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  • Writer's pictureKristin Helgerson Frigelj

The True Self-Care

Let's think more globally and less regionally.

How many times did you treat yourself last year and think "wow, this was just what I needed?” And how long did that relaxed and content feeling linger? Maybe the massage felt good until you woke up stressed and tense the next morning. Or perhaps the pedicure only until you got back to the car. When you “treated” yourself to a shower all alone this morning, did it make your day go better?

Is it truly taking care of yourself if the effects do not extend past the activity? Do such activities provide long-lasting benefits for your health and happiness?

I would suggest that those activities are part of a larger package of doing things you enjoy in life. The massage and pedicure falls more under the “want” column versus the “need” column; and the “need” column is what self-care is truly about.

It helps to use categories when determining what taking care of ourselves actually looks like. For instance, think about what is enjoyed and needed in these areas of your life: leisure time, personal relationships, health, professional and/or educational, and parenting.

By doing this division it allows you to focus more intently on what you may find lacking in one area at a time. If I asked how content you were with life it would probably be difficult to use an all-encompassing description. Your marriage may be solid and loving, you consider parenting fulfilling, have a consistent exercise routine, and then find your professional life boring, stagnant, and lonely.

Taking care of yourself as a whole person means taking into consideration all areas of your existence. The above categories are only examples of ways to divide up your life. Another categorization could be: physical health, social health, emotional health, brain/learning health. What’s fun about this dividing game is that it's specific to you and you can define the areas you see fit.

Let’s go back to the getting a massage and a pedicure example. What category would you place those experiences into? Maybe for me that would be physical health because the massage works on injured muscles and the pedicure is social health because I always go with a friend, leading to a great time catching up on each other’s lives. Next, we could consider what’s fulfilling me professionally and how I’m caring for myself when it comes to my marriage and as a parent.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. It sure sounds like you’re asking me to squeeze even more into my already full and busy life.

No way, I promise you!

Instead of doing more in your already full life, I encourage you to create a more fulfilled life. You will do the same amount but with a different consideration process behind decisions.

Think of your new true self-care as a global outlook.

Rather than only taking into consideration what is happening in one region, let’s look at the whole planet in order to truly create a rich and meaningful life.

Consider if you mainly focused on your physical health with long workouts, strictly planned meals, and minimum indulgences. This situation could have you in the best shape of your life and leave you minimal time to spend with your children and lead you to choose exercising and eating at home over socializing with friends. Success in one area and lacking in others.

Self-care means putting what is important to you as a focus during decision-making situations. I want to be compassionate at work, loving and patient at home, and consistent with physical movement. I will consider these guiding words when faced with situations in which I can choose to be one of them or the opposite.

Now, these opportunities happen all day long! Your day is chock full of choices; from what to eat for breakfast to how to respond to a colleague at work to what to do while the kids are at evening soccer practice. Each one is connected to the other in some way and even the smallest choices like do I shower first or have a coffee first can set you up for more or less success.

Let’s not knock the pedicure or even showering alone. But let’s also realize that doing those things alone (or inconsistently at best) is not the end of taking care of yourself. Until you’ve identified what is important to all regions of your planet, you’re not really going to have a healthy one.

So, next time you think to yourself, “wow, this was just what I needed,” take a moment to consider which area of your life was fulfilled. And then take note of whether anything is missing to maintain that fulfillment across your life.

I will leave you with a quote that has stuck with me for years:

If you don't decide what your life is about, it defaults to what you spend your days doing.

- Robert Brault

Check out more on this topic at my friend Alyssa's website, too! Behavior analyst and mom, Alyssa Latham provides parenting coaching and aims to support clients with unique strengths and needs. Her goals is to cut out your wait time, bridge the gap, give you practical strategies that fit into your unique family dynamic, and help you confidently support your neurodivergent child's development while creating positive, lasting changes for your family.

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