Self-care. It’s kind of a buzzword now, isn’t it? In our “busy is better” world, we wear stress like a badge of honor. Being stressed means we’re accomplishing something right? I’m not sure when our culture decided that “being busy” was more important than living life. A little bit of stress can be a good thing - put the pressure on and watch me spring into action! I’m always more motivated when a deadline is fast approaching.
But chronic stress has been shown to negatively impact our health. And it’s often associated with anxiety. While the two seem similar, they aren’t interchangeable. Stress is a response, while anxiety is a response to the stress.
So how can we slooooww down our lives a bit? Well if you’re like me, you might only slow down when life makes you. Like when you get sick. Or when you happen to have a free weekend. Or when your brain says NO MORE and you binge a Netflix series.
Here’s the thing though - that’s not self-care. That’s emergency measures! So what is self-care anyways?
It’s defined as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.”
The beauty of this definition is that it’s open to interpretation! Your self care methods might be COMPLETELY different than mine, your mom’s, neighbors, best friend… you get the point.
I think it’s important to point out what self care is not:
* Adding more to your to do list
* Having an “emergency plan” for when you are overwhelmed
* Being selfish
Renee Dunham, LMHC, CAP (a licensed mental health therapist) has an awesome explanation of why we need daily self-care.
It’s Monday morning and you are starting off mentally with a full tank of gas. You are totally replenished and relaxed. You go through your normal daily activities, work, school, etc and that takes out 40% of your gas. Come Tuesday morning you’re only starting off with 60% in that tank. You go through the day and lose 50% because you had more going on. Wednesday comes around and you’ve only got 10% in your gas tank! In order to get through the day, you are going to be driving on EMPTY.
We gotta refill our gas tanks people! Waiting till you get sick or “have the time” is like waiting till the car breaks down on the side of the road and scrambling with a gas can. It’ll help get you back but keep doing that and your car is going to show early signs of wear and tear.
Another great point Renee brought up is that self-care has to be deliberate and enjoyable.
So scrolling through Facebook and getting mad about what someone else posted or did is NOT self-care. Trying to beat that hard level of Candy Crush is NOT self-care.
That last one confused me for a second because it seems fun. Renee explained that it isn’t self-care because it a) requires mental effort and b) stresses you out more as you try to beat that level.
Self-care should not be mentally challenging!
You can watch funny videos online, do some light reading (jokes, “happy news”, etc), listen to music, dance, workout, anything which leaves you feeling good from the inside out.
Woah! Light bulb moment… So a Netflix binge when I have deadlines to meet is not a form of self-care… because it’s actually stressing me out more.
How are you going to accomplish all this self-care?
Something’s gotta give. We know adding more on isn’t the solution so something will have to be removed. Contrary to society’s expectations we CANNOT do it all. Maybe instead of baking those cookies, you buy some from the grocery store. I promise you that the world will not come to a screeching halt.
I am 100000000% guilty of this, ladies. I kept adding more and more responsibilities and self-care wasn’t anywhere on my radar. There’s a difference between being a badass boss lady and just wearing yourself down. It got to a point where I was actually not performing as well and I stopped doing the things I love like I stopped writing blog posts, because “I didn’t have time”. And to top it off the chronic stress was breaking my immune system down and I was getting sick all the time!
I’m actually cringing looking back on that time, but I’m glad it happened because it taught me a lot. I had to take some big items off my plate. At first, I felt guilty for having to say no. So take it from me. It’s easier to say no from the get-go than to have to go back on your word.
If it doesn’t feel right then say no! And along with that...
You don’t need to write a 5-page essay excusing yourself for something you can’t or don’t want to do. No is enough. When a new opportunity comes your way take the time to think about it and make a decision that’s true to you.
Your support system is there for… support
One of my mentors and the biggest proponent of self-care, Susan Clinton talks about tribes and tribe mentality. Shout out to Beyonce for joining us gals together as a tribe. Early humans couldn’t survive independently; we relied on the tribe for food, shelter, and support. If we found bad foods we told the tribe so that they didn’t eat them. If we had a kill/good harvest we would share that with the tribe members.
While technological advancements have helped us immensely, I think one of the downsides is it has also facilitated more isolation. With countless hours of “entertainment” on your phone, who needs to go out anymore? A couple decades ago you had to leave your house to see the doctor, to interact with people, to get library books, to find out what’s going on in town. Now you can text your friends from your couch to see “if it’s worth it” to go out.
How many of your best memories came from some spontaneous act or moment!? We've got to get over FOMO (the fear of missing out) and live life!
Now I love social media and what the internet has helped us to accomplish. My only issue is the local isolation that’s come about as a result. Instead of sitting in a waiting room and talking to someone near you, we scroll mindlessly through apps. And we’re bombarded by “perfect” people and what we should be accomplishing. I think that contributes to our difficulty asking for help at times.
Please, lean on your support system. Not when the world is crashing down around you and deadlines come fast approaching. Build those relationships now. Call that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with, the dishes and work will be there 30 minutes from now.
Asking for help will a) help you in that moment and b) it’ll help you to get some of this coveted “time” for self-care!
So let’s recap.
- Self-care is a daily NECESSITY, just like brushing your teeth and eating. It’s how we care for our psyche!
- Doing less can help you to do more. Taking time to care for yourself will help you to be more present with your friends, family, and during work.
- Ask for help!
- Get support from your support system. Or get a new system!