When self care isn't fun… when I have to force myself to truly carefor myself - that's when I struggle. Makes sense right? It's so easy to journal when I have nothing but good things to say. It's easy to meditate when I'm being really mindful.
I hear self care being coopted to mean anything luxurious: baths, face masks, roses, chocolates, movie dates. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of these and often budget solely for these self care treasures. But it moves us away from recognizing the nitty gritty parts of self care, where it does feel like a chore, where I'm angry about making the time, but grateful afterwards.
So here's the thing, what is self care actually supposed to do? What is the intent here? For me, self care is something that…
Ice cream and a book can certainly hit some of these but the minute I'm tested with a frustrating situation or some other obstacle - poof. Think of it like your phone - maybe you've charged it 100% but come at it with an hour long video or roaming challenges, you've got maybe an hour or two until its caput. But what if instead of just charging it, you upgraded the battery or deleted some apps so you could use that energy more effectively? This is the difference between flashy self care and nitty gritty not always fun but long lasting self care.
This summer has been a struggle, I've been in constant transition which has always been a challenge for me. After a morning of anxiety and panic attacks, my partner and I talked about what I needed to manage this while caring for my mind and body. "Well, you haven't been taking your meds." Looking confused, I reminded him I wasn't on any meds for my anxiety (no pill shaming here, please do whatever works for you!). He likened my regular exercise and meditation (two things that really help with my anxiety) to taking medication, "I mean, it helps right? And just like if someone doesn’t take their prescription meds for anxiety or depression, they may struggle, wouldn't it be the same with the things that work for you?" Lightbulb! I hadn't been doing the self care that actually helped, I had just been filling time with surface level luxuries. Did I want to make the time to be active almost every day? No. Did I want to commit to meditating more often? No. Do I want to now? No, not really. It sounds much better to get lost in Netflix or slumber. It sounds much more fun to fill every moment with adventure around my new city and make new friends. But I won't get far on these, these do not consistently check off the bullet's above. I need to make time to take my meds, we all do.
Sometimes we have to do the self care that we don't want to. We have to make plans, go to therapy, meal prep, meditate, etc. even when it seems like the opposite of the luscious pampering sold to us from societies understanding of self care. So ask yourself this, what do you want self care to do for you? And what things will check all those boxes for more than just one moment? What kind of meds do you need to take and how can you commit to taking them?
Written by: Rae Thomas
Emily Estes lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her Goldendoodle pup, Miss Adley Mae. Recovery from her own struggle with an eating disorder, anxiety, and depression has led Emily to create community and resources to empower others on the journey. Emily owns Sage Nutrition, LLC where she serves as a Registered Dietitian. Her work revolves around her motto that "food is meant to nourish our bodies, not nurture us."