We hear the phrase “self care” thrown around a lot. Often in our culture, it’s mentioned in conjunction with numbing out behaviors like drinking or binge-watching Netflix, or with the beauty industry activities such as face masks, mani/pedis, and bubble baths. There’s a time and place for activities like this, and they can certainly bring about relaxation and stress relief. Yet sometimes they come with a cost—a Netflix hangover, a literal hangover, or a steep bill at the salon or the bar.

The good news is, loving yourself doesn’t only mean vegging out, buying yourself presents, and making your skin look pretty. The next time you need to give yourself a little lovin’, consider these options:

  • Set gentle limits like a caring, consistent parent would. To be truly caring to ourselves, we need to pay attention to our needs. Imagine that you are a caring parent toward yourself. What would that parent want for you? They’d probably want you to be well-fed, well-rested, to have some consistency in your schedule, to get some time outside, and some time to be playful and move your body around. If they noticed you were tired or cranky, they would want you to have some rejuvenating rest. Can you give yourself these things?
  • Give yourself a hug. Touch neuroreceptors respond to the loving touch we give ourselves in the same way they respond to loving touch from a partner or friend. Squeezing your arms in an embrace, placing a loving hand on your knee, or giving yourself a gentle pat on the shoulder can signal to our bodies that it’s okay to relax, we are safe and welcome here. Note: If your physical safety is endangered, don’t do this exercise until you get somewhere safe again. It makes sense that your body would not be able to relax when sensing danger.
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  • Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a friend. So often we’re our own worst critics. Try tuning your ear to your self-talk. Are the words you direct toward yourself as kind and gentle as the ones you would say to a beloved friend? If you find that your inner critic speaks to you harshly, see if you can catch it and rephrase the words to be kinder to yourself. Remember that you are a work in progress, and it’s not fair to judge yourself on a stricter scale than everyone else around you!

You are dear. You are to be cherished. You deserve love and belonging. Be sure to treat yourself that way!

Jill Hokanson

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