This is one of the most important things in my life. I would not be able to survive without it. But self care has been given this societal definition that is actually the opposite of what it should be.

When we think self care, things that pop into our minds are -
Bubble baths
Netflix and junk food
Face masks

These things can all be physically restful. But that's not what self care is. It is about mental and spiritual rest. It doesn't matter if you are religious or not, we all need spiritual and mental rest. 
Self care has been glamorized into something that is not actually self care at all. It is aesthetically pleasing for Instagram. But after you take off the face mask and finish watching the Netflix show, I can probably bet that you are still overwhelmed, stressed, and possibly empty. You were definitely not given life by the latest episode of The Office. 

I'm not saying these things are bad at all. I love them. I have been known to binge watch several episodes (...seasons) of The Office, while finishing off yet another container of peanut butter cup Halo Top ice cream. These things are fun, and restful. But they are not life giving. And when we consider these things self care, we miss true rest.
Life giving is a term and concept that is kind of hard to explain. You may have never heard of it before or maybe you know exactly what I'm talking about. 

The best way I know how to explain when something is life giving is how I once explained it to a friend - 
"It is getting done having a conversation with someone who listened. Who understood. Who heard your heart. It's when you are sitting and watching a sunrise and you kinda just take that deep breath and realize that you can keep going. It's encouragement, but it's more than that. When it's with people, it's them pouring into you...going to them when you are completely empty and can't walk anymore and they help carry you and walk alongside you and keep you moving and hold that weight with you..."

People can be life giving, so can actions. It's important to identify what is life giving to you, so that you can go to that when you are struggling. When you are more than just physically tired. 
I have a few things that I know are life giving to me, that I turn to. It's things that I know the Lord has placed in my life to fill me up. These things are specific to you. 
If I have the time, I love to separate myself for a day, or even a few hours. going to my favorite coffee shop, silencing my phone. I'll bring my bible, journal, a book. sometimes I haul my art supplies with me, and do art at a table in the back, while I drink an iced coffee. This is time by myself. I stick in my headphones and let myself be alone and refreshed and filled with life through reading or painting or writing. 
But life doesn't always give us that time. Sometimes I have ten minutes between one class and the next, and I am overwhelmed and just do not want to be there anymore. All I want to do is skip class, go home, and curl up in a ball. And that's not an option. I have to keep going. but I have a few very specific worship songs on Spotify that I know I can always pull up in those few minutes. 
If I'm in my car, overwhelmed and have too much going on in my head, I'll talk out loud. Yeah, I probably look crazy, but who actually cares. Whether I need to yell because I'm upset, or talk out logistics and my schedule, or have a mini freak out break down. We don't often get time to process out loud by ourselves, and it's a lot more helpful than you might think.

Whatever it may be for you, identify things that are life giving to you. Have those things handy, for all sorts of different situations and time constraints, so that you can quickly pull them out, take a deep breath, and be filled up.

There's also times when self care means more practical things for us. There are times when stress, mental illness, my schedule have taken priority over how I care for myself. 
Again, self care does not need to be some glamorous, aesthetically pleasing Instagram post. It can mean taking a shower for the first time in a few days. Taking your hair out of that bun that it has been sitting in for longer than you know. Washing your face. Changing your clothes. Making your bed. Eating a real nutritious meal - not a snack, and not fast food. Drinking that right amount of water. Opening the blinds. Going outside.

Self care sometimes just means taking care of yourself.  Admitting that you need to do these things it not under any means shameful. I have been there more times than I can count. I have been in the place where I had to have a friend drag me out of the bed I had been laying in for twenty hours, so that I would eat my first meal of the day at ten pm. I have been in the place where I hadn't showered in twelve days. I have been there. I'm not saying that you need to buck up and fix yourself. I'm someone who knows first hand that is not how it works. But these are practical baby steps that can be taken to give you a little more life. It can give you something to do to help give yourself grace and practice self care. 

So set aside time in your schedule for yourself. Whether that be an hour or a whole day, even just ten minutes. Listen to an encouraging song. play the guitar. go on a drive. Run through a park. Paint. Write. Sing. Dance. Whatever give you life. Give yourself permission to do that. You are worth it. 

xx Syd