Choosing the Right Self-Care for a Happier, Healthier, More Fulfilling Life

Choosing the Right Self-Care for a Happier, Healthier, More Fulfilling Life

Ever notice how the label "self-care" seems to be popping up everywhere these days? That's hardly an exaggeration - it's not only a matter of magazines, spas, and beauty stores; even employee handbooks, not to mention every product or service on the market, now makes some mention of self-care.

Don't get me wrong, caring for yourself is probably the most important thing you can do in any given day. It's more like a collection of things, really. Now, let's be sure to note that there's absolutely no contest here on the importance of self-care. Where things can begin to diverge lies in the definition we use for how we understand, explain, and take action to care for ourselves.

Hot take: Anything you do in life, from work to sleep to partying to spa days, is either a form of caring for yourself or being uncaring toward yourself. Hear me out - there will be plenty of talk about the specific self-care habits that are both science-backed and personally tested to make a world of difference, but establishing a common definition is important before diving in.

First, I should affirm that the "buckets" of being caring vs. uncaring toward the self are not black and white, or crystal clear. Just as there is no such thing as a food that is purely good or bad, we also all know deep down that having hot cheetos every day is not going to help us look in the mirror and think "I'm taking good care of my body through the way I nourish it." Seeing everything we do as a range or spectrum of caring vs. uncaring to the self is a way of realizing that just because we love to do something (such as scrolling through social media, watching Netflix, taking bubble baths, or treating ourselves to coffee shops) doesn't mean that's automatically a form of self-care, despite what any number of magazines, blogs, or influencers would have us believe. In fact, while those activities can be wholesome ways of unwinding, treating yourself, or sparking joy, doing any of those things at the continuous expense of other important things (such as sleep, paying your bills on time, moving your body, or consuming enough nutrient-dense foods) is distinctly uncaring.

While budgeting may not seem like the most romantic idea for self-care, consider how truly caring it is to see yourself as someone you would like to help be successful and at peace with their personal finances - someone feeling completely relaxed and in control rather than stressing yourself to the bone about a potential emergency expense that would break the bank, or the fact that making a large purchase would be difficult without a good credit score. Organizing your closet may not seem like the kind of "sexy" and fun self-care that would be featured on your Instagram page, but imagine how cared for you will feel every morning for months to come when you walk into a space you've curated and decorated to make you feel your best and make picking outfits to slay the day an absolute breeze rather than a piled-up nightmare.

In other words, even if an activity doesn't initially seem like the most fun or romantic, that doesn't mean it's not one of the highest quality forms of self-care you could gift yourself. With this definition, even going to work is a form of self-care by ensuring you meet your financial needs and desires for professional accomplishment (whatever they may be is completely fine and up to you - there is no competition with anyone else, only opportunities to create and live YOUR best life).

Naturally, anything, even if it seems positive and productive, can be taken to the extreme and swing to the "uncaring" side of the pendulum. Working 24/7 and using any spare moment to clean and organize is clearly not caring either, at least not in any holistic and genuine way. Therefore, as "unmarketable" as it is, I truly believe the only way to truly experience and live a life where self-care feels both fulfilling and satisfying is to be honest in looking at everything we do in our 24 hours each day and truly try to understand how caring each of those activities is.

How can we do that? Consider tracking how you spend your time for a week or, if you want to get started immediately, reflect to the best of your memory how you spent your time last week. Note how many hours you spent on each type of activity (working, relaxing, pampering, exercise, artistic hobbies, nourishment, relationship fulfillment, etc.) and tally up your total. Next, ask yourself whether your totals in each type of activity reflect the kind of life you would live if you were living as though you were someone you truly wanted to take great care of.

A great way of cutting through the resistance on this is picturing that every week for the rest of your life is spent the exact same way this prior week was. How do you feel when you picture that? Do you imagine being happy, fulfilled, proud when you look back? Or do you wish some things would change? Be quick to capture those raw thoughts and reflect on them to implement them into a self-care schedule/routine that creates the type of life you WOULD feel amazing about 10 years from now. Asking myself "if I was someone I truly cared for, what would I have myself do right now?" is also a strategy I've found very effective when I feel rather lost or confused at any point in life.

Now here's some secret sauce: No activity has a set score for how caring it is. This means we have the opportunity to make anything we do more helpful, kind, and caring toward ourselves. A shower can just be a 10-minute mindless shower (and it's undoubtedly self-care to ensure you feel clean and confident), or it could be a pampering 10-minute experience where you play your favorite background music, (or watch a few minutes of your guilty-pleasure Netflix show on your iPad through the shower door 😉), put on a face mask that's easily rinsed mess-free at the end, and light a soothing candle. I know which option would make me feel more cared for. The same could be said for meal-prepping, exercising, reading, doing your nails, or any other activity. No matter what you do, consider if it's giving back to you in some way and set a 60-second timer to brainstorm as many ideas as possible for how you can level-up that habit (you'd be surprised how helpful a time constraint can be in driving creativity - looking at my fellow procrastinators here).

Can you turn on cozy lamps (like those salt lamps/candle lamps for extra ambiance points) instead of a ceiling light, brew a cup of tea, invite a friend to join, get yourself a super cozy blanket, spritz the room with a delightful scent to awaken the senses, or add a cooling under-eye mask to any of your activities today to add an extra note of self-care? Can you make yourself a healthy, nutrient-dense snack and use a massage gun (like any of these) while you watch your favorite guilty-pleasure reality TV show for an experience that is soothing and kind for both the mind and body? Adding these small indulgences to create a sanctuary of self-care in your home, office, car--anywhere you are at any given moment--is a wonderful way to add more kindness and care to your daily life (which will surely compound even further in the long run).

Whatever your "self-care" list looks like, or your day-to-day habits and activities, be sure you make them meaningful and kind to YOU. Giving yourself true care - mind, body, and soul - is the only way to feel truly cared for.

Evoke your best epoch, with Ephoque.

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