“Self care” is an especially popular phrase in the context of mental health. Self care is supposed to help me cope with my mental health issues. Some people even go as far to suggest that mental health issues are the result of a lack of self care (and to them, I say shove it).
But for as much as we want to throw out the phrase self care, what exactly is it? Is it doing yoga? Is it using products that will make my face and hair soft? Is it going to the gym every day? Is it cooking meals at home and eating less processed food? Is it allowing myself to indulge in treats? Maybe it’s all of those things, and maybe it’s none of those things.
My first two therapists, who were ultimately not good fits for me, both suggested I take “luxurious bubble baths” as a form of self care. I think that’s pretty comical looking back, not only because I didn’t go to therapy to be told to take a bath but also because I lived in the dorms at that time and there were zeroes of tubs there. That being said, I can see how taking the time for a bath would be a welcome and important break for some people. If you’re on your feet all day and don’t get alone time, that luxury time would be key.
Exercise is thrown out a lot as self care, too. I mean, I get it. It feels good to get those endorphins going, and I know exercise is good for heart health. However, when it comes to the point where going to the gym feels like a chore and not something I enjoy, then it’s not self care for me. CrossFit was huge for me during at a very dark time in my life, and it was my self care. It’s not anymore. It served its purpose, but I moved on.
These days, self care is more of a mindset for me than it is a planned activity that I have to do. Self care is stepping back when I’m overwhelmed and giving myself permission to breathe. Self care is allowing myself to cry and telling myself it’s okay to feel how I feel. Self care is giving myself permission to set boundaries and reminding myself that I don’t have to fix everything.
I think that ultimately, self care is finding the patterns in my life that aren’t serving me and taking moments to break away from those patterns.
And when all else fails, I can eat cake.