Self-care: I have a love/hate relationship with this concept.
I love it because I’ve learned the hard way that when I’m treating myself like a garbage dump (mentally, physically, emotionally, and any other way), it’s way, way harder to show up in life as I’d like to (and way, way easier to show up in asshat reaction mode, plunge into depression, numb out with food/phone/Facebook, and/or find myself in a funk).
I hate it because sometimes when I read articles about it or hear it talked about with the intention of trying to improve my health and life (and there are plenty of pieces out there happy to tell you how to do it — Google “how to practice self care” and see what you get — and I know I’ve shared, with the best of intentions though ultimately probably not so useful, about self-care from the “should” camp before, too), I walk away feeling like there is a “right” way to do it, and how I’m doing it probably isn’t “right” and I should change it all immediately. It feels like a slimy buzzword. And that doesn’t feel good or make me want to put effort into it.
And — self-care IS important for showing up in the world and making it an even more awesome place. As so many wise flight attendants have said: “Put on your oxygen mask first before assisting those around you.” We’ve got to put on our own masks first (i.e., take care of ourselves). Otherwise, we’ll run out of oxygen and quickly become useless and unable to help anyone else, let alone ourselves. And lying unconscious on the floor is not much fun anyway you slice it.
In the vein of weeding through the noise and shoulds so we can help ourselves spend less time in asshat reaction mode/depression/numbing out/funk, a few thoughts today to consider alongside your teen on the idea of self-care.
Self-care is not:
- Something someone else can tell you how to do. Sure, other people can give you ideas (if you want them), though you’re the only one who can figure out what actually works for you.
- Something you need to buy. If you want to, you can choose to spend money on things that relate to self-care for you, though it’s not a requirement of self-care that it has an attached dollar amount. Anyone saying “To take care of yourself, you must buy XYZ or you’re not doing it right!” has co-opted the idea of self-care to make a buck. If what they’re selling truly would be of use for you and you’re actually interested (and you’re the one who would know this), go for it. If not, turn around and walk away.
- Something you can do wrong. There is no one right way to take care of yourself. You try, learn, and tweak here, like everywhere else in life.
- Something that requires a very specific amount of time each day. While structure and building it into your schedule can help make it a consistent practice (which will help on the tough days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed but the thing that might help the most is what you do for self-care), there is no “there,” “perfect,” “must do it for exactly 1.334 hours each day to count or don’t bother” way to do self-care. Self-care can take 10 seconds, two hours, or anything in between, beyond, within, or without. It’s about your intention and attention for the time you’re making.
- Something you can find a way to do anywhere.
- Something personal to you. Your self-care will look like YOUR self-care. It’s okay if it’s different from someone else, or the same, or whatever. It’s yours.
- Something that will leave you feeling a touch (or a lot) more expansive, open, and/or good. (And this is the kind of space where magic happens in life.)
- Something that may need to be tweaked over time. What feels good today might not work for you tomorrow — and that’s cool. Change it.
- Something that may involve what you eat and drink, sleeping and resting, and moving your body — and it also may extend way beyond these areas and/or seem unrelated. Key: What feels good to YOU (the longer term, mind quieting, inner decluttering good)?
- Something only you can make time for in your day and do. There will never come a “there” time when it all falls into place consistently. It’s a practice to build and continually reinforce.
- Something that has the power to be hugely impactful on the harder days, and so practicing on the easy, feel good days is important because those are the days for building the practice to make it a habit.
Oxygen masks are important. Find your own style and put it on. It’s one of the biggest gifts we can offer to the world.