So as we move our way into a new year, I think a lot of us are thinking about self-care. A really practical form of self-care. It’s a term that’s been floating around for awhile now…at first, it was kind of this “treat yo self” idea…
Oh, and believe me, I can really get onboard with treat yo self. If there’s one thing in life that gets me in trouble, it’s treat yo self. ???? That said, after some time, there was some backlash because people were like, “Ummm, that’s not really self-care. Self-care is doing things that will make your life easier in the long run, like paying your bills and saving for retirement.”
While I agree that those things are important, tell someone who’s in a state of emotional crisis that a kale salad and paying their electric bill will fix things and they will unfriend you on Facebook and talk about you in the group chat.
What is meaningful self-care
So the idea of self-care bounced around in my head for awhile as I tried to nail down what a good or accurate or practical way of implementing self-care into my life that didn’t involve inordinate amounts of cheese and online shopping. I couldn’t quite figure it out–for me, a rigid schedule is the exact OPPOSITE of self-care. And while the idea of cozying up on the couch and binge-watching Schitt’s Creek all day, eating Tim Riggins Brownies sounds like fun, the reality is, if I did that too often, the laundry would pile up in terrible ways and we would be hand-washing spoons for cereal for dinner and I would get fired from my teaching job.
And then one day, when it was dark and cold outside and I was about to leave my room for the day for school, I thought, “You should make your bed.”
“Nonsense,” I said. “I need to get out the door and I have so many things on my plate right now that I don’t need to worry about making my bed. It’s not a big deal.”
“But Kate,” my brain said, “think how wonderful it will be to come home at the end of a long day and see that your bed is made. You love it when your bed is made and you hate it when it’s messy. No matter what happens today, your bed being made will reassure you that you have some control over some portion of your life.”
So I made my bed. And I was right, at the end of the day, my heart skipped a little beat at how neat and inviting and orderly my room felt.
And I realized that self-care is taking care of our WHOLE self–our past, present, and future selves.
Taking care of your past self
I’m not talking reincarnation…I’m talking about your personal past. while it’s not rarely a great idea to live in the past, sometimes our bodies and minds hold onto things and until we deal with them, it will impact our presents and futures. A really great book about this is called The Body Keeps the Score and it’s about how unresolved trauma affects our physical and emotional well-being. Whether it’s letting something go, forgiving someone (ourselves included!), or dealing with PTSD, grief, or loss, sometimes taking care of our past selves is something we have to do if we want things in our present and future to be better. This is when seeing a counselor can be beneficial because if we could figure out how to do those things on our own, we probably would have done it by now.
taking care of your present self
This is when treat yo self comes in. This is the part of self-care I’m really good at, haha. This is taking care of your present needs in the present. It’s immediate gratification. But it’s not just bubble baths and chocolates (although those things can absolutely be part of it!)–it’s asking yourself, “What do I need right now?” and meeting that need. Sometimes it’s rest. Sometimes it’s setting a boundary. Sometimes it’s something as simple as eating something. Sometimes it’s being selfish and sometimes it’s being selfless.
taking care of your future self
This is the hardest one for me. Sometimes I am so mired by the past and so caught up in the present that I can’t even think about the future without getting overwhelmed. However. That’s the beauty of this little system (is it a system??)–they all work together. If you do one or two things that help your future self, then your tomorrow self is already taken care of and then, when that’s your present, you’ll have the emotional and physical energy to work on your past and future.
Of course, it’s never going to be perfect or balanced. But if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, ask yourself, what can I do for myself right now? When I was in high school, my very wise vice principal told me that in those situations, it’s always good to take a step back and HALT–ask yourself if you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Meet those needs immediately because they will impact all the decisions you’re about to make.
So. As you make your new years resolutions, set up your goals for the year, or try to move forward with some kind of purpose, try working this very manageable self-care into it! Happy, happy new year (even if 2021 has already basically cut its own metaphorical bangs) and I’ll be back on Thursday with a new healthy recipe!