self-care

Finding the Balance with Self-Care

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BlackBirdEvolution

Site Contributor. Motivated to do most things by food.

I’ve spoken about “self-care” often. On this website, in my personal life, and most often in my professional life. The term is overused and rarely carries meaning anymore, which is why I feel some sort of burning passion to shake people (metaphorically, of course) into waking up and recognizing how essential it actually is. Not the trite version of self-care that people speak about, which is often steeped in privilege (“I make sure I have a weekly massage, it helps soooooo much” or “Just take a day off!” when someone may not have paid time off or the luxury of childcare if they are a parent working at home), but the literal term which is about things you do to take care of all parts of yourself.

Self-care, in my experience, is about what will restore you. Even the tiniest bit. It’s not always exercise, meditation, taking a bath or yoga, which for some reason is what I hear about the most. Though self-care could include these, they are merely options in an endless universe of ways to care for ourselves. It can be anything, from a 10 second ritual to a day-long trip. It can be looking out the window for a few seconds before moving onto the next task of your day. It could be planning something fun to do so you have excitement building for a week or two. It truly could be anything, as long as it fits the criteria of being restorative in some way.

An area of self-care that is almost never spoken about is the part that has to do with adulting. Avoidance of some necessary tasks here and there can be nice – giving yourself a pass for the evening to curl up with a cup of tea and a book that has absolutely nothing to do with your life. But this response over and over again can lead to more stress and strain on your physical and emotional health when you begin avoiding things you truly need to confront – paying bills, budgeting, reapplying for student loan repayment programs, writing those birthday thank you notes, cleaning the kitchen, calling the doctor’s office, and so on. I’ve almost never seen activities such as those labeled as self-care, but they are. Because self-care is about taking care of every aspect of you, adulting is part of it. Once you complete that loan repayment application, think about how much relief (well, and panic at the thought of your payments going up) you would feel. Consider how your morning might change if you wake up to a clean kitchen rather than mounds of dishes. Perhaps it would allow you to have a quiet cup of coffee in solitude without focusing on the messy kitchen. Perhaps a shower could be a bit more luxurious without that task hanging over your head.

To be clear, this is about balance. Once you cross the threshold between taking care of those things regularly to doing it obsessively, unable to give yourself permission to relax or slow down, it can become its own problem. Leaving the dishes for another day when you want time reconnect with yourself at the end of a long work day makes absolute sense. Leaving the dishes for the second week in a row to binge-watch Netflix every single night doesn’t.

So I’ve done the fairly impossible task of making self-care even less sexy by adding adulting tasks to it. This may be the point, however. Self-care is essential and it means it’s not necessarily sexy, or highly appealing in every form. Fighting the patriarchy is hard work – add on top of that living our daily lives of working, child-rearing, caring for aging parents, being in relationships, and so on – and it is downright exhausting to attend to all of the demands and requests for our time. If we want to truly integrate self-care into the fabric of our everyday lives, we need to embrace the lack of sexy for the sake of the greater good of our well-being.

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