I’ve been absent for a while, for a variety of reasons, some of which I will go into in a future post (or several).
Today I read an interesting article about acts of self care. We all know, logically anyway, that we need to take care of ourselves, put ourselves first, etc., etc., so that we can be our best (our best what, I do not know, but usually I hear things like “you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself” because I guess the goal is to be able to take care of other better?).
The thing is, that some of us don’t really know how to take care of ourselves. It’s kind of a foreign concept to people who have spent their entire lives trying to please other people. What is this self care that you speak of? Who has time for bubble baths and manicures anyway? Yes, I know you’re supposed to make time.
I recently took part in a coaching program that put a lot of focus on self care, and so I asked what people do for self care. Here are the types of responses:
- Bubble bath (or other bath of some kind)
- Spa day/manicure/pedicure/facial
- Buy flowers (or some other present)
Here’s my issue. I get annoyed when anyone tells me to take a bubble bath. What if I don’t have a bathtub? Or what if your bathtub looks like mine — with the paint that the previous owners slapped on to it peeling off, making it next to impossible to make the thing look clean. I can’t lie my naked ass down in that tub. Never mind the fact that when I did have modern, clean, large bathtubs, a bath always seemed like a better idea in theory than in practice. I always found it uncomfortable to sit in a bathtub. So I’d sit there trying to read or relax or whatever, while thinking “how long do I have to stay in here?”
And don’t get me started on manicures. I like to have my nails painted, but I can guaran-damn-tee you that within an hour or two the polish will be chipped and then I will be annoyed.
I buy myself flowers on a semi-regular basis and while I enjoy having flowers in the house, I’ve been doing this for a few years now and I don’t feel any better cared for than I did when I started. Maybe I’m not doing it right?
That’s not to say that all of these things aren’t excellent self care activities. They certainly can be, and for many they really are.
But for me, not so much.
And recently, it kind of occurred to me why. Because these things are to some extent focused on a secondary level of self care, and a whole bunch of us are even getting just our basic needs met. When you’re only sleeping four hours a night, taking the time to do your nails starts to sound like a chore, rather than a self care. There’s a whole basic level of care needs that need addressing first.
So, I started to think about how I make sure my kids are cared for, and how I encourage them to care for themselves. And it’s pretty much never about bubble baths and manicures. I think other things need to come first.
So, here’s my list of self care activities for the beginner:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat regularly
- Stay hydrated
- Get some fresh air
- Floss your teeth
- Take your medications/supplements
- Make that doctor/therapist/dentist/whatever appointment you’ve been putting off
- Talk to a friend
- Move around
Pick just one thing, one simple thing, and focus on doing that for yourself for a little while.
None of these have to be all that difficult. It’s actually okay to cut yourself some slack. Don’t go crazy.
If you can’t face thinking about what to cook and then cooking it after a day of work/looking after kids/whatever it is you do, it’s really, truly okay to buy something frozen. Making sure you eat is good self care. I’m doing this one right now actually. I’m going through a particularly stressful time and I honestly can’t be asked to make food when I come home. In fact, just trying to come up with a meal makes me want to cry. So yesterday I went to the grocery store and stocked up on frozen meals. I made sure they met certain basic health criteria, and now I have a pile of things I can choose from to make sure I eat. I don’t have to think about it. It’s good self care. I spent less money than I would spend on the take out food I would like have ordered out of frustration and exhaustion. I know it won’t be forever, and it feels like a really good way to support myself right now.
And I figure maybe, when some of these basic self-care needs are being met, that bubble bath will probably be a lot more appealing. Well, probably not, but you never know.