Self-Care. What Does It Even Mean? (and a simple tool to help you find out)

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Self-Care.
Two little words we hear tossed about like confetti at the moment. They’re en vogue. Trendy. Important, even. But . . .
Do we even know what they mean? Like, really mean?
Have you ever stopped and considered what self-care truly looks like for you? Is there some golden all-knowing list of . . .
'Things We Should Be Doing To Make Sure We're Self-Caring Hard Enough'?
Is it meditation? Reading? Exercise? Painting? Walking barefoot on grass? A glass of the most excellent red at the end of a long day?

Should it be energetic? Calming? Soul searching? Mind expanding?

Ugh. My mind gets blown by the many viewpoints out there. Conflicting views on what it should be without giving each of us the respect of having our own intelligence to understand ourselves a little and look within for the real answer to the question:

“What does self-care look like for you?”
For you. That’s the most important part. What is good and right for you as the unique, brilliant, individual human you are?

My answer is this ~ we start by looking within.
We all have the right answers to this question, we’ve simply become accustomed to being bombarded with pre-made, one-size-fits-all instructions and ‘how to be happy’ lists from the internet, that we’ve stopped using our own brains, stopped looking to our individuality for our own answers and instead, waste time trawling the internet searching for golden enlightenment with the help of our BFF, Google. Self-care is much more important than this. Let's give it the attention it deserves.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the G. It gets me out of many spots where an answer to a question is just past the tip of my tongue, but we must always be mindful that it’s a tool, doing a brilliant job of quickly searching words and prioritising the results of the highest ranking website with those words for your answer. There's no heart in it.

Whose website can you trust will come up on page one? Are they truly an expert in their field? They could be . . . but they aren’t going to be an expert on you and your needs. So when it comes to the matter of our own heart? It’s not the place to find the right answers. That my friend can only come from you.

You don’t need a 5-point checklist for 'Things To Do To Make Sure You’re Taking Care Of Yourself'. You need an inner connection and your own intelligence, coupled with your self-awareness, self-respect and a bit of time to invest in you. Sure, stimulate your thoughts and find some good questions, but dig a little deeper and consult the real expert in your own life:

YOU.

Now, with this simple tool, let’s take a little time to get to know ourselves again and understand what we really mean when we say
"Self-care looks like this for me".
Not many of us have taken the time to sit down and think about what our core values are. The things that ultimately get us out of bed each day, the things that put the big smile on our face when we slide into bed at night knowing we squeezed every last drop of excellence out of the day.

Core Values are what give us a sense of purpose and help us recognise when we are fulfilled. I’m not talking about a list of things that make us feel happy, but taking it down a level deeper and looking at identifying the underlying feelings that these happy feelings stem from.

So, here’s an exercise for you to help you uncover what your core values are.

Choose 6 values from the list below. Be ruthless. Go with your gut instincts and make yourself choose. Whittle them down to six non-negotiable feelings that you need daily. The ones that show you are thriving when you have them covered. Feel free to print it out and cut them up to help eliminate ~ I've left a few spaces blank, so if something important to you isn't listed, by all means, get it on the list.

These core values are the intrinsic parts of you that you simply can’t function without. No judgment, no right or wrong answers, just pick.

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Now, I want you to draw a simple table like the one below, list the days of the week down the left and your values across the top. Feel free to print this one out if you like.
Each week for the next month before you go to bed, record in your own way whether your values were met each day. You could use a mark out of 5, or red, amber & green colours, or smiley, neutral or sad faces. Whatever works for you. You’re making a simple visual record of what value was met (or not) each day.

The point of this exercise is to be able to reflect and see if you are meeting your personal core values each week ~ this, in turn, leads to your feelings of fulfillment and highlights where you need to take more care in looking after your own core values.

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After the month is up, take a look through. How did you do? Do you feel like your core values are being met? What could you do to improve them? Are your values the right ones for you after all? They can change ~ get honest with yourself and reflect on how you’re living.

If you feel the values you picked represent you well, this is how you can start to see what self-care really means for you. It’s about looking after yourself, taking the care much needed to match your deeper level needs.

What activity springs to mind that fulfills these core values in a way that promotes self-care for you?

For example, if one of your values is challenge, then what stretches you? Do you need a mental or physical challenge? If a value is independence, could some time alone pursuing something personally important be right? If community is important to you, is there a new group you could join? If one value is fun, are you making sure there is an element of this in your day?

This is where self-care starts ~ with the basics ~ keep it simple, live honestly to you and your own core values and make steps towards feeling fulfilled from within, not validated from external sources that don’t hit you right in the heart.
Then you can confidently answer the question
“What does self-care look like for me?”