Anyone that participates in SOME form of health program has come across the phrase “self-care.” (Actually, it crops up all over social media these days, so you’ll see it there, too) The notion of taking time out for yourself has gained in popularity recently. It’s an interesting proposition – assuming you happen to have time in your schedule. Then again, I think self-care is supposed to encourage you to MAKE time. And those people are right. You can’t bury yourself in work, errands, and family every moment of the day and expect to keep a stable mental state.
But after that? They get it wrong.
Oh, sure: the idea of bubble baths and manicures SOUNDS luxurious. (No idea what men are supposed to do for their self-care; that never seems to come up, even though they’re included in exercise regimes) But those ideas are horribly outdated. I mean, seriously. When did we go back to the 1950s? It’s a subtle dig to set women back in their place, and I, for one, despise the notion. Also, I don’t find ANYTHING relaxing about either activity.
I’m tall. And the average bathtub? It’s designed for short people. This means SOME part of my body is always out of the water and freezing. I’m allergic to scents, so bath bombs? They’re out (standing next to them in the store causes my throat to swell). Plus, I share a house with Tonks. She’s not afraid of water. Any time I attempt to soak in the tub (not as a “self-care” regime, but usually with Epsom salts or an herbal preparation), she perches on the side and plays in the water – or falls in, and then I have to chase her around the house with a towel. There’s NOTHING relaxing about the process. (And before someone suggests closing the door, that results in frantic scratching and attempts to pry underneath. Again, it’s more stress than it’s worth)
And don’t get me started on manicures. My nails don’t do well under the best circumstances. I admit that I add collagen to my daily superfood shake to attempt to strengthen them, but that’s as far as I’m willing to “baby” them. Nail polish? It never turns out well. I lack the necessary chromosome to paint my nails without making a mess. And there isn’t enough bribery in the world to convince me to set foot in a salon. Chemicals? Are you kidding me? How is THAT supposed to get me calm? (Not to mention that it’s an expense – and one I have to REPEAT?!)
Let’s rethink this self-care thing.
At it’s most basic definition, what is self-care? Taking time out to give yourself a break. And that doesn’t have to look like anything specific! YOU decide what the free time becomes. And you don’t have to justify it to ANYONE. My self-care? It looks like this:
- Curling up with a book and reading
- Sitting down to write something NOT for work
- Taking a nap
- Watching nonsense on TV
It’s time that I’m allowing my mind and body to recharge. And that’s what I feel self-care IS. I’m not working, nor am I running around thinking or engaging in chores. My brain stops fretting about the million and one things I’m supposed to be focusing on. Everything relaxes and switches off. To me, that’s what self-care means. And it doesn’t COST me anything. (Okay, with the exception of my book budget, which we’re not going to discuss)
What you do to shut yourself down and reset is an individual choice. And it doesn’t have to fit in with the “normal” definition. If you LIKE baths and mani-pedis? Fine. I still think they’re a subliminal message to shuffle women into the background, but everyone’s entitled to their preferences. However, if you find yourself longing for something else? Then FIND it. Figure out what makes you feel like YOU and go for it. How you take care of yourself isn’t confined to specific rules. What’s important is that you DO carve out those moments.
Do they happen every day? Maybe not. Should you find them every week? Yes. (I admit, I sometimes lapse) You’ll find yourself functioning better when you set them aside. If you need to, write them down on your calendar – and defend them from everyone else! If someone asks why you have blocks marked out? Tell them you’re doing research. (Writers MUST read to survive) Or, honestly, tell them you’re making sure you remain healthy and survive. Because you DO need to take care of yourself. However that happens to look.