How To Successfully Approach and Practice Self-Care
A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak on a panel hosted by Athleta and Evolve Her, a local co-working space for women. My questions were focused on self-care, which I was really excited to talk about because I’m constantly annoyed by how trendy it has become. At a quick glance, it seems as though self-care is nothing but bubble baths and manicures, which can leave many people feeling poorly because they still feel off after doing them. There’s a simple reason for that.
Self-care is not a quick fix.
In its simplest definition, self-care refers to taking care of the self. Because we are all unique individuals, our self-care needs are also unique. While a bubble bath may be relaxing to one person, it fills me with disgust and anxiety because I DO NOT LIKE BATHS. I CAN NOT. Self-care is not (always) external. While things like massages can definitely be considered forms of self-care, they really only tackle the surface issues.
Self-care involves taking care of yourself long-term. It can be hard. It’s not always glamorous. It’s things like paying bills and making doctor’s appointments. It involves introspection and understanding of what you need as an individual to feel fulfilled and balanced. Some days that’s buying something for yourself. On others it means making a therapy appointment and taking those harder steps. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and, in many cases, is completely free.
As you’re likely aware, about two years into my recovery, I developed issues with exercise and disordered eating. From the outside, it looked like I was taking care of my body through physical activity and nourishing foods, which was a stark contrast to the way I was treating it in active addiction. I WAS TAKING CARE OF SELF! Internally, however, I felt out of control. I still hadn’t learned how to cope with negative feelings and discomfort when they arose, so I chose to seek control through food and exercise. It was finally by reaching out and talking about what I was going through that I found the support and the tools to work through this period. If I didn’t take responsibility for my own recovery, I could have easily hidden in disorder and called it health. THAT is why self-care and self-improvement are an inside job.
Self-care is a highly personal endeavor, but here are some general suggestions of ways you can take care of yourself on a deeper level.
1. Remove toxicity from your life by doing a social media cleanse or detox
2. Set boundaries with those who may not be the best for your mental health
3. Pay bills on time
4. Get routine healthcare check ups
5. Go to therapy
6. Ask for help from friends and family
7. Journal at the end of the day to reflect on how people and situations made you feel
8. Learn to say no
9. Find some affirmations that resonate with you and repeat them regularly. Out loud.
10. Have those difficult discussions (sometimes self-care involves someone else)
If I find myself repeatedly buying things or eating things in search of emotional contentment, yet I still feel depressed or anxious, I know that my choice of self-care needs to be one that dives a little deeper to get to the root of what’s actually going on. There are plenty of times when I’m in a good mental and emotional head space where painting my nails or enjoying a good massage is a great form of self-care, but I can just as easily hide behind those things if I want to avoid dealing with life.
Take some time to sit with yourself and figure out if your version of self-care is working. If it’s not, you may need to go a little deeper.