August 7, 2019

In a world that often tries to fit people into neat boxes, it can be easy to forget that there are ways that we are unique and different—whether it's how we eat our Oreos or the way we walk.

And guess what?

Self-care looks unique and different for each of us, too.

In a recent episode of the podcast The Nod, writer Rachel Wilkerson Miller brought this truth to life with a story from her own self-care journey.

“If you don’t hear or see [self-care] looking any other way, you might actually think self-care isn’t for you,” Miller shared with host Brittany Luse. “I didn’t understand self-care for a while because I was just like, well, I don’t like taking baths so this isn’t a thing for me. I didn’t understand what it could be or how expansive it could be.”

While in the midst of separating from her husband, Miller learned that self-care for her meant purchasing a new set of pajamas from Old Navy. Upon buying and wearing them, she recognized that she was honoring her sadness by taking care of herself the best way she knew how in that moment.

“(Those pajamas represent) being exactly who you are and caring for yourself where you are and not necessarily trying to fix yourself, just saying, ‘I’m here, I’m going to be here for awhile. What can I do to make the place I am in a little bit safer, more comforting, or have a little bit more joy in it? How can you spark joy even when you’re in your worst moment?,'” Miller explained, specifically shouting out how finding that joy can be a tool for survival for marginalized groups, too.

There are a lot of keys to self-care, but one of the most fundamental components is honoring whatever you feel like doing in the moment—and, like Miller discovered, owning what that looks like for you, despite maybe not seeing other people do it, too.

There are a lot of keys to self-care, but one of the most fundamental components is honoring whatever you feel like doing in the moment.
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One way to put this into practice is by listening to yourself and tapping into your intuition, or “the ability to understand something immediately." We're calling it "intuitive self-care."

Intuition sounds like a mystical thing, but noticing your immediate needs can actually help boost your emotional wellbeing.

But what does it actually look or feel like?

If you’ve ever had the butterflies, or felt queasy, that’s a big indicator your intuition is in full force, according to Forbes.

Our brain and our gut work together, and, with the help of neurotransmitters, we’re often alerted to our feelings in a physical way. That’s just one side of intuition, though. For some, it’s also that inner-voice in the back of your head that helps you understand your emotions or the feelings of others around you.

Studies show that understanding your intuition improves over time, so if it’s not 100% there right now, don’t worry.

Actually listening to yourself sometimes sounds a lot harder than it actually is, so here are some questions you can ask yourself to properly gauge what you need and, ultimately, help you understand how to tap into intuitive self-care in the future.

How am I feeling right now physically, emotionally, or mentally?

I can’t be the only one who forgets to stop and check in with my body—especially because my mind is in a million other places or my attention is focused on whatever funny video has popped up on Instagram or Twitter.

But when I do have a moment to stop and notice how my neck is actually sore from looking down or how my shoulders are tense from a heavy backpack, I can make quick adjustments to feel a bit better.

The same can be applied to my emotional or mental health.

On days where I know I’m not at 100%, I’ll find small ways to practice self-care—whether that’s limiting the number of meetings I take face-to-face or giving myself time to take a quick walk and clear my mind.

Make it a habit to check in with how you're feeling physically, emotionally, mentally, and start learning how to listen to the answers you get back from your body and mind.

Do these feelings feel familiar, and how have I handled them in the past?

What’s special about intuitive self-care is that it’s focused on the present moment— but how you may be feeling today might be similar to how you felt last week.

Honor that link by noticing how you've dealt with the feeling in the past and recognizing what worked or didn't work. Maybe a warm bath helped you move past some anxiety earlier this month, or maybe taking 10 minutes to talk to your best friend on the phone helped your shoulders come down a little.

Use your self-care history to help you know what you need right now.

What served me in the past?

This question is all about noticing what will feel good in this moment. Try tapping into whatever felt good the last time you had this feeling or get curious about what might feel good now.

For me, I've learned that a good book or movie night can make me feel better when I'm feeling frustrated with my day.

What won't serve me right now?

If you've had this feeling before and didn't handle it well, it's important to not beat yourself up about it. Treat yourself with kindness, and talk to yourself in the same way you might a friend going through the same situation.

Instead of seeing self-care practices that didn't work for you as a failure, see it as information that helps you better pinpoint what does and doesn't serve you. For example: Maybe the last time you felt nervous you learned a talk with a certain friend is not what you need.

Show love to yourself for exploring what works and doesn't work when it comes to self-care, and know there's no such thing as doing it "wrong"—there's only learning what you need.

What can I do right now to feel soothed or empowered?

This question is the most fundamental when it comes to intuitive self-care. By asking the other questions, you’re getting more and more familiar with the patterns you’ve gravitated towards in the past.

All of those answers can inform your decision in the now, and help you notice what you need to feel either soothed and safe in your situation or empowered to accept and move through it.

Like Miller said, self-care is all about feeling a bit safer, comforted, and joyful even in your worst moment. And whatever that looks like for you, lean into it.


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