#selfcare: caring for vs. taking care of (ourselves)
unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the entirety of 2019, you’ll have heard the phrase ‘self-care’ thrown around in some context or another. it is the phrase (and hashtag) of the moment. there are endless opinions, thoughts, studies, offerings, workshops and immersions that dive deep into the mechanics, techniques and finer details of caring for yourself through the good days and the bad. do we hustle, do the uncomfortable things when we really don’t want to and hold ourselves accountable for our own bullshit? or do we rest, relax, soften and unplug – draw a lavender bath and retreat under a blanket?
this is my offering. not usually one to sit on the fence, this is a topic that i have slowly and steadily found balance with. if you know me, you understand this is rare (i am a woman of extremes and i make no apology for it).
i have been burnt out. many, many times. for a long time i just accepted it as part of who i am: 50% people-loving high energy extrovert, 50% silence-craving, antisocial introvert. how’s that for a headache?
i’d make plans when i was in extrovert mode, deeply regretting them when i woke up in intense introversion (“but i’m a gemini” i’d tell myself “this is just how it is”).
to remedy this, i’d spend my days off lounging in bed, missing my morning yoga practice, binging on pastries and extra coffees that my nervous system definitely did not need - because sleeping in, extra treats and ignoring your inner striver is self-care and rest – right?
on these days i’d feel like shit. i’d feel sluggish and tired and my body would feel tight and creaky. i’d be listless and have no enthusiasm, often overwhelmed by the prospect of the days ahead. confusion would arise frequently: i was resting, wasn’t rest supposed to feel good? isn’t this self-care?
equally, on weeks where i hadn’t had chance to awaken naturally (often) and was a slave to five alarms (i’m a snoozer) – i’d be just as grumpy and lethargic. whilst dragging myself to an early morning class and prepping a mega healthy breakfast at 5am when i could have probably done with an extra hours sleep made me feel great right after – i would slump in the early afternoon. i’d feel resentful about my self-imposed strict schedule. i certainly did not feel cared for.
but if sleeping in, treats and lying in bed all morning isn’t self-care – and rising early, holding myself accountable and dragging myself out of bed for an endorphin hit isn’t self-care: what is self care?
after a pretty scary trip to the hospital earlier in the year, i was left with no choice but to figure out what this self-care thing truly meant to me. “balance!” people would yell at me. “balance!” i would yell at myself. but what was balance for me? i had no idea.
over time I have come to realise this:
in my humble opinion, caring for ourselves and taking care of ourselves are two entirely different acts.
i believe both are just as important and work cohesively together. for me, combined, they form self-care: I find that one without the other creates lethargy or exhaustion.
reluctantly, this is where i take my ‘woman of extremes’ hat off.
‘taking care’ of ourselves is no easy task. taking care, in my eyes, is akin to self-parenting. it most likely does not feel like a fluffy blanket of self-care. it looks like going to bed 60 minutes earlier than i want to. getting 8 hours of sleep. rising a little earlier, snoozing only once or not at all. meditating twice a day because it grounds me and creates space for my creativity – plus i’m a fucking anxious mess without it. food prepping on a sunday so that i don’t get overwhelmed during the week. it feels like accountability and boundary carving when i’d rather run away. the things that i know are good for me but take work and occasional discomfort – the parts my parents would advise - and i’d roll my eyes at.
taking care of myself is at the very least making sure all of my physical and emotional needs are met: and it’s not always pretty.
caring for myself – this is where the epsom salt baths, huge sleep-in and late morning yin yoga party starts. it’s where the buying myself flowers and a 90-minute massage because i’m a god damn badass steps in. this is the stay in bed all day and watch a whole season of the oc.
caring for myself in this way is the indulgent but necessary icing on the ‘take care’ cake.
too often i feel that we can use #selfcare to shame ourselves or excuse ourselves. perhaps considering self-care as a (magical) beast with two heads is the way to honest self-love.
these are simply my thoughts, perhaps they resonate with you. i know that not everything can be separated out neatly, of course there are exceptions – but it is viewing self-care through each of these lenses that has helped me, over time, to discern what it is that makes me feel most held in each moment. in my eyes, in my life, one without the other is an unfinished picture of self-love.
ultimately, this perception allows me balance and self-trust: which is exactly what i’ve been searching for.