Updated: Aug 6
But what is SELF CARE?
I've been having tons of conversations about self-care lately.
I've heard self-care is the new four-letter word. CRINGE.
Maybe you are thinking - "It is just SO selfish." Maybe you are picturing some far-away Instagram influencer running through a field of flowers or sipping a perfect latte with foam art on top and avocado toast. Maybe people saying "I have to take care of MYSELF" makes you itch. Maybe you picture someone in a flowy dress with a flower crown saying something like "Self-care, man" and you have no idea what that means. That may seem overwhelming and completely out of reach OR maybe you are reading this on your phone with cold coffee next to you and a sleeping baby on you that if you even breathe wrong will start screaming. Self-care? Eye roll.
If any of those sounds like you, you are not alone. Self-care is a weird term I had not heard of until graduate school and took me several years to figure out practically. It was this breathy out-of-reach topic that was easy to say, but not so easy to do. It has become a "fun" buzzword up there with "selfie".
So let's define terms:
Self care - To take care of yourself
Ok, I know you are not supposed to use the actual term to define it, but it really is that simple and I bet you know a fair amount about that already. In fact, you do things every day to take care of yourself.
But I'll try again - Self-care:
the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health.
Take a second and run through a typical day for you. What "self-care" routines do you have in place already?
I bet you have a shower, brush your teeth, take a vitamin or have some medicine, and eat. All of those things count. Every morning I have a cup of coffee (preferably in a mug I like) with a coconut creamer that makes my coffee taste like a good start to the day.
Notice these don't always feel good in the moment but may have benefits later. They are not always FUN, EXCITING, or INDULGENT. They are everyday practices that keep us going.
Now that you have thought about your routines or if you are neurodivergent blocks of time: Where do you typically feel grumpy or out of sorts during your day? That may let you know that you are missing a routine or a block there.
Now that we have started the conversation about self-care and clarified what it even means let's talk about what it isn't:
Numbing: Numbing is when we do something to avoid feeling a negative emotion and usually we feel worse after. While some avoidance strategies can be healthy numbing is more like pretending a feeling doesn't exist or never existed. It's actively sweeping that feeling under the rug.
Examples: Watching a show or two may be great emotional self-care, but binge-watching a series may be numbing. Staying really busy at work or with hobbies is another example, or grabbing a bag of Taco Bell may be about avoiding feeling the stress of a hard day at work. Another common way people numb is with the internet, drugs, or alcohol. By numbing, we lose an opportunity to really do what would take care of ourselves and handicap ourselves by stunting our ability to handle hard emotions.
Instead of doing a favor for our future selves we pass that work on and make it harder.
Avoiding Your Responsibility: It is not self-care if you are avoiding your responsibilities. However, this is a conversation in itself. Some people have a tendency to see everything as their responsibility. For example, making sure the whole house is clean is usually a shared responsibility unless you live alone. This is where thinking about the needs of others is important too. It is not self-care to avoid feeding your dog in order to read a book.