Self Care. What a buzz word these days.
The National Institute of Mental Health (2020) defines self care as “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health.”
But to me that doesn’t really give us a direction for our self care. What does self care mean?
With COVID especially there has been a shift and A LOT of talk about self care. It’s no surprise that when we are dealing with hard things we NEED to take care of ourselves. In speaking with one of my closest friends last week about what I am going through she mentioned that “we have to have heightened self care when things are tough.”
Failure and rejection are tough.
But at the same time I feel like we’ve morphed self care into many activities, “acts of love” and pampering that aren’t actually taking care of ourselves. Great example, pouring yourself a glass of wine or making yourself a drink at the end of a long day has people hashtagging #selfcare left and right. Now, I’m not saying that it ISN’T self care in some circumstances but I think we need to be more aware about the intention and purpose behind our self care activities. In many ways this new wave of self care has backfired as many people believe that self care is self indulgent, selfish and something that requires a lot of time and a lot of money. All of these misconceptions are wrong and I believe that many of us don’t really understand what self care is.
Are we using self care or self soothing to numb or distract ourselves from our experience, or are we first tapping into our experience, navigating that and using self care and self soothing to aid this process?
Self care is a multifaceted process that ultimately asks us to mindfully pay attention to ourselves. We can do this in many ways including psychologically, physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually or socially. If you’d like, you can check out this Self Care Inventory from the National Alliance on Mental Health. This can help you assess how you are doing with your own self care. What I like about this inventory is that it showcases that self care includes MANY aspects of life. It’s not one dimensional. When we are facing failure and rejection (which are REALLY tough) we need to address all of these because ultimately self care and self soothing are about how we show ourselves kindness and grace and attend to all levels of our needs. Self care can span from having awareness in a relationship so that you can set a boundary to going to bed early because you’re tired and you need sleep to function well the next day. In my opinion it’s not necessarily about the ACT or BEHAVIOR but the intention behind it. It’s important to ask the question, does this self care or self soothing act move me towards what I need (physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc)?
Step One: Know Where You Are At
We start with knowing where we are at. We need to have an awareness and understanding of where you are at mentally, physically and emotionally. We cannot accurately take care of ourselves and self soothe if we don’t know our starting point. My previous blog post can help you specifically with the emotional piece here but I think this process as a whole requires us to SLOW DOWN.
We live in a society that is obsessed with the go. More is better. If you slow down and push pause you are lazy. We don’t like to slow down. Octavia Raheem in her book Pause, Rest, Be describes this perfectly in reference to slowing down. “I’ve had to untangle myself from conditioning, guilt, shame, fear of being seen as lazy, and so much more every single day..”
But there is so much power in slowing down because it allows us to FEEL our physical body and get in touch with mind and emotions. Sometimes this looks like clearing your schedule so you have less “noise” in your day but it can also look like literal stillness. Can you simply sit down for a minute and ask yourself “where am I at mind, body and emotions?”
When we do that I think we can get to the root of answering and then giving ourselves what we need.
With my present moment situation my rejection hit me right in the middle of a chaotic time. I had several days of travel, long car rides and a TON of team sessions that were really requiring me to be at my best. I was on the go, exerting a lot of energy, dealing with the sadness of rejection and not sleeping well. I knew that if I didn’t eventually slow down I wouldn’t be able to accurately assess what I needed. As soon as I returned home, I cleared my schedule, put my pajamas on and I quite literally pushed pause.
Now, I fully understand we don’t always have the capacity to do this. But I do believe we always have small moments in our day (and our lives) where we CAN slow down and push pause. Can you do this for one minute? Can you thread moments of SLOW throughout your day that allow you to get in touch with your mind, body and emotions? If you need help here try my Mindful Pause Practice in my EBook.
When we slow down and push pause we allow ourselves to tune in to our experience and accurately assess where we are at. Once we do that we can then ask “What do I need?”
Step Two: What Do I Need?
What do I need? Seems like such a simple question. I can’t tell you how many times my athletes come back and say “I don’t know what I need.” I believe there is a reason most of us are strung out, stressed and anxious. We never stop to ask ourselves and figure out this answer. It can be uncomfortable. This idea of “self care” and “giving myself what I need” can be very counterintuitive for many.
I think much of self care and self soothing is exploration. We have to figure this out when we aren’t used to it and it can very much be trial and error when you get going.
The dictionary defines soothe as a verb that means to gently calm or to reduce pain or discomfort. I believe that this is a MASSIVE goal with regards to self care when we are facing failure and rejection.
Some questions I pose when thinking about Self Care Activities:
Some Ideas for Self Care and Self Soothing:
What we have to remember is that WE define self care for ourselves. ALl of this will be a unique and individual experience. I have had to do a lot of exploring with regards to self care but for the most part I have gotten myself to a place where generally I know what I need if I actually push pause and check in with where I am at. Because I believe in bringing this stuff to light with examples Ill continue my story of this most recent (which I am very much still in) self care process.
To bring these concepts to light I’ll continue with my recent experience of rejection and how I utilized these concepts of self care and self soothe. Although I did take the time to push pause when I returned from my trip my week was topped off with surgery. I had to grab an Uber to the hospital for my surgery and on the way to the hospital we got into an accident. Can’t make this up. What I then experienced was easily one of the more terrifying things I’ve been through in life. My Uber driver had a bit of a temper and went into a COMPLETE road rage car chase after the car that hit us. I don’t really get rattled by things but I was beyond rattled. I was screaming, threatening to call 9/11 and thinking I was going to get captured. That was the cherry on top I needed right before going to get chunks of my esophagus cut out.
I got home after my procedure and was still drugged up and very shaken from the day. My nervous system, my emotions and my poor esophagus were done. I knew right away that what I needed was some “heightened” self care and self soothing.
So what this looked like was as follows:
What I hope you see here is that self care and self soothing is a PROCESS. It is not a one and done and more often than not it takes intention and repetition.
A couple things to keep in mind with regards to your self soothe and self care activities: