Self-Care 101: How to Start Caring for Yourself

Photo of Shem-shem Pablo

By Catia Michelle

I was twenty-two years old when I first heard someone use the phrase “Self Care”. Perhaps because, for over a year, I had been feeling sluggish, pasty, and weak (even going to the doctor twice for muscle pain and spasm) that my ears perked and I turned my head.
“Self Care? Explain!”
My friend, a woman I  have always admired for her non-anxious and inviting demeanor towards life, explained that she understood Self Care to be fundamentally the attitude that we are ultimately responsible, and capable of influencing, our own well-being, stress levels, physical health and comfort. She explained that she had first begun researching Self Care after spending a year as a chaplain at our local women’s prison, a windowless place where she spent hours a day hearing stories of abandonment, injustice and deep depression. She realized quickly upon starting there that her own mental health and physical stability would be compromised if she didn’t pay careful attention to her mind and body both before she went to work and when she came home.
Learning Self Care: What is it?
I was intrigued. Something in me knew that the past year of trying to rely on medications and doctors to feel more energized, calm and inspired was not working and was never going to work. I scoured the internet when I got home that day for anything pertaining to Self Care and I was swimming in information on how to have more energy, live a happier life, and rest better.
Many of the ideas I came across were essentially basic. For instance: drink more water. Go to bed on time. The difference was this: no longer were these things I wanted to do because I should do them, or because a health professional or blogger told me they would be good for me, they were practices I was choosing because I love myself and want to take care of my body, mind and spirit.
I have decided that Self Care, fundamentally is defined by an attitude of care towards my body, mind and spirit and an absence of the word “should”.
Is Self Care selfish?
Over time, I’ve learned that Self Care, too, also isn’t really just about me.
It does involve my community because often good Self Care means saying No, and having a community that understands No is vitally important. This is especially true because often, in the name of Self-Care, I have to say ‘No’ to things simply because I know they won’t be good for me in the long run.
As a pastor, this is really hard. I feel like I am being selfish, like I should show up to every event, be prepared to work long hours every Sunday, and make sure I’m actively involved in everything happening in my community. And when I say No to some of those things, it feels a lot easier to have a “real” excuse: “I’m sorry, I need to be home taking care of my Mother” or “I have a previous engagement”.
Saying “I”m sorry, but I really need some extra time to rest this week” doesn’t feel as legitimate.
But sometime last year I started saying that, because it was the truth, and it was really difficult to do at first. Some people didn’t understand.
But as I began choosing to practice great Self Care, I knew I needed to only choose activities that were really life-giving for me, and by doing so I would actually be modeling healthy behavior for my community.
And you know what?
Despite working to focus more on my Self, because I have greater energy  and more inspiration and better emotional health: I actually have more time and energy for my community and more openness in my heart to form deeper relationships.
And – That’s not selfish at all!
Editor’s Note: Catia Michelle is a pastor, who loves to write about motivation, routines/habits, mornings, and exercise. She maintains a blog, Joy For Today and commits to contributing on AMSDaily twice a month.