I’m a queer, Asian-American woman. I’m a wife and a mother, a sister and daughter. I’m a fierce advocate, and a connector of resources. An artist, a planner, a lover of people, and a believer in good.
I also have anxiety and post-partum depression (PPD) that I struggle with every day, even 10 years post-birth. I’m someone who has learned the hard way about the importance of self-care, and with this column I’m starting a new bi-weekly look at self-care, filled with my thoughts, inspirations, tips, tricks, and resources around not only self-care, but also community care.
My own understanding of self-care has evolved as I’ve lived through my anxiety and PPD. Right now, I’m focused on exercising and eating better. But if you’d told me five years ago I’d willingly get up and work out five days a week, or track what I’m eating so I understand how I’m fueling my body, I’d have told you to get out!
Likewise, if you’d have told me I’d be eating carbs without going down a shame spiral, I also would have told you to get out. My self-care toolbox has grown to include not just healthy habits, but healthy thinking.
Where does the term self-care come from?
Self-care is a popular topic for more than 20 years now, and it’s even more popular in recent years. Google searches for the term have nearly quadrupled since 2018, writes Everyday Health.
The term “self-care” started in the 1950s in the medical community to describe things that help improve our health, says The Center for Community Solutions.
But self-care actually existed long before it became a “buzzword,” offered as an important way of life by Socrates in ancient Greece (Mashable). Here’s a quote they shared from Socrates just before he died in the 5th century B.C.: “Are you not ashamed for devoting all your care to increasing your wealth, reputation and honors, while not caring for or even considering your reason, truth, and constant improvement of your soul?”
In general medical terms, self-care is about focusing on things that can “help manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase energy levels,” says Prevention Magazine.
It’s also always been tied to social justice movements. “Self-care is an act of shoring up and resourcing ourselves to bring a stronger self to the movement,” writes Yashna Maya Padamsee, co-founder of RadOps, a support group for workers in movement organizations.
Self-care involves eight realms and taking care of community
If you scroll through #selfcare on Instagram or TikTok, you’ll find inspiring quotes, sugar body scrubs, and relaxing facial masks. When I ask folks what they think self-care is, most people say those same things.
But self-care is more than that. Living Marvelously says self-care is actually about eight buckets: physical, mental, emotional, environmental, financial, social, recreational, and spiritual.
In addition to sugar scrubs, and setting boundaries for our relationships, self-care is also taking care of each other, and our community. By doing this, we allow space for people to take care of themselves. We’re more able to use our powers and privileges to protect others who need help.
If you’re anything like me, you are your own worst critic. I’ve spent the last 30 years saying disparaging things about myself. In January, I finally said “no more!”
I am now more intentional with the words I use about my body, brain and heart; with the food and drink I choose to fuel my body; and in what I wear so I feel good.
BUT I’m not perfect. I’ve found that giving myself grace, allowing for deviations from the plan, has been freeing. My goal is no longer perfection. At the end of the day, all that matters is how I feel in this body, and how I treat others.
I invite you to seek out this new space I’ll be providing here. Join me as I explore what self-care is really all about: grace, gratitude and compassion toward ourselves and others.
Do you have a question or topic to ask Viminda Shafer for a future column? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org!