A new school year is just around the corner, which has us talking a lot about new routines and new schedules. These new patterns can make us feel anxious or overwhelmed, which can feed into interpersonal conflict. One thing we’re making time for this year as a preventative measure is self-care.
In the book, Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life, Cleo Wade describes why self-care is important.
“Self-care is how we fuel our self-love so that we are able to share our love with everyone around us. Our hearts are warm when we are able to show up with generosity, patience, and compassion for the ones we love, but we must remember that it is impossible to truly be there for others without taking care of ourselves first. We take care of ourselves by asking what our needs are. We take care of ourselves by making healthy choices when it comes to our physical and emotional bodies. We take care of ourselves by lightening up and not being so damn hard on ourselves…it does not benefit anyone when we live our lives running on fumes. Love is an action, a thing in motion. Therefore, it requires fuel.”
Self-care is one of my favourite topics these days. I find the hardest thing about it is making time for it. We are so busy taking care of others that we sometimes forget it’s our responsibility to identify out needs and take the time to nurture ourselves.
Maintaining consistent self-care isn’t about big things, but being mindful of how the little things we do can impact how we are feeling in our everyday lives. The rituals and habits in our lives add up, they can have a huge impact on our mood and when we practice living well and listening to our bodies, we can take care of ourselves in a gentle and understanding way.
Wade explains that without the fuel of self-care we can’t show up as our best-selves. While this is an important lesson many of us are learning in adulthood, it’s something we can teach the next generation at a younger age as well.
I know it’s still summer, and you and the youth in your life are enjoying life without homework assignments, but I have one for you. I’d like you to try out some self-care homework.
Life can get busy and with all the things we have to accomplish at school, at work and in our social lives we can sometimes get frustrated that we can’t keep up with the go go go pace. Remembering to prioritize self-care as an equally important item on our to-do list and teaching youth this habit at an early age teaches them that taking care of themselves is important.
Choose something that feels like self-care for you and then add it to your to-do list. It could be a dance party. It could be going outside to play. Or catching up on an episode of your favourite tv show. It could also be something like tidying up clutter, or prepping healthy meals for your future self.
In their Coping and Self-Care resource, Fort Garry Women’s Resource Center lists over 50 examples of self-care, including sitting outside and listening to birds; practicing breathing exercises; getting enough sleep; taking a warm bath/shower. Warm water is very soothing and relaxing for tight and tense muscles and for the mind; listening to music you enjoy; trying out a yoga class; planting a garden. There are so many possibilities!
It might feel odd writing “relax” or “have your favourite snack” on a to-do list but it is important to make self-care a priority. Sit down with the kids in your life, talk a bit about why self-care is important and try asking them what nurturing activities they would like to add to your To-Do List this week. We’d love to hear how it goes!
Kaitlyn Skelly holds a BA from the University of Waterloo, where she studied Speech Communication, History, and Peace and Conflict Studies. Her undergrad thesis focused on positive and negative interpersonal communication modelled on the popular TV show, Friends. Her interest in mental health and peace education led her to become a Peace Camp director, and a communication intern at To Write Love on Her Arms in Melbourne, Florida. She believes that sharing the stories of our lived experience is how we make meaning of the world around us and learn how to better understand one another. One of her favourite methods of storytelling is through writing. Find more of her work on her blog, A Heart of Glass.