This month we are spotlighting selfcare for women at work! When we talk about “work” we don’t only meant it in the sense of women’s participation as part of the formal workforce, but also acknowledging women’s labour in the informal sectors, and at the home, as primary caregivers and homemakers – regardless of employment status.
So the first thing we are going to bring in focus is “Creating Space for Oneself”
This is challenging because for a lot of women, who give most of their energy to their outward responsibilities – family, work, chores, community, and their own needs are relegated to the back burner. This is something that is drummed into girls at a very young age particularly in patriarchal societies that practice women eating last, once all others have eaten, extol women sacrificing or compromising or letting go of hopes or dreams for the greater good of the family, supporting all other colleagues at work because it’s good to be nurturing, at the cost of one’s own tasks, etc.
Moreover, the idea of doing things for oneself is often seen as being selfish rather than being an act of self care. This negative connotation creates an aversion to these practices and can bring in a sense of guilt and shame for engaging in acts of self care- making it hard to sustain them.
While this sort of commitment and dedication is admirable, it may not be sustainable nor create space for us to reach our full potential or experience fulfilment. These ideas often blur boundaries and erase space for assertiveness – drying up the spaces that women can access within themselves and in their environment, just for themselves.
So, here’s a reminder to reclaim space for oneself in one’s life, especially to support the multiple strengths and talents that women hold.
- Carve out time for fitness and nurturing the body regularly. It’s okay to start slow. It will be hard in the beginning to negotiate time and stir up the energy for it, but once a rhythm is set it’s going to bring in a lot of joy. Remember exercise invites in endorphins! And who doesn’t want that?
- Carve out time and space to nurture your creativity and talents. Oh, this one can be the tough one. There are many challenges to engaging in things “for fun”. Women are often taught to be utilitarian in their efforts “how will this help” and all that. That’s why many young children let go of sports, play, art as they grow into adulthood, and where’s the fun in that? Ageism may also get in the way when people say things like “Why are you taking this up at your age?” or “Don’t you think it’s better to spend this time on your husband or children?” particularly the older generation may have these opinions but remember, their time had a different set of expectations, and here you are now, breaking generational barriers and carving out a new path. One wherein you put yourself first, and allow all parts of who you are to thrive in the moment. Section out this time for yourself atleast once a week. It’s okay if what you want to nurture isn’t quite there yet, but every start you make will bring in a sense of self love, satisfaction, enthusiasm and all sorts of the good feels we love to feel.
- Make space for the sisterhood: Nurturing relationships, especially female friendships can go a long way to providing space for support systems emotional and otherwise and bring in access to opportunity, ideas and some lightheartedness. All the good stuff we miss out on when the only relationships in front of us are obligations, family and work.
- Take a break: Think about taking a break, especially from routine. This could be going out for dinner alone or with friends or your partner. Go out for movies, plays, tournaments, the beach, or other spaces that seem to call out to you. And if you are feeling truly adventurous, how about that travel plan you were pushing back? Changing pace brings in new energy ideas and enthusiasm – things that can bring new life into routine and relationships!
- Nurture your mind and heart. Now this one is non-negotiable. Have you made space for your feelings and emotions recently? Did you practice that pause to reflect on what you value, what supports you and what doesn’t? Have you had a safe space to cry, get angry or process your emotions? Just like our bodies need some love, so does our mind and our hearts. Creating space in this manner could look like journaling, art and art therapy, and can look like access therapeutic support by scheduling time with a mental health professional. This one comes with the need to battle some stigma, but you are worth the effort.
Remember it’s okay to feel what you are feeling. And it’s okay – and very important – to access support.
And lastly, hold on to this idea shared by Dodinsky (In the Garden of Thoughts)
“Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind.”
Because you matter too.