Self-care is a trending term these days and apparently now, what with most of the world in lockdown of some sort due to COVID-19, ‘self-care’ is one of the most searched internet queries.
It seems that women, especially, are more vested in it than men because it comes up in our conversations with our friends and colleagues more often than not.
Our menfolk, however, are for the most part, quietly taking care of themselves anyway and don’t see any reason or the need to justify spending time on themselves and investing in their wellbeing.
Women, for all our talking about it, view self care as an indulgence that we can ill afford and worse: we have an incorrect understanding of it.
Most of us think of self-care as spending a day at the salon or the spa if you can afford it.
Or we look at it as spending a quiet day at home resting. While these could form a part of a powerful self- care routine, it does not make up its whole meaning.
Self-care should not be something we women do once in a while. It should not be ‘a day’ or worse- a few hours.
Indeed, self-care is a lifelong, never ending commitment to meeting your own needs and showing up for yourself.
It involves saying many difficult NOs that will probably make you feel guilty even when you are doing nothing wrong.
It means to respect yourself and honour your needs. That does not mean you are being selfish- it means you are recognizing that you are worthy of the time that you dedicate to yourself:
Saying NO To Overwork And Little Sleep
There is a thin line between hard work and overwork. Hard work inspires and motivates you while overwork leaves you tired and resentful. Tiredness, negative energy and stress will rob you of restful sleep. Without proper rest, your body cannot recharge as fully as it should and this will cause a myriad of health problems.
Organising yourself to work smartly, avoid burnout, and making time to relax and rejuvenate is a powerful part of self-care.
Saying NO to Junk Food
Alright, now I know that we cannot realistically swear we will never eat junk food again (viazi karai anyone?) but it should not, however, form the bulk of our diets.
Wholesome vegetables, lean proteins and unrefined carbohydatres like ‘matango’, ‘matoke’ and cassava should be the center piece of our supper plate.
Ensuring that your favourite green salad is ready before you make your child’s favourite snack; and making a point to keep your water bottle and vitamins next to you is you loving yourself.
Saying NO To a Sedentary Lifestyle
We women are all things to everyone. We are wives, mothers, nurses, faithful friends, students, daughters and bosses. The many roles we play exhaust us such that we can’t even think about exercise without groaning.
No matter what our age, size, gender, fitness level or health status is, exercise is necessary and life enhancing.
(Watch out for an upcoming blog post on the same)
It protects and strengthens the heart and our immune system.
Exercise does not necessarily mean joining a gym. It is not even possible now, even if we wanted to, due to COVID-19.
Any movement is better than being sprawled out on the living room sofa. Getting up to move and taking a few steps away from the desk, the sewing machine (or from whatever it is that you do) after every half an hour or so is also helpful.
Alighting from the matatu or tuktuk or parking your car further away than where you need to be so that you can walk a bit is also self-care.
We need to love ourselves enough to make movement a priority.
Saying NO To Gossip, Reality TV and Other Toxic Activities.
Anything that pollutes the mind and fills it with toxicity should have no place in our lives. Mind food is just as essential as the food we put in our bodies. Part of self-care is being guarded and careful about what we watch, listen to or read. The precious little free time that we have we can put to good use sitting quietly, reading an uplifting book or pursuing a hobby.
Saying No To Fake Friends and Manipulative People.
It is easy to recognize these. They are the kind of people who make you feel tired, defensive and small after interacting with them. Cutting them loose is one of the best self-care moves we can make.
Saying No To Refined Sugar
Sugar has earned a whole category of its own because it is deadly and hides in places we would not expect it to. Refined sugar causes mood swings, weight gain, spotty acne prone skin and is known to contribute to many diseases including heart disease and diabetes.
So part of your self-care routine could involve you cutting down on it by staying away from sodas, artificial processed juices and baked goods.
Sugar is sneaky because it comes in many names- anything ending in ‘-ose’ is sugar.
Learning how to read labels could be the most valuable skill in your self-care toolkit.
Saying No To Excuses.
There is a saying that goes ‘If you argue for your limitations you get to keep them.’
We can all come up with ten excuses why we cannot take better care of ourselves right now. That does not mean that we should.
Where there is a will there is a way.
Nothing is impossible- even with the world being how it is right now. In fact, it could be wonderful motivation for us to start.
Ask for help-demand it even- from the people you live with; let your menfolk know that you are human and you are tired and that sometimes it is nice to have someone take over from you.
Most men have no problem putting themselves, their health and well being first and neither should we.
A day at the spa, or at the salon getting your hair done, or having henna applied on your hands are one of the ways to care for ourselves.
A day at home without the kids or ‘baba watoto’ when you can nap, or read or work on your hobby sounds blissful to our tired bodies and racing minds.
But if we are to allocate just a day once in a while for us to unplug and re-energise then somewhere down the road something will snap.
Our health and wellbeing will go downhill from there.
Self-care is a daily lifetime commitment and as women we are worth it.
I am a mother of three, born and bred in Mombasa, Kenya. I am passionate about books, writing, healthy living and getting people to see the best of themselves. Especially getting people to see the best of themselves.