By: Emma Taylor M.S., Ed.S
Self-care here, there, and everywhere
I recently had a conversation about self-care. Well, I guess more days than not I have conversations about self-care. But this one was different. It started with something like “aren’t you kinda over all this self-care stuff?” Of course, my instinct was to defend the very precious self-care time I rely on, but I wanted to hear more. It turned out that I am ‘kinda over’ the type of self-care they were talking about. (I should clarify now that I am very much in favor of true self-care). So then, what is true self-care and what is this self-care imposter we found ourselves discussing?
Before we break that down, let’s just take a minute to consider mental health buzzwords and how they can evolve in popular culture. The good news: the stigma surrounding mental health is generally decreasing, meaning that people talk about it more openly and engage in habits that promote wellness. The less good news: some topics and terms become so common in the vernacular that they take on a new life of their own where their original intentions may be lost. In the case of self-care, plenty of good information is out there with plenty of folks spreading healthy messages. But, in a culture of consumerism and individualism, self-care can be used as a selling strategy or a way of portraying an unrealistic lifestyle that causes us to compare and feel less whole. This is the imposter self-care we were discussing.
What it isn’t
So, what isn’t self-care? It isn’t trying to fill your life with material things or distractions. And it isn’t the occasional treat or putting on the breaks after you feel burnt out. It also isn’t acting out of selfishness or putting your needs above others. It’s more than all that.
What it is
The University of Texas at Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center summed it up well stating: “Self-care refers to activities and practices that can help you to reduce your stress and enhance your overall well-being: essentially, proactively taking care of yourself.” They describe self-care as not unproductive, but rather, a way of living that can improve our functioning and productivity. So, for those of us who feel like self-care is lazy or selfish…it isn’t. It is actually essential to performing to our own potential and being emotionally available to serve others. Self-care is a form of loving ourselves and others.
What it can be
Below are some examples of what self-care can look like. This is by no means an extensive list. It isn’t even a list of guaranteed activities that will work. What is essential for any form of self-care is that it is personalized to you, leaves you feeling more refreshed/rested, is a regular part of your life, and is proactive rather than a last resort. With that in mind, here’s some ideas for your self-care journey!
- Create a wind-down routine before going to bed.
- Practice self-compassion by journaling loving thoughts to replace self-critical ones (think of what you would say to someone else you care about)
- Find a mindfulness exercise that works for you like deep breathing or noticing each of your 5 senses in the moment.
- Do something you love. Maybe that’s a sport or hobby. Or maybe it’s spending time with loved ones or good friends. Maybe it’s going on an adventure with your dog or snuggling with your cat.
- Take a break from technology (Do Not Disturb is there to support you in this!).
University of Texas at Austin Article: https://cmhc.utexas.edu/selfcare.html
Emma Taylor is a Resident in Counseling working toward her LPC licensure at White Cloud Therapeutic Services. Emma specializes in working with anxiety, depression, trauma, phase-of-life stressors, grief/bereavement, LGBTQIA+ issues, and family/relationship issues.