Have you ever attended a yoga class during lunch and upon your return had a co-worker say, “Must be nice, I’m too busy for yoga”?  

Or after getting a massage, have you overheard a friend mutter, “That’s great, if you can afford it”? 

These subtle little jabs tend to come from the martyrs of the world–the folks who don’t take care of themselves, and want you to feel guilty when you do.  

You’ve probably been on the receiving end of such a remark. Perhaps you’ve even said things like this. I admit that I have! It’s true, and I’m very sorry.  

I’m sorry because our words matter and how we talk about things affect how we, and the people around us, think and feel.

Self-Care is Self-Responsibility

Setting aside time for self-care may be easy for a few days… then just as you begin to feel the benefits, that creeping thought returns: What if self-care is selfish? 

So you talk yourself out of your positive new habit. You think, I should get this laundry folded first, I don’t have time today, I have much more pressing stuff to do…I don’t feel so good without self-care, but I’ll be fine.

Intellectually we understand that self-care isn’t selfish but somehow we return to this idea that it’s indulgent, a luxury even. 

In actuality, self-care is simply taking care of yourself. Taking responsibility for yourself. 

Respecting yourself.  

If you regard it this way, you understand that it is the opposite of selfish. To not take care of yourself, to wear yourself out, to pretend you don’t need rest can ultimately lead to burnout/injury/illness which could heavily burden others.

Doctors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, partners–these are all wonderful supports and resources but at the end of the day they are ground control.  You’re the pilot. Self-care is about taking the controls and flying the plane.

Self-Care is Foundational to a Healthy Life

In my role as a health coach the need for self-care comes up with almost every client. Regardless of age, gender, whether they’re working, retired, with or without kids, most people see self-care as vital and missing in their lives. 

In my coaching, self-care is where self-awareness and self-regulation come together.  

It’s regularly taking a moment to pause, check in, and ask “okay, what am I really feeling right now? And what do I need to support my health and wellbeing? What choice will the healthy future me need me to make right now?”  

Self-care doesn’t have to involve spending money or multiple hours alone, but it certainly could. Self-care could be responding to an email you’ve been putting off that’s weighing on your mind. It could be paying your bills, or taking a break from the news.  

And yes, it could be a glass of wine and a pedicure.  

Once we expand our idea of what self-care is, we can see many opportunities to incorporate it into our lives. 

Below is a Five-Minute Self-Care Exercise to explore the idea of self-care, feel what it means, and start to make it a regular practice

Five-Minute Self-Care Regroup Techniques

1) HALT

HALT = Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Four big and powerful feelings and states. On busy days you might overlook your most basic needs. Criss-crossing town to teach classes, you may miss lunch. Or you could be so focused on a deadline that you haven’t seen another human being all afternoon. HALT helps you pause and see what is really going on in the moment. 

In this pause, cultivate your interoception–that sense of awareness of what is going on inside your body. The greater your ability to listen, the better you can respond and get your needs met. 

To check in, first get comfy and grounded. Lie down on the ground, or sit somewhere comfortable bringing your awareness to gravity underneath you. Create a safe space by turning off the radio, silencing your phone, closing your door. Allow yourself to settle and relax for a few moments.  

As you settle and tune in, ask: What can I do for myself, or my future self, in the next five minutes?  

2) Breathe

Relax the muscles in your face, allow your lips to touch and your teeth to separate and take 3 slow deep belly breaths. Repeat a simple Sankalpa to help center your wandering mind. Try the following sankalpa as you breath: Breathing in I breathe in calm, breathing out I breathe out ease.

3) Relax

Need a little R&R?  Try these relaxing moves:

Gentle swaying inversion: 

Lie on your back in constructive rest position and place a Coregeous® ball under your hips. 

  1. Gently sway your hips from side to side for a calming rocking motion 
  2. Then settle and find stillness and breathe as you did in step one

Iron out tension in your upper back:

You’ll need two Original or PLUS sized Yoga Tune Up therapy balls, either in or out of the snug grip tote. Lie on your back and place the therapy balls below where your t-shirt collar would be on your upper back. 

  1. Place your hands behind your head
  2. Lift your hips off the floor
  3. Slowly push the floor forward to roll the balls down your spine to where your bra strap or heart rate monitor would go
  4. Reverse the motion, repeat a few times, go slow
  5. If resting your body-weight on the therapy balls is too intense do the same motion standing at the wall

4) Emergency (Forehead) Landing

If stuck at work and getting on the floor isn’t an option, fold your arms on your desk and rest your forehead on your arms. Gentle forehead pressure + darkness + forward fold = hacking relaxation. It worked in first grade and it still works today. 

Bonus: if a coworker asks what you’re doing start a conversation on self-care and forward this article!

