Self Care for the Rest of Us

It’s unfortunate that some people still conflate the term self-care with selfish and indeed I struggled with this myself, once upon a time. When I began to use different words for the phrase like “self-restoration” or “self-compassion” or the clunky “healthy personal disposition”, I was able to sell myself more readily onto the idea. See, I had thought of “self care” as a phrase people used to convey the idea that we need to spend lots of time and money at the spa with pedicures, massages, and maybe there would be man-servants dangling grapes into our mouths or some such. It felt very elitist and very inaccessible to me. I expect that I am not the only one who had this misconception. So I wanted to use this article to clear up just a couple things.

Self-care is a disposition of mind not an explicit set of practices. There are seasons in life when your plate is so overflowing that adding one more thing “to do” is simply impossible… even if that thing is as simple as taking a hot bath at home. And the most unhelpful thing I can think of for people who are in a chronic state of frayed nerves and overwhelm, is to add a heaping dose of guilt into their mental mix because they are “supposed” to be practicing self care and they just can’t seem to make that happen. 

I want to challenge us to think beyond our stereotypes of what we normally think of as self care. Sure, yoga can be great. And so is ice cream. And weekends alone in a cozy mountain cabin, or a night out with your best friends. These can all be manifestations of self-care but they miss the mark on actually defining it.

Self care is recognizing that it is your responsibility alone to nurture yourself and take care of yourself in a world that will be happy to take and take and take so long as there is air coming out of your lungs and “Sure, no problem” coming out of your mouth. Responsibility is the key word. For adults, it’s not your partner’s job, not your parents job, and not your friends’ job to make sure you are taking care of yourself. It is yours. And self care can look like a lot of mental and practical shifts in order to be a more healthy person. It can be:

Communicating your boundaries.
Going for a walk.
Having a hard conversation that you’ve been avoiding.
Staying off of social media and calling or writing to people who matter to you.
Learning something new.
Taking a nap.
Going to therapy.
Saying no to events you don’t want to attend.
Speaking kindly to yourself.
Giving as much grace to yourself as you would your own best friend.
Apologizing when you’ve messed up.
Celebrating your own successes. 
A cup of tea in silence.
Asking for help. 

And on and on. The point here is to expand what it means to be a person who practices healthy self-care. Many of those items are things that can be done even in the height of chaos. It can be as simple as saying to yourself before you crawl your exhausted body into bed: 

Self… you’ve done enough today. I know you wish things would’ve gone differently and yes, you made some mistakes. But I’m proud of you for trying and for having the courage to show up and put one foot in front of the other when the world is trying to beat you down.  I want you to know that I’m going to try my best to respect you and love you, even when the going gets tough. So sleep well for now; tomorrow is a new day.