Self-care refers to the consistent practice of caring for oneself holistically, and nurturing all aspects of the self. Engaging in selfcare is essential as it can support us to build self-awareness, enhance one’s capacity to be resilient, support the formation of healthy coping skills as well as relationships and communication, decrease stress and burnout, anxiety and work to support physical and mental wellbeing.
Myths surrounding selfcare for women:
There are certain misconceptions however to the understanding of what “Selfcare” truly means.
->Sometimes the ideas associated with what constitutes selfcare can be limiting and rest largely on physical health and wellbeing, or even ways to distract oneself – that may be temporary relief measures or ways to cope with what one may be experiencing.
The mental and emotional aspects of what selfcare could entail are often missed out on entirely.
->Moreover, other social constructs and conditioning also play a role in how we perceive or engage with our own wellbeing and selfcare. For example, for some people especially women, taking time out to nurture oneself may be considered to be “Selfish”.
Often this is because gender roles and social conditioning often relegates women to the roles of nurturer and caregiver – to others. Women often have to juggle multiple roles and expectations of themselves, and in order of priority may dismiss their own needs to the backburner or for a ‘later’ that doesn’t show up.
->Another misconception about selfcare for women is the idea that it may be something purely ‘cosmetic’ driven often also by the impact of the beauty standards being pushed socially of ‘perfect women’– involving grooming, one time pampering, fitness / diet regimes focused on weight loss or a shopping spree.
Our hope is to bring the focus back to all aspects of what selfcare entails, spotlighting the kinds of selfcare practice that can go a long way to nurture the mind, especially for women.
How then, do we bring a spotlight to nurturing one’s mind, as women?
Nurturing the mind involves taking proactive steps to care for your mind and the cognitive aspects of who we are as women.
Some ways to do this can be:
- Practicing Mindfulness:
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and being fully engaged in what one is doing. It’s important to invite mindful moments through intentional slowing down and bringing one’s mind to the present moment. Practicing these pauses within one’s regular routine, especially when always on the go, be it at home or at work can bring in a sense of grounding, clarity, awareness and prevent overwhelm.
This is especially important for women to consider as given the overlapping responsibilities and expectations not only from external sources, but also from one’s internalized understanding of what a perfect woman should be or do – causes the mind to continue racing from moment to moment to plan, execute, and complete tasks and actions, rarely staying still in the moment.
Often people believe that mindfulness involves an elaborate set of steps or meditation processes. However, to be mindful is simply to live in the moment and bring one’s full attention to the here and now. Noticing the sensations, feelings and thoughts one may be experiencing without judgment.
It can be as simple as taking a deep conscious breath, being fully present while engaging in tasks including routine tasks like eating, drinking tea and bathing, taking a device free break, doodling and journalling. It may also involve longer practices of yoga or meditation daily.
Keeping a little buffer of time before bed, to put away devices just be mindful or hold on to gratitude for the day or just be present to one’s breath in the moment could improve sleep and bring in a sense of calm.
- Mental Stimulation
It is important to bring in aspects of selfcare that stimulate the mind through activities that challenge us and evoke creativity, supporting cognitive processes like critical thinking, attention, memory, comprehension, etc.
Some ways to invite these experiences could be through working on puzzles, word games, mindfulness based activities, memory activities or reading an interesting book.
Learning a new skill, that may be out of our comfort zone can help us be open to trying new things. Engaging in personal and professional development for women can be a way of doing this – even through networking and mentorship programs that allow for women to also develop a network of care and support around them especially at work, while also allowing for being inspired and learning from others lived experiences.
Women need to however be on guard to falling prey to the constant social pressure to be “productive” in all relationships and situations at all times.
We must remember, that inspiration and cognitive growth needn’t always be linked to active ‘doing’ or ‘achieving’ but can also be linked to enjoying a scenery, going for a short walk, playing with pets, engaging with social relationships, going on trips, learning a new language, engaging in hobbies and nurturing talents. It may also look like hitting pause and taking a break from this stimulation, especially with the onslaught of information to our senses through the day. This can be achieved through active rest, disconnecting from social media / devices for a while in the day, spending some time in nature, breaking from our routine and allowing oneself the time and space to just be still.
With all the movement in thought and body through the day, the value of practicing and experiencing stillness can be immense for some people.
- Practicing self-reflection
It’s important to take a step back and take time out to reflect on our thoughts and emotions and help to identify any patterns or triggers that may be causing stress. Doing this as a regular practice, can help develop self-awareness and gain clarity.
We can also practice self-reflection through journaling or expressing oneself creatively.
Journalling can go a long way to create space in the mind from circling thoughts and questions and ensuing emotions that may get in the way of us being fully present in the moment.
Developing self-awareness through consistent reflection and practice is encouraged especially for women, to challenge any limiting internalized ideas about their gender roles – allowing space to be more sensitive to one’s own needs and emotions. Women can use this to pinpoint areas where they need to take care of themselves through therapy, support, or other means.
- Therapeutic support
Social support is a crucial component in mental health. Often social support goes a long way towards finding ease and stability during crisis. Unfortunately, women usually grow up learning to be silent on certain adverse experiences and also tend to take on the guilt or blame themselves for it.
Hence, it is important to access a safe neutral space wherein one can access counselling or therapy. This is especially important for women who may be experiencing overt discrimination, domestic violence, sexual abuse, or even micro aggressions and bias that act as roadblocks to growth development and an individual’s fulfillment.
Therapists can help us with dealing with stress and responding to overwhelming emotions and situations in our life. It’s also important to learn to set healthy boundaries for oneself and learn to say “NO”, and to understand our capabilities and limits without judgement.
In conclusion, by taking adequate care of ourselves especially when experiencing life changes, changes of hormones and feelings, can really help a person experience strength and clarity; which can also support physical health as well! Since our emotions and our feelings come from our thoughts and what we think, nurturing our thoughts will help us to make healthy and fulfilling choices for ourselves.
How do you plan to nurture your mind, today?
Written by Rosanna Rodrigues with support from Aashrita Narayanan