When some people think of the term ‘self-care’, their minds only go to spas, manicures, scented baths and retail therapy. To a lot of folks who haven’t taken a minute to think about it, he whole concept seems to have connotations of (a) frivolousness or stereotypical feminine activities and, relatedly (b) being something for women.
Now, that’s not just narrow-minded and sexist… it’s also just wrong. It can take all kinds of forms, and it’s crucial for everyone to take some time for themselves. And, ironically, just taking a minute to think about things is what it all comes down to…
Self-care isn’t just about spending money on things that make you feel relaxed, pampered or just good. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s not just about the equivalent male stereotype of drinking beer, eating greasy food, and watching ‘the game’.
It took me quite a while to learn this, even if the only time I’ll watch the game is if Canada is in the runnings for gold in Olympic hockey.
Self-care is something that’s really simple, and yet can be really hard for people to even conceptualize in our culture of constant connectivity, constant stress, and jobs that expect you to be on-call whenever your boss feels like it’s convenient.
At it’s core, it’s about taking some time to stop, reflect, and do something that is good for you. ‘Stop’ doesn’t have to mean unplugging, turning off, and shutting yourself away; ‘reflect’ doesn’t have to mean in-depth critical psychoanalysis; and ‘good for you’ doesn’t have to be a workout and a kale salad.
(If it sounds like I’m belabouring the obvious, remember what I said about it taking me a while to figure this out.)
The way I look at it now is to simply take time, regularly, to do something that benefits me. Playing video games or watching TV might offer escapism and relaxation, but it occupies me too much to be able to do the reflection side of things.
Just taking a few minutes to think – What has me stressed out? What would I like to devote more energy to? What am I anxious about in the near future? What do I miss doing or wish I did more of? What can I do to feel better about those things? – can have a huge benefit in itself; just quantifying what I’m freaking out about means I can then chop it into manageable blocks and attack it bit by bit. Or gives you something concrete you can talk to your partner about to get it off your chest (the old proverb of ‘a burden shared is a burden halved’ applies psychologically just as much, if not more so, than the literal interpretation of getting someone to help carry the load).
Reading a book, drawing, painting, playing music, researching online courses, investigating possible career options, reading up on ways to track and manage your finances… it’s not salt baths and cucumbers on your eyes (why do they do that, anyway? Is that just a movie thing?), but it can leave you with that warm fuzzy feeling just the same.