Recently I had a dear friend re-posted a meme regarding Self Care on social media. The post writer complained that they were sick of people promoting self care with fluffy pets, Disney movies, and over all curling up for an evening, instead of telling people to full fill their responsibilities that may have been neglected due to depression or other forms of mental blocks that can debilitate a person’s ability to function. As I commented on this post, I became very aware that, although there is a reasonable argument here, the two things are very different concepts in deed; and that neither one could replace the other.
Here is the Tumblr post in full,
I get sick of Tumblr’s version of self care, which 90% of the time threads into this beautifully; go get a fuzzy cute animal. pile up your favorite blankets from childhood and watch Disney movies! Take a nap! Play a game from this list of cute soothing games!
More realistically: go take a shower because its been three days. Wash the dishes that have been in the sink since last Friday that you can smell as soon as you open your door because rotting food stinks. Pick all your clothes off the floor because that’s where your entire wardrobe is and you’ve already cried today because you tripped over a sweater and realized the cat puked on it. Call someone who can give you enough courage to pay that bill you’ve been ignoring. Put away the crackers because that’s all you’ve eaten for two days straight. Apologize to the friends who are worried sick about you, and if you cant at least let them know you are ok and need space.
One of the most empowering types of self care is responsibility but tumblr just wants to sit in a closet strung with fairy lights and read their favorite flc.
“Cute” self-care for “cute” mental issues. That’s not reality.
If you have read any of my previous posts, you will know I am an avid self care person. I have been lucky enough to have found a day every week to make sure I get my hour or two of self care in, usually in the form of an at home spa night. However one thing that I would also like to point out is that when I make sure I do this every single week, I manage to fit in more comfortably the responsibilities of the day to day world. The weeks I find excuses to skip it, I find the world tends to fall apart more quickly.
Here is the thing about self care, it is not always some joyous happy safe space where we can just sit in bliss and let the world melt around us. In fact I find that more often than not it is the complete opposite. Self care is more honestly, creating a safe space with comfortable activities that allows you to face what has happened in your week and your life more easily. It allows you to let go of past hurts, honestly face some darkness, and realign yourself for the coming week ahead. It is an opportunity for you to address your self in a way that no one else does, to take off the mask of humanity and breath, and is not demanded of you. Further if you lump it in with being responsible, then you are not getting any real breathing room at all.
Being a responsible adult is something that no one is truly prepared for when it happens. Often times, particularly as 20 and 30 somethings, there is a huge gap in what we were expecting and what we got. What we hoped to have achieved and what we feel like we actually achieved. Most of the time it is also mixed with feelings of failure, and confusion. Not only that, but we are expected to take this all in stride, and continue on with our lives as if nothing has gone a strange. We are expected to take our accomplishments, our responsibilities, and our failures, all the same. We are expected to keep moving, and never take the time to truly let it all sink in and process. In between that we are trying to find out for ourselves, our true identities, and then throwing those identities up against the world around us, hoping by some miracle they are accepted. Usually all this stress ends in some sort of mental break down later down the line.
So then when we are already feeling the world overwhelm us, and bring us down, do we truly want to feel that the way to take care and process is to just get up and do the shouldas? Are we helping ourselves by strapping in and saying, “well I am still lost and hurt, but at least I cleaned the apartment today”? When you are facing crippling depression and social anxiety, the world is falling down around you. You might not shower for days, or do the laundry, or clean for weeks. Looking around your residence, the feeling will compile upon you and make you feel worse. Yes when you do find the strength to do something about it, you will feel better for some time; but that next meal you make the mess will start back up and the cycle continue. And what about the in between time, the space before you clean but after everything has gone to hell? Here is when you need some self care.
