So What Does Self-Care Actually Mean? (And Other Reads)

Self-care has been the focus of my week. From learning how to let go of things I can’t control, to finding peace when I can’t possibly complete every item on my to-do list, I’m learning that self-care is about appreciating who I am and pushing myself (in a healthy way!!) to do more.

This week’s reads are about self-care and other essential topics. Hopefully they can make you think, move, and be inspired.

self-care, reading list, girl smiling at camera
📷: Kalisa Veer

And if you’re looking for more, here’s the other weeks’ reads.

1. First, let’s talk about the importance of taking ourselves on dates.
I stumbled upon this article by Emily Schildt and I love it! When we think about social time and self-care, arguably the last think that comes to mind is taking ourselves. For me, that seems foolish! I sometimes don’t even like to eat by myself at coffee shops; it just feels weird! But this article talks about the importance of ‘me time’ and being comfortable in our own skin.

“I sit, without phone or other distraction, religiously and routinely for a good chunk of time; I order a cocktail and a few glasses of wine, sometimes even a digestif, and a cup of (decaf) coffee; I order a starter and a main, and maybe even a dessert. (Ok, yes, dessert. Definitely dessert.) I treat myself. I luxuriate.”

There’s an intentionality that comes with planning a date; when we plan something for ourselves we put our needs and desires first.

2. I’m fascinated by self-care. I’ve written so many articles on the topic, I’m always trying to figure out what this looks like in my life, and I’m forever intrigued by other people’s means of prioritizing themselves. In this awesome NY Times piece, people talk about what self-care means to them.

The best part about this collection of excerpts is that they’re all so different. From learning how to slow down, to cooking, to saying ‘no,’ to different types of healing, this article really challenged me to think about what my self-care looks like. What does it look like for you? Does it ever change?

3. Another work that really resonated with me this week was “Campanology,” a poem by Michael Prior.

The opening lines talk about being tired, about not knowing, about things unraveling and I really felt connected to the heaviness of that. I think each and every one of us, at some point, can feel his words. Sometimes it feels like nothing will change and everything will be weighed down. This was a powerful read.

“I’m tired of sleep—tired
of belief exceeding its cause,
of love curling in the telephone,
subtracting week from month and month from year,
bodies striating bedsheets like waves of sound.
Are you there?

4. Okay, back to more #selfcare, this piece had a simple quote that I can’t stop thinking about. It made me question how I personally see self-care, and whether the things we do in the name of self-care are actually as good as we think.

“Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it’s helping.”

This is so simple, but yet, do you think about this when you throw a bath bomb into the tub? When you opt for a scoop of ice cream because you ‘deserve it’? Okay, maybe I’m totally talking about myself here, but you get the point. Where did we cross the line between self-care and self-sabotage? (Okay, a little dramatic, but again, you get it.)

When did we decide that self-care means doing extravagant things under the guise of ‘putting ourselves first’?

5. On the topic of self-care relating to our online use, this article on LinkedIn asks a powerful question: Are we addicted to our phones?

This is a topic that has come up in my life more and more, especially now that I am building a relationship with my boyfriend’s nine-year-old son. As I spend more time around him, it’s been increasingly apparent how much of our lives are centered on our phones. He doesn’t have a phone, but he’s definitely attached to his iPad and playing online games/watching videos, which can be a source of frustration between us two in terms of the allowing/restricting balance.

I don’t think that online time is negative, per se, I just think it’s become something we really rely on, rather than challenging ourselves to do other things when we’re tired or bored. There’s also the contradictions between whether we should encourage or restrict online time in schools and what this means about our ever-shifting educational experience. Are one-on-one laptops/computers and technology integration positive? Or negative? Or could it be both? #thoughtstoponder

I read another article this week on limiting phone use. Though written about and for primarily teenagers, I think there are lessons for each of us.

I am always intrigued by these types of articles because I’m a remote writer and spend a lot of time on my computer. Our world has just become so heavily involved with the internet and social media—both good and bad. But when I read this article I couldn’t help but have mixed feelings. Have we become so heavily influenced by technology that we have to take such large steps to limit it? And is this good? Or scary? Or should have happened so long ago?

Personally, a form of self-care has been in disconnecting. When I pull myself away from emails, phone calls, texts, even online publishing/writing, I can re-balance my life and schedule with things that truly matter—the strongest being my connection with the present moment. This is the downside of technology; sometimes it pulls me away from living my life. And yet, it’s a beautiful part of our world. Where do we draw the line? What’s healthy?

6. Along the same lines, I was also drawn this week to a piece about only doing one thing. As a professional multi-tasker and busy bee, this really made me think. Am I doing too much?

I think we can all answer that question with a resounding ‘yes.’ But is it good to do a lot? To push ourselves? To grow? Or are we really taking away from what we could excel at, in the process of trying to be good at everything.

7. Lately I’ve been plagued with a lot of anxiety (there’s a lot going on in my personal life!) and I found this article that really made an analogy that stopped me in my tracks: anxiety and a busy highway.

“Gauging the impact of your decisions beforehand like that is one way to dissolve the mind’s massive traffic jam. Another is realizing that part of each alternative version lives on in you, even if that car gets left behind.”

I hope it brings you a little peace of mind; it did for me.