to know. Leave a comment below.

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