how to practice self-care

What Does It Really Mean to Practice Self-care?

By the time people make their way to a life coach, they are often pretty well-versed in the most common literature around self-care. They’ve read lots of self-help books, and listen to a few podcasts a week. They might even go the gym, drink green smoothies, and have a meditation practice. But they show up at my door because despite their best efforts, they are still feeling sad, anxious, or frustrated – and they are really not sure how to care for themselves to overcome this turbulence.

And that’s because self-care is not just about what kind of products you put on your skin or how many miles you run each week. It’s about the way you talk to yourself. It’s about the quality and kindness of your inner dialogue. It’s about the way you design and perceive your career, your relationships, and your lifestyle.

So, in today’s blog, I’m going to teach you what it really means to practice self-care. I’ll start by giving you a practical, actionable, and easy-to-live-by definition of self-care. Then I’ll give you one of my favorite tools for creating a sustainable habit of self-care. This habit is so powerful that by itself, it has helped thousands of people go from feeling anxious and self-critical to feeling tremendously confidence and connected to the good things in life.



A Practical Definition of Self-Care

So, what exactly is self-care? Here’s my definition:

Self-care means treating yourself like you would treat your own 3-year-old child.

Now, I know many of my audience doesn’t have children – but stick with me here. Imagine for the next 2 minutes that you have a 3 years old, and that child is the most precious being you’ve ever laid eyes on. He (or she) is truly in love with life. He loves showing off his talents, he has an unlimited imagination, he isn’t concerned with money, productivity, or being cool, and he is endlessly curious about the world.

Think about how you would treat this child. How would you decide the activities he does throughout the day? What kind of home or other physical environments would you provide for him? What kind of people would you surround him with, and who would you keep away? How much would you let him sleep? What kind of food would you give him? How would you talk to him when he makes mistakes?

You would never let this child spend 8 to 10 hours of his day doing something him hate, would you? You would likely spend a good portion of your time doing things to try to make him laugh. You would probably only let this child eat food that is both nutritious and delicious,  and make sure he gets plenty of sleep.  And most importantly, you would speak to him with kindness and calm. Even if you get upset with the child, you would take a loving approach to help him understand what he’s done wrong.

In summary, when taking care of your 3-year-old child, you’d be paying close attention to his needs, and responding to them without judgment. Just letting the kid be who he or she is, and taking a holistic approach to making him happy.

So now, let’s go back to my definition of self-care. Remember what it is?

Self-care means treating yourself like you would treat your own 3-year-old child. HOW TO PRACTICE SELF-CARE

When you look at it this way, I’ll bet you it’s pretty different than your current version of self-care. You see, we’re shifting the spectrum. Self-care is no longer a few activities sprinkled into your schedule whenever you find down time.

Instead, it’s your entire lifestyle. It’s the way you design your day. It’s all the things you put into your body, be it food or vibes or thoughts. It’s how you talk to yourself. It’s continually checking in with your needs. And it’s doing all this with acceptance and allowance – not making it conditional on a certain result.

That is real, true self-care.

Creating A Self-Care Habit

Now, this week, one of my clients was mapping out how she would treat her 3-year-old child, and how she treats herself. She noticed that the biggest difference between these two approaches is how she treats herself when she gets upset.When she gets sad, she tries to avoid the feeling. She covers it up. She gets annoyed or ashamed with herself, wishing she was stronger and that she didn’t feel that way. She refuses to accept herself in that moment, much less comfort herself.But when her 3-year-old child gets upset, she hugs him and comforts him. She soothes him with his favorite toy. She tells him she understands his pain, and that she’ll sit with him until he gets better.What a difference, huh? This discrepancy is actually the single most common self-care problem that my clients uncover.These moments when you’re down are really critical moments for your psychological and emotional well-being. In these moments you either discover your resilience and grow your wisdom, or start down a negative path of self-criticism, and maybe even turning to false comforts – food, drugs, alcohol – you name it.

So now I’m going to share with you one of my favorite activities to dramatically improve the way you take care of yourself in those difficult moments.

Do you remember your favorite comfort object as a child? Maybe it was a teddy bear you would hug, or a corner of your ‘secret fort,’ or a security blanket that you would snuggle with whenever you were down?

When did you give up this source of comfort? For some reasons, as we grow up, we often leave behind our security blankets. We think, “Oh, I’m an adult now. I’m not some vulnerable little child who needs comforting. I should be able to handle all my difficult emotions and experiences without help from any thing or any one.”

Well, I beg to differ. While this life is beautiful and wondrous, it’s also wrought with challenges, both inside us and around us, and we still need a security blanket to wrap around us in our darkest days.

Therefore, I want you to download and print this virtual security blanket now. (Link at the end of the blog)

In each of the squares, write the names of those who care (or have cared) about you or draw little pictures of them. You can also indicate activities or settings in which you feel cared about, write down things people have said to you or inspiring quotations, or put in anything else that helps you feel warm or good or safe inside.

To help you think about all the ways you’re cared for, start by writing down examples of situations or people with who you feel included. In other words, take note of all the experiences in which you’ve really had a deep sense of belonging.

Next, reflect on all of the incidences in which you have truly felt seen. Write or draw the people, pets, groups, events, or settings in which you have been understood or empathized with in some way.

Third, include the experiences you’ve had that make you feel appreciated or respected. Perhaps consider all the times you have been on the receiving end of gratitude, and consequently felt like you were truly wanted or recognized.

Lastly, put down the situations that have made you feel liked or loved. Scan your memory for those instances throughout your day and your life when you have felt surrounded by warmth and affection,  or truly cherished by your environment.

Now your comfort blanket is complete! Hang it up somewhere in your room, and take a picture of it so it can always be with you on your phone.

Every morning, take 2 minutes to look at this blanket. Soak in all the ways in which you are cared for, and all the incredible experiences of love you have had in your life. And remember, as you go through your day, when you get sad or angry, don’t push these feelings away. Don’t shame yourself for your negativity. Just refer to this security blanket and connect to true self-care.

Download Your Security Blanket Worksheet

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