Self-Care: What It Should (And Shouldn't) Look Like
I googled "self-care" the other day just for fun, and was amused by the results. Over 95 million webpages popped up, and switching over to the IMAGES tab revealed a multitude of diagrams and charts and sweet little cartoons.
I'm not critiquing all of this - far from it. I'm so glad to see that the self-care trend is building momentum and spreading worldwide. Just like with mental health, I feel that we are finally beginning to accept self-care as an acceptable means of, quite literally, taking care of ourselves when life is feeling a little too overwhelming.
I just want to be clear: I'm ALL FOR spending time doing things that make YOU feel good. But that's the thing - whatever you choose to do, make sure that it is applicable to you.
Here's an example:
I clicked on one of the top diagrams that came up on Google Images when you type in "self-care", and took a closer look at what they were suggesting. 6 out of the 13 things they listed would actually cause me to be MORE anxious! To analyze a little further:
- I do not want to COOK when I feel upset - I have an eating disorder, after all, and spending time in the kitchen can feel extremely anxiety-provoking, especially when I'm already vulnerable.
- I do not want to HUG A CAT when I'm sad - I had a terrible childhood experience involving cats, and I try and steer clear of them at all costs.
- I do not want to GARDEN - I have zero interest in plants (and zero outdoor space with my apartment), so taking care of plants and flowers would be the last thing I choose to do if I'm feeling emotional.
- I do not want to READ ABOUT PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES ARE MORE COMPLICATED - because I honestly feel like that would just make me more upset.
- I do not want to RIDE A BIKE - first of all, I don't have a bike, and second of all, physical activity is not recommended for some of us in eating disorder recovery. Also, imagine trying to bike ride on the snowy streets of Montreal mid-February?!
- And finally, I do not want to TALK TO MYSELF when I'm upset - because I know that my words would not be kind.
The point I'm trying to make here is: society dictates a lot of what people SHOULD do when they are feeling low. These colourful and cheerful-looking images that come up in Google searches may provide some idea of how to take care of ourselves, but it's important to know that they are not the "be all end all" of self-care. Your wellness actions need to relate to YOU, and no one else. Self-care looks different on everyone.
My advice for you is that you need to really spend time thinking about what makes you happy and what makes you feel good. My list includes drinking a warm beverage (coffee or tea), turning on some "guilty pleasure" show on Netflix, changing into comfortable clothes, curling up on the couch under a blanket, and texting some of my closest friends and family. Contrary to many suggestions out there, I prefer to be alone, and not in the company of others when I'm feeling down. But that's me!
Once again, I want to applaud those who are putting time into spreading awareness about the importance of self-care. And those of you who actually ENGAGE in self-care: good for you! No one is more important than YOU.
Ultimately, we are all just searching for some kind of happiness. If you have a spare minute, grab a pencil and paper, and start jotting down the simple pleasures in life that make you happy. Don't forget to refer to this list when you're feeling down.
Now, it's your turn. I want to hear from you! How do you "self-care"?