1 May 2021
Self care. A buzzword, or essential psychological tool? A whole lot of experts would say the latter. Good Therapy describes the benefits of self care as attaining optimal physical and mental health, reducing stress, and meeting emotional needs. And if those don’t sound like things you could use more of in your life; congratulations, and I hate you.
But what even is self care? It’s a question I’ve really struggled with. But gradually, after a lot of experimentation and practice, I’ve picked up a few nuggets of wisdom.
1. Self care is different to treating yourself
This one has been a hard pill to swallow. Whenever I felt upset, the hedonistic devil on my should would whisper “Treat yo self,” and I would happily oblige. Bingeing on takeout. Drinking a glass (or let’s be real, bottle) of wine. Splashing out on a bag… of lollies.
Of course that stuff makes you feel great- at the time. Food, alcohol and drugs contain chemicals that immediately stimulate your brain’s pleasure centre. But as I’ve learnt way too many times, what goes up must come crashing down.
I’m not suggesting that you should punish yourself over the odd glass of wine or block of chocolate. But when you find that stuff starting to make you feel like shit in the long term, it might be time to reconsider your definition of self care.
2. It means different things to different people
When I first encountered the concept of self care, it absolutely did not appeal to me. Massages. Bubble baths. Lighting candles.
I hate being touched by strangers, lying in a hot steamy room is my idea of hell, and scented candles give me hayfever. I concluded that self care just didn’t work for me, which sent me into a really depressive spiral. Not only did that thought make me even sadder, as I worried I would never improve, but I also felt guilty, and blamed myself for not being able to do what others could. That is, until the obvious was pointed out to me. I didn’t actually have to like that stuff. So after some brainstorming, I came up with my own self care activities that work for me.
- Doing my hair and makeup
- Texting (but not calling) friends
- Going out for a coffee (I know that conventional wisdom says excess caffeine increases anxiety. But I swear that when I’m feeling down it puts an extra pep in my step)
- Looking at memes
- Watching The Real Housewives of New York
(Give that last one a go- you will NOT regret it).
3. It’s bloody hard
When I’m at my most depressed or anxious the only thing I feel like doing is going to bed and blocking out the world. I don’t have the energy to go for a walk. I’m too sad to socialise. And forget anything that requires concentration, like reading or meditation.
But sometimes, you’ve just got to attack self care like the hard work that it is just force yourself. “Just try” is my (admittedly lame) motto. Because not trying is boring.
Doing difficult things when you feel like shit might feel counter intuitive. And they might make you feel worse. But there’s also a good chance they’ll make you feel better. Just try. And at the very least, stay off the bags.
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