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Home >> Wellbeing  >> Self-care is not an indulgence

Self-care is not an indulgence

In the world we live in today, everyone is in hot pursuit of one thing or another—professional success, better finances, a perfect body, straight A’s…the list goes on. We’re at it from dawn to dusk, day after day, week after week. We tend to lose track of time as we work, study, or train to the best of our abilities. And when rewarded for our hard work, we are motivated to work even harder. Such dedicated efforts are taking us places, indeed. But at what cost? We end up neglecting the most important things in the process: our physical and mental wellbeing.

In pursuit of success, we often forget to take care of our bodies and minds. And when this goes on for longer than we can handle, the bill comes due. Exhaustion and burnout are extremely common among people these days, and often, they can snowball into various physical and mental health disorders. This is what makes it crucial for us to set time aside to nourish and nurture ourselves on a regular basis. According to research, engaging in a self-care routine can reduce or eliminate anxiety, reduce stress, minimise frustration, boost energy, and increase happiness.

What does self-care mean? And why is it so important? Self-care can be anything that we do to look after or prioritise ourselves. It can be an evening of retail therapy, a luxurious bath with essential oils, quality time with family or loved one, or a trip to a quiet hill station to clear one’s head. Fact is, self-care can be any deliberate activity that helps one disengage from one’s routine, unwind and nourish one’s body, mind, and spirit. There are many ways to practise self-care, and what works for one may not work for the other.

For some people, self-care means a fitness regimen. Swathi Suresh, a marketing professional, sets aside an hour every evening for a rejuvenating session of yoga and dance. “My job is really stressful. And in the beginning of my career, I had completely neglected self-care. After a major meltdown a few months ago, I realised I had to invest in myself. That is when I enrolled for a yoga class and made time to dance every day.” Besides keeping her fit, the routine has helped Swathi improve her concentration at work and made her a more positive person, she shares.

Unfortunately, today, we live in a culture where endless hard work is glorified and not enough is said about the need to invest in taking care of oneself

Like Swathi, many of us may find that we do need self-care, but we end up putting it off because we simply do not have the time for it. On most days, we might find that we are too stressed or exhausted to engage in our routine. But days like that are when we need to care for ourselves the most. Nikhil Das, an engineer who practises meditation daily despite his busy schedule, realises this. “On days when I’m dealing with problems or stress or health issues, meditation shoots up on my list of priorities. It helps me keep a cool head, not worry about the little things and solve problems better,” he says.

Indeed, a solid self-care routine should help us connect with ourselves and find the strength to cope with any problems that might come our way. Even activities like tending to a garden or cleaning our homes can help us clear our heads and organise our thoughts. For the more bookish lot, habits like keeping a journal might work. While self-care can mean all of these activities and more, it is not limited to them. Simpler things like drinking sufficient water, eating healthy meals and sleeping enough hours in a day also constitute self-care. By drawing up a checklist of things we need to do—besides what our professional, personal or academic lives demand—we can keep track of the needs of our body and mind.

Unfortunately, today, we live in a culture where endless hard work is glorified and not enough is said about the need to invest in taking care of oneself. Self-care tends to be viewed as a luxury, and not a necessity. This can lead us nowhere good, for when we fail our bodies and minds, we end up paying a huge price. Instead of waiting till we work ourselves to the point of burnout, we must start incorporating small ways to take care of ourselves into our daily lives. Over time, we can achieve a healthy balance where our investment in our goals doesn’t take a toll on our bodies and minds.

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