At this time last year, I was convinced that "self care" was a half-baked idea promoted to sell more massages, bath bombs, and manicures. Self care felt like one more thing I had to do, and that with limited time and money, often felt impossible. I still maintain that self care is a privilege and luxury, but not in the way I originally thought. You don't need to be a fancy white lady to engage in self care, and while it can be nice to treat yourself to something special once in awhile, I'm not convinced that's what self care actually is.
Instead, I've found that self care is making time and space for yourself to do something that brings you joy, which can keep you grounded in difficult or fluctuating times.
Justify Self Care...to Yourself
We all need rest, and we all need play. For ages I did not think I deserved my own time and energy. It's easy to get caught up and put your responsibilities to your job, family, your partner, and that's okay - life gets bananas from time to time and sometimes you can't help that - as long as it's only sometimes.
It starts to become destructive when you take on those responsibilities to feel validation from others, rather than feeling inherently valuable all on your own. If that's the case, take a moment (or many hours of therapy in my case) to realize that even if you don't think you're worth your own time, you do at the very least, need to care for yourself on a regular basis to make sure you don't constantly fall into a pattern of crashing and burning. This is particularly important if you're in a position where you're doing a lot of additional emotional labor; or if you identify with a group of people that are stigmatized or oppressed on the basis on race, class, gender, sexuality, or spiritual beliefs. Sarah Mirk and Evette Dionne have an amazing conversation on the the importance of self care for women of colour, which you can read here on Bitch Media. The take away is that the more the world around you tells you that you are small and unworthy, the more important it is for you to take that time to show yourself how valuable you are.
Keep it Simple
Self care doesn't have to be #Instagramable or expensive. Ultimately self care comes down to intent and priories. It's not just about doing the activity or practice of your choice to check it off your to do list, but rather taking the time and space to ask yourself what you need in the moment, and then making that a priority.
Personally, I find my practices fall into three categories: Rest, Play, and Reflection. Reflection is really just a fancy term for emotional accountability; I count it as self care (even though it feels more like work sometimes) because if I start to avoid it all my terrible coping mechanisms start to creep back. Obviously what you consider restful vs. playful will vary widely depending on your likes/dislikes and what gives you energy, but I find it useful to have a couple staple practices in each category. I also have an SOS self care check list when things go off the deep end.
1. Rest - Generally activities that are slower or less stimulating
- Making sure you get enough sleep (can I just way that
- Keeping a day or half day unscheduled each week
- Baths or excessively long showers
2. Play - Activities that have elements of physical or social stimulation
- Going out with friends
- Learning something new
3. Reflection - Basically practices that keep you accountable and working through your own shit.
- Any kind of personal growth work
*SOS self care - For when you're feeling numb, or life has decided to go utterly bananas on you. In these times we go back to basics:
- Have you spoken to someone who loves you in the last 48 hours?
- Have you eaten? If yes, did it include any fruits or veggies?
- Have you had water recently?
- Have you showered recently?
- Do you have clean clothes?
- Can you ask someone for help?
- Have you left the house in the last 24 hours?
- Have you been able to take 10 min to ask yourself what you really need?
It's okay for your practices to evolve and shift
Rigidity is no fun in any realm, and self care is no different. Let yourself evolve, and give yourself space to learn what you need. Just because something worked for awhile doesn't mean it's right for right now, so make space for your own intuition to tell you what you need in the moment.
So, to wrap up:
- You're worth it
- Make regular time and space to address your needs
- Balance rest, play and reflection
- Don't try to be perfect