Self-care has become a hot word in what we could call “insta-therapy” and is often an excuse to sell indulgence as healing. Are videos of people using seven types of serum showing up in your scrolling, too? Self-care is an important concept, but it’s being twisted and used against people who need it. Overworked employees are told they just need a mental health day to overcome increasing demands. Women are told they need a glass of wine to reduce the burden of nurturing others. The already marginalized are told they need to own an oversized, overpriced re-useable mug to get enough water. These “solutions” prey on us when we are down and add the stress that we “should” be doing something more.
Ideally, self-care is a routine, and sustainable, not just something we do when we are completely overwhelmed. Give some thought to how you cope when things are rough. Do you procrastinate? Avoid others? Feel angry or resentful? Once you know this and make it explicit, you can recognize when these behaviours bubble up and what may be triggering them (what person, place, interaction, or thing). Next, spend some time brainstorming what really brings you a sense of warmth, care, and calm. There are three realms of living you can consider as a guide:
Does the physical realm of food, exercise, and rest help, or do you require more emotional connection, quality time, or comfort from someone else? Maybe a good cry watching a sad movie melts away the tension, or a hug from a partner. Could a spiritual link such as a connection to nature, doing a meditation, attending a service, praying, or reading poetry lighten the weight on your shoulders? Write these down and look them over for a while. Which ones could be a part of your everyday that wouldn’t feel like too much extra? Like brushing your teeth, self-care could just be a part of your every day and doesn’t have to be a big deal.
Whether people are feeling anxious, frustrated, or hurt, ignoring these little parts of self-care is common and tied to a sense of needing to please others. Clients bring in a problem like a relationship conflict, a career challenge, or a big life change but when we get curious about what is underlying their need for support, most often we can pinpoint a lack of self-compassion. They forgive others easily, but not themselves. They see others’ mistakes as part of a human experience- just a natural part of living- but their own mean they are not worthy of love. Learning and practicing compassion for who you are and what you need? This is the truest form of “self-care” and the most effective change you can make when a spa day won’t cut it.
When you feel the pressure building, remind yourself that you are part of a bigger human experience. People all over the world are making mistakes, forgetting their needs, and feeling lost. Ask yourself this question and ask it often: “What do I want?”. Do your connections with others, your work, and your decisions align with your needs? Check in with yourself while you take that hot bath, and seek support when you can’t find the love you need to give yourself. We are here to help you.