No time? Listen to it instead
The internet is riddled with rampant posts on self-care. Self-care is necessary so that intention is not unfounded. However, the larger issue with self-care is not the lack of it. It’s the abundance of it or at least, the abundance of advice.
Instead, the omnipresence of it as an unreachable standard to strive for is what drives most people away from it. If your Saturday is not about sipping martinis on the beach, are you even practising self-care?
Well, yes. Yes, you are. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Before we begin, let’s make sure we are on the same page on the idea of self-care.
Self-care is the idea of actively taking care of yourself and your wellbeing, both physically and mentally.
The actively is essential. Let’s begin with that.
With all the good intention to take care of ourselves, we often falter. The problems associated with not practising adequate self-care is that the exchange doesn’t check out in the long-term.
Some of the issues related to lack of self-care are feeling burnout, worsening of mental health, stress and the most important one – reduced performance at work.
So, if you look at it in perspective, cutting a healthier lunch or sleep every day to wrap a project is going to make sure your performance worsens down the line. That’s not what you desire. How do we add self-care to our days, though? They’re stacked as it is.
It’s a conscious effort, and we’re talking about being actively involved in it, so here’s the answer: prioritise it. The first few hours of each day can be entirely devoted to your health and wellbeing.
While working full-time, I found this to be incredibly beneficial.
In the article where I talk about the Eisenhower Matrix, I deliberately put any regular habits that I want to build in the Schedule section.
Your self-care activities need to be a part of your schedule. Otherwise, you’re always going to replace them with something urgent.
Remember: There’s always something urgent.
Find Your Definition
The internet is filled with ideas ranging from extensive workouts to eating that perfect diet to bath bombs and long showers. That’s all bullshit.
The ideal process comes from a place where it’s easy to do it day in, day out.
Finding your definition for self-care is about understanding your context. If it feels like a chore, it will become a chore, and end up taxing you to do it instead. That’s the opposite of what we’re trying here.
So, finding your definition is the key to long-term practice.
Meghna Achar, an exceptional comic artist from India who was also incredibly kind to let me do this, made this comic strip a while ago which precisely discusses this – how she found her idea of self-care and why that works for her.
Here’s the comic.
So, just because your friend enjoys lifting weights and considers that self-care, you don’t have to; a walk is as good if that is easier to do for you.
In some ways, you can draw from the three things idea I talked about in the last post as well.
Practice Tough Love
While practising self-care should be easy to do for yourself, you also need to understand that there are two sides of your brain, as Ray Dalio describes it.
One is still the primal, dopamine crunching survivalist who loves to gulp down on any sugar as soon as it encounters it. The other is the one who knows that sugar is not as rare as it was in the pre-historic hunter-gatherer days of our ancestors, and therefore, there’s no need to binge on that bottle of cola and that plate of cake.
That’s where you also need to practice tough love. The idea is not about spoiling yourself.
No matter what your favourite influencer on Instagram sells with their paid advertising, remember that the goal of self-care is to add to your long-term wellbeing. It’s about taking care of yourself because you’re an adult.
No one else is going to do it for you. As with my stand on self-talk, I believe that self-care also requires you to be stern with yourself now and then.
There are wisdom and growth in delaying gratification.
Accept That You Will Falter
In going through this piece by the American Psychological Association of Graduate Student’s then-chair Jennifer Doran, I found an interesting perspective which made me include this last side to the discussion.
Self-care is important, for our own wellbeing and for the care of our clients. All of our work will be better if we are psychologically and physically healthy. But I think students should know that it is sometimes OK to fail at self-care. The conflict between work and life will continue throughout our careers. At times, we may work too much and inadvertently neglect others or ourselves. What’s important is self-awareness, monitoring and knowing our boundaries — when it is OK to slip in either direction or when it may undermine our competence. So, whether you work through the occasional weekend or blow off some reading to do something fun — give yourself a break.Jennifer Doran, APAGS (2014)
The above made me realise that there are always going to be days when you go overboard in one direction and that this does not only apply to the APAGS but in fact, every domain.
There are days when I sacrificed sleep to wrap writing a script because I knew I had to keep the ball rolling for one of my projects at work. In fact, last week’s blog post was written after Saturday had officially ended, but something more prior had come up. So, I finished the blog post and its assets at 2 am.
However, the critical part, as Jennifer says, is finding the self-awareness, monitoring and knowing our boundaries.
You can give yourself a day or two of faltering. But, it’s essential to give yourself that proverbial smack on the head if sleeping late to work becomes a habit or if skipping workouts because you’re too lazy today become the story of every day.
Remember to give yourself a break whenever life demands. Self-care should not feel like something that you need self-care to heal from. It should come from a place of peace and relaxation.
Self-care is all that stands between the general day-to-day and your physical and mental wellbeing. There is no one way to do it, but it is right to practice self-care. Make it a priority, practice tough love when required, find what works for you, and lastly, give yourself a break. Take care of yourself.
If you liked this post, you’ll like the newsletter which also reminds you of the previous week’s post. Also, if you’re absolutely inclined, consider buying me a coffee to help support this website. Most important of all, please take care of yourself and those around you. These are trying times and I wish you all the health in the world.