The concept of self-care has been around since the days of Socrates in 5th Century BC but it seems to me that everywhere I look nowadays in 2022, kind of "post-pandemic-ish", there are messages of self-care popping up. Is it overused? Misunderstood? Or the necessary messaging that we all need nowadays?
While I couldn't agree more that if ever there was a time for self-care: IT IS NOW. The pandemic taught us that our time on earth is fragile, misused and misunderstood. Our entire world and being was turned on its side and we had to learn to question everything.
But, what really is Self-Care anyway?
"First off, the Greek word for "care" would have been understood to include meditation, regular fasting, prayer, education, music, exercise -- anything that can be said to feed the soul.
The basic idea was that you had to train and shape your body alongside your mind before you were capable of comprehending truth. And it was commonplace in the ancient world. You had to suffer some before you could see the light, and certainly before you could become a leader. The Spartans were all about it, as you might expect. Socrates was not the first to die for the idea." (Source: Mashable)
Since I am married to a Greek spouse for almost a quarter century I feel I have earned honourable Greek status and to that I am proud of father Socrates for starting this self-care revolution. We owe so much to our forefathers who taught us many lessons we still reap today. How cool is that knowing that Socrates is the OG of self-care!?
You see, I am all about the self-care revolution and have been touting its benefits personally since my babies were infants when I would explain that I needed a 5-minute timeout in my locked bathroom alone, with privacy thank you children! Or that Sunday nights were my night to have a bubble bath, put on a face mask, and do my nails.
These were my rituals from my teens and twenties. And they continue now that I am a 50-year old woman.
Self-care is not selfish. It is a mental health necessity!
We are coming up on International Self-Care Day on July 24th. I've been wanting to write about self-care for some time but it seemed most appropriate to honour this special day with some thoughts.
The organizers of this day say: "The International Self-Care Day, 24 July, symbolises that the benefits of self-care are experienced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In other words, the benefits of self-care are life-long and do not just relate to a single day. ISD on 24 July simply provides a good focus and opportunity to publicise or report on self-care in action programmes." (Source: ISF Global)
As a natural skincare formulator, I get the joy of making natural skincare products that are designed to be self-care AND health tools for your face, body and hair ~ EVERY DAY. But don't let that fool you into thinking they are frivolous and unnecessary. Often people ask me how I got into the "beauty" space. I am quick to correct them that I am in the natural health space.
Here's why skin care and self-care is about health, not vanity:
1. Your skin is your largest and most visible organ.
2. Your skin is a gateway into your internal health and well-being. Meaning that it often shows the signs of dis-ease or gut dysbiosis before anything else.
3. Your skin, if abused and forgotten, will show your chronological and biological age as a tell-tale sign of how it's been treated. Check out these twin studies that show how lifestyle affects your skin (known as epi-genetics).
4. The microbiome that is on your skin is shared with the microbiome internally (in your gut) which science has now linked to wellness and dis-ease states in the body.
5. Your skin absorbs what you put on it. If you use cheap toxic products with toxic ingredients such as what is listed in the Dirty Dozen, you are harming all the systems of your body by creating stress-overload impacting your endocrine system (hormones) and potentially causing disease or at the very least adrenal stress (fight or flight mode is activated).
What's the difference between chronological and biological age?
Your chronological age (also a word that came from the Greek word "khronos" meaning time) whereas your biological age comes from how you live your life (known as epi-genetics which is how your behaviour and your environment influence your health). If it isn't obvious, you would want your biological age to be lower (or equal to) your chronological age. You don't want to have the health of a 60 year-old in a 40 year-old body! (But sadly, this is very common!)
One way to improve your epi-genetics is through using clean and natural, plant-based skincare products such as aluminum-free natural deodorant instead of anti-perspirant.
Here's what we know about Self-Care as it relates to mental health:
"Self-care allows you to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself so that you can better relate to others. Some people may think of self-care as selfish, but it’s far from that. A great way this can be explained is that self-care means “me too”, rather than “me first”." (Source: CMHA)
We know that positive mental health contributes to healthy outcomes for our whole body. Do you need more reasons to let self-care be part of your daily agenda and priority list?
Here are some ways to put self-care at the top of your daily agenda:
1. Take time to care for your physical body through movement. There are many ways to move: walk, run, yoga, stretch, lift weights, climb stairs, cycle, swim, paddle, surf, you name it. Choose what feels good to you - but do something every day to move. "Use it or lose" is the philosophy that applies here.
2. Take time to care for your internal and external organs. Think of the 5 big ones: heart, brain, lungs, kidneys, liver. But also focus on the others such as your skin!
Caring for your skin is the one thing you can take 5-10 minutes doing morning and night to ensure you keep your healthy glow, naturally. Choose natural skincare products that contain plant-based ingredients, without harmful toxins, and set aside time for your rituals. This is the kind of self-care we can get behind!
3. Take time to care for your mental health. This includes finding time to hit pause and sit with yourself and your thoughts. Or to just sit in meditation and focus on your breath. Taking time outdoors in nature to go for a walk in the forest, hiking in the bush, sitting near a waterfall, observing animals at play, or anything else that helps to connect you to mother earth.
4. Take time to prioritize your emotions. Journaling is a great way to do this. It is not meant to be a daily "Dear Diary" exercise but rather use it as a way to record your emotions, frustrations, stressors, gratitude, and happiness of the people, things and achievements you have in your life.
5. Get enough sleep. The saying "there is plenty of time to sleep when I am dead" is not cool and doesn't promote self-care! So many people feel the need to "Virtue Signal" that they are the busiest person on earth and therefore don't require "more than 4 hours sleep a night". This is harming them in the long run. Our bodies are designed to need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to restore our cells for longevity. The science proves it. Prioritizing your sleep and rest throughout each day is a key self-care goal.
6. Eat food that nourishes your body. Take notice and observe how your body feels when you give it certain foods vs others. There are no "wrong" or "bad" foods but there are better choices than others. For example, if you know that eating popcorn or candy gives you a stomach ache or eating dairy gives you a headache and sinus congestion then maybe those aren't the best choices to put in your body. Whereas if you feel best when you have a balanced plate that looks like a rainbow of colour with some carbs for energy, a lean protein and some colourful veggies or fruit...then eat that more often.
The bottom line on self-care is this: while it may seem that everyone lately is "living their best life" on social media showing how they are "doing self-care", they are not wrong. Each of us will define self-care in different ways depending on our priorities, our available time, and what is meaningful to us personally.
Have you found something that you deem self-care that isn't listed here? Please share it in the comments below!
Socrates had it right and it remains to be a true principle of good health to this day. Make more time for yourself doing things you love, that nourish your soul, and that fill you up with joy. Keeping your own cup full is a great way to be able to help others such as your family and friends to get through the struggles that life throws in everyone's way.
About the Author: Jodie Pappas
Jodie Pappas is the Founder and Skincare Formulator of the Canadian-made, plant-based skincare brand Clean Kiss. Jodie creates clean, natural skincare products for women over 40 to feel confident and glowing in their skin, without the use of any harmful toxins.
Jodie is a Certified Organic Skincare Formulator, a Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner (CNAP) and a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT200). She believes that beautiful pro-aging skin is available for every woman and uses a holistic lifestyle approach to educate and inspire.
Jodie loves to write about how clean skincare, good balanced nutrition and yoga can all support a healthy, pro-aging lifestyle like three legs of a stool.