As I have said I am more of a fan of the spa night self care. Run a hot bath with bubbles and salts, put on a clay mask, light some candles and incense, do my nails, and put on some thought provoking music. I take the time to close my eyes and rehash out the emotions of the week, put somethings in perspective, and process the enormous amount of stuff that can happen in seven days. Sometimes very little happens, sometimes I am reminded of a suppressed memory and spend hours crying and letting go, sometimes I have a great week and am able to just relax and plan the week a head. Afterwards I sit down and write it all out to truly process, and let go. Whatever happens in those few hours for the next six days I have a reserve of energy helping me to deal with anything.
This is not a quick fix either. Self care takes work, commitment, and most importantly time. It took me months for the self care regiment I found to smooth over and make the weeks seem almost effortless. For a while it was the only thing holding me together, giving me something to look forward to; and when I would run out of something that made the whole thing enjoyable, my world would seem to fall apart form the inside out. Still the weeks that I stuck with it, no matter how bad things were, my life seem to start to fall into place with ease.
Let me give you an antidote to illustrate. Let me start by saying I have some pretty bad depression and anxiety. My depression seems to go in waves, and living in the Midwest, can be spiked by the weather. There have been whole months where dishes were piled in the sink, and the whole place smelled like rotting food. I would only eat yogurt, or sometimes cheap pasta, but usually would just eat a whole bag of chips for the day. I had become a champion of Netflix, and could not leave the apartment for days just binge watching shows, and sometimes ordering delivery if I had the funds. I have also gone months without doing laundry, and have resorted to buying new underwear just to avoid the hassle. During one such episode, I had been having aches from sitting for so long. I had some salts for a bath and decided to do one of my spa nights after almost a year. After I got out and sat on the couch, something shifted. I had detoxed some of the bad food from my system, and was craving fresh food. I found some trail mix in the cupboard and snacked before going to bed. The next day I found I had woke up just a bit earlier – at the time I could sleep over 10 hours and still feel tired. I had a little more energy, and managed to do a load of dishes. Then the next week I felt inspired to do some laundry. The next I deep cleaned the kitchen. This progressed until I was at a point where I actually wanted to go out socially and was not feeling anxious, or worried about it. I was waking up early every day and getting chores done, and the house was staying clean consistently. I had begun to put my life back together slowly, and to fit back into the person I wanted to be.
Here is the thing though, I have spent years facing my darkness and coming out unscathed – aka not making my depression worse or going backwards. For anyone not experienced in this I do not recommend something that leaves you alone with your own thoughts for long. For some people a direct rout of self care, like a spa night, is a bit intimidating, and should be built up to. Watching Disney movies, or reading a book, can release some hard pressed emotions, without actually reliving the moments they were created. Creating art, or crafting can have similar effects while removing the head on tackle of significant stress. Either way give it a few hours a week and it will allow you to create space and recharge for anything coming up ahead.
It is still all a balance. If you spend every hour you are home practicing self care and allowing your bills to go unpaid for months, that’s bad. If you let your dishes pile up because of excessive self care, that again is bad. You need to still fulfill your responsibilities to being an adult; but now you have something to look forward to at the end of the week. A space that is yours, and yours alone, that you can remove the mask of the world in and just be expressive. You need to be able to back off and see what is happening around you and have the strength to fix it, that is what the self care is for; responsibilities are to make sure you have a roof over your head, some food in your belly, and healthy relationships with people you can count on.
I will not say that I have all the answers to all the questions. I will say that practicing self care has helped me over come some severe depression as well as face some challenges that have happened in my life. It has helped me create a space for inner peace which I can in turn practice both on and off my yoga matt. It has allowed me to be able to regenerate, and has made the ‘real world’ more manageable. It has also helped me set boundaries for myself and the relationships that I have, and created a great inner strength that would otherwise not be there.
I understand that that world of social media, and consumerism has leached on to this practice and made it seem unpractical. It has ruined for some people a realistic solution and helpful tool that could heal them. Self care is not something that replaces responsibilities, nor is it something that is less empowering than accomplishing those responsibilities. Self care is about finding out what it means to love your self by seeing your self as you are, having a space where you feel truly free to be You, and helping you figure out what it all means in the long run.
Practice in Peace and Love ❤