What images come to mind for you when I say, “self care”? Massages, pedicures, and sweet treats, oh my? I am so sorry (not sorry) to be the one to tell you that these things are NOT self care, friend. Don’t beat yourself up, it’s an easy mistake to make! This is the definition that society has assigned to the term self care. I think there was even a trend of #selfcaresunday at one point? Y’all, self care is not something that happens once a week. It should not be relegated to Sundays alone. Sunday is a good start, but then we need to add roughly six more days. IT IS CONSTANT. Especially, if you’re at the beginning of your self care journey into discovering what real self care is for you, personally. Because here’s another nuance, it’s different for everyone. What works for one, may not work for another.
Self care (the term, not the actual, true practice of self care) has become such a ubiquitous term that it’s lost a lot of meaning and to be quite honest, it’s not taken very seriously, in my opinion. It’s become fluff. How sad is that? RIP self care. *sad face*
Nevertheless, we must trudge on, and I suggest by starting with a renaming ceremony for the term formerly known as self care. Let’s rethink what kind of name would be more fitting for the hard work and effort that it takes to maintain your mental health. When I think of self care, It’s more about survival skills to me. It’s setting boundaries. It’s listening, really listening, to what you need mentally and emotionally. Which means getting to know yourself so intimately that you are fully aware of what you require to thrive and survive. It’s knowing what it takes to rise above the static, for you, personally. It takes trial and error. It takes some pain to get there because you are shifting and growing and just like actual physical growing pains, it will hurt and cause discomfort. But that pain and discomfort can be reframed, it doesn’t have to take you down. It’s crafting your life in such a way that is conducive to more life flow. You know, life flow, when you’re adaptable and flexible and those things that would have sent you off the deep end before are just more manageable and quite honestly not as big of a deal. Things are jibing and there’s an ease to life that wasn’t there before. Flow. Sounds nice, right? Well, if self care is done well and “correctly”? Life flow is just one of the beneficial results.
For me, when life is flowing, I try and take notice. I recommend you do the same. Label it and assess what’s happening at that point in time that could be resulting in a positive shift (so that it can be replicated in the future!). For me I label it, “perfectenschlag”. (Yes, I am going to reference The Office, yet again.) When Rainn Wilson’s character, Dwight, describes his life as going well, with everything in alignment, he assigns it the term perfectenschlag. Ever since I saw this episode, this is the word that automatically comes into my brain when my life feels more flowy and aligned.
One exercise I recommend to get this mindful and intentional practice of “noticing” (or being more self aware) rolling is to take a picture of yourself any and every time you feel “good”. At the beginning the feeling may be “slightly better” and not necessarily “good”. This will help you pick out patterns for what’s happening when things have improved. Also, it will provide motivation for this journey into self awareness – when you look at this picture all the feelings will come back. Also, as an added bonus, this will start the rewiring process that your brain goes through when changes are made.
And now back to the business of brainstorming a new, more fitting, name for this necessary life skill of “self care”. Mental health warrior skills? Emotional ninja skills? Self focused jujitsu? I’m thinking hunger games level, but for mental health survival and thriving and functioning. Well, whatever it is that you call it, even if you decide to continue to call it self care, I urge you to take it seriously, just like any other health maintenance task you perform.
Take Care Always,