Rebranding “Self-Care” for Yourself

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

Feeling it but not digging the term self-care? That’s cool, call it something else. 

Self-hygiene, soul-maintenance, alone time, me time, recharging, R&R.  I had a boyfriend once that was adamant about the fact that he did NOT meditate–he “sat quietly every morning.”  

The words we use matter. This is especially true when it comes to the words we use with ourselves–make your words both true and kind, and let your actions follow suit.

 

Shop this post: For gentle hip sway, get the Coregeous® Sponge Ball. For upper back massage try the  Original Yoga Tune UP Therapy Ball, or Therapy Ball PLUS. Choose the size therapy ball based on your personal proportions.

 

Related Article5 Steps to Make Self-Care Exercise a Habit

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Meredith is a yoga teacher and health coach living in Cincinnati, Ohio. Meredith works with yogis and movers of all ages, from three year olds in her PK classes, high school athletes, as well as adults and seniors. Off the mat Meredith can often be found on the tennis court - as an athlete she is passionate about improving performance, enhancing mobility, preventing injuries and quieting the monkey mind.

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ROLANDO MTZ

I’am so in tune with this article, taking care of yourself is for me as important as it is eating or breathing everyday and even more in those days that you are feeling like garbage. Self care I believe is not as shared in society as it must be, alot of people blame there stress, anxiety or angry mood on external things or other people, ignoring that if they would be taking care of themselves everyday or at least everytime they felt discomfort from an external situation, object or person, they will realize that there lives would change and they… Read more »

Marnie Werner

Holy moly… this one really made me think. “Self-care could mean responding to an email that’s heavily been weighing on my mind” so freaking true! When you get down to the nuts and bolts of time management, I very much agree. Every little thing we put off can effect our mental health, even things we wouldn’t necessarily think of as taking up energy and brain-space. Even the act of cleaning out the car. I am not a regularly scheduled car cleaning type of person… I put it off until the thickness of the dust on the dash is about a… Read more »

Mariana Espinosa

As you wrote, there are many ways in which we can give ourselves some self-care and that is definitely a game changer. It is pretty amazing how some rolling time can change your tissues, nervous system and consecuently our state of mind and breathing. Also, self care can be doing the things we love, because they can make us feel refreshed. And that doesn’t even needs to be specifically to go to a spa, but to find simple things that nurture our souls. Thanks for your insight and rolling!

Maria Kiekari

we are 100% responsible for ourselves. When we lack self responsibility, self care, we tend to blame others for what happens in our life. So better to start changing those patterns that do not bring anything positive and nurturing into our lives and start living a life we want, by first giving love to ourselves.
Thanks for sharing!

Marlene

I have always been an advocate for self care and luckily I was able to maintain the habit from when my children were young . I don’t think I was a neglectful mother at all . I always tell young mothers take time for yourself , find whatever you love to do and devout at least an hour a day or few times a week to take care of yourselves in order to take care of others ; create the space.

Mel C Russo

This is huge! So many people neglect self care, even us “wellness” workers. In fact, I think we are the worst culprits at times. When your career is helping others, there is often little time to help yourself. Thank you for the easy accessible exercises to reconnect with ourselves. Learning self care is being able to let go of feeling selfish about it. I go through phases of great self care; acupuncture, massage, Yoga classes…each time i remind myself that THIS is making me a better Yoga teacher and better person. Thanks for the reminder!

wendy

I love this topic! Self Care is the fundamental boundary for us to care for anyone else and love what we do! I have worked with people who kills themselves to get the job done, but work never stop coming in, if give in the self care and self love boundary, we will only end up being bitter and burn out.

Buddy

RuPaul ends every Episode of “Drag Race” by asking the drag queens, “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell’re you gonna love somebody else. Can I get an amen up in here?” As a manual therapist, my career demands a LOT of my body. And I find that when I don’t take care of myself (whatever that means on that day), I resent what my career asks of me – I resent caring for other people’s bodies when I haven’t cared for my own. I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced full-tilt burnout, but there are definitely days when… Read more »

Matty Espino

Such a lovely post! Self-care is truly a priority and I think it’s important for us to always remember that. A teacher once told me to spend time with yourself is not indulgent or selfish, but actually is essential if you are doing your best to practice the path of being selfless. I also love the concept of simply rebranding it in a way that works for your if “self-care” is a bit of turn off. If we can resonate with what we say then I think that that authenticity will reflect in our actions we take for ourselves.

Jenny

Thank you for pointing out how important self-care is! I’ve struggled with giving myself permission to do it regularly, even though I see such a huge difference when I take the time to take care. I’ve been getting better over the years and it helps when I read something like your post. I’m going to work on a different name for it, too – that might help me even more (your boyfriend’s name for meditating cracked me up!)