Self care has become a buzzword in popular mental health culture lately. #Selfcare is all over social media: embroidery with snarky-yet-positive slogans, cute drawings of melancholy animals hugging each other, and reminders to moisturize proliferate across the internet.
It might be easy to think of this as another fad, but taking small, simple actions to help make a hard day bearable is a good thing to do. Yet sometimes being told that all we need to do in order to feel better is just make time for self-care can feel dismissive of very real, complex problems. It can be one more thing on an already overloaded list of tasks, and, frankly, there are some things which cannot be solved by increasing our intake of smoothies and omega-3 fatty acids.
Self Care can be Transformative
Given the complexity of our lives and the problems we encounter, is self care just a way to shift extra responsibility onto those who are suffering the most? Or on the other side of the spectrum, does it encourage self-indulgence, giving us excuses to justify ignoring the needs of others? Well…it could be both of those things in some circumstances. However, if the needs of the individual and the context of their relationships are taken into consideration, self care can be transformative. It can shift the entire framework of how we understand ourselves.
Instead of judging yourself for the way you react to difficult situations, what if you could have compassion for and curiosity about the anxious, or grieving, or angry emotions that arise within you? What if, instead of wondering why you can’t just feel better and be “normal,” you could give yourself time to reflect upon the parts of you that need to be tended to and healed? This is self care.
When you are asked to set aside your needs in order to help another, what if you could take a moment to think about how to balance priorities in a way that works for both you and the other? If a balance is not possible, can you imagine being able to say the word “no” without guilt or fear, knowing you have done your best? This is self care.
Letting go of comparison to others’ bodies and instead focusing on what works for your own. Finding ways to move and to nourish yourself that take into account your physical and mental health instead of feeling pressured by goals dictated to you by outside forces. This is self care.
Self care can be concrete and Instagrammable
Maybe it is a bubble bath and candles, yoga classes and salmon for dinner. It can be a little more subtle; maybe taking five minutes in the morning to sit, breathe, and focus on the present moment. It could even be a baby step towards health that you won’t see posted online: maybe getting out of bed, walking to the bathroom and brushing your teeth before returning to bed is enough for this day. And maybe it’s calling a therapist to make time to sit and talk about what is happening in your life. There is no one-size-fits-all; as your circumstances and needs change, so might your routine. The first step is to acknowledge your needs are valid and that you deserve care.
If you feel that you could use some care and are not sure where to start, call Eugene Therapy at (541) 868-2004 to make an appointment with one of our counselors. We have options for all kinds of needs and budgets.