In which Ariel discusses self-care - the ambiguous call to prioritize you. What is self-care? What isn't self-care? Is it an indulgence or is it a discipline? Is it mani/pedis and facials or is it eating salads and pumping iron? Or D - all of the above?
Despite the fact that I - like many of you- have read countless articles on self-care and why we should be prioritizing it - I have yet to find a satisfying answer to the question “what is self-care?”
Self-care: What It Is
Self-care is a discipline. It is prioritizing your health on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Self-care is deliberate. It is comprised of purposeful actions taken to improve your physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual well-being. Self-care is deeply personal; it will look different for each of us. It takes a fair amount of soul-searching, self-assessment and time to get it right.
Brianna’s favorite explanation of self-care is "Just being a really good mom to yourself. Feed yourself good food. Make sure you get your chores done. Take time to relax." To me, this encapsulates the spirit of what self-care should be. Like being a mother, self-care permeates all spheres. Good self-care influences all aspects of our life.
It has been said that self-care should ‘refuel’ us. By this most people mean that it should not be something we force ourselves to do, but activities that we enjoy. I have a problem with this. Yes, it should ‘refuel’ us, but sometimes - oftentimes actually - the actions that refuel us are not things we enjoy. We DO have to force ourselves to do them at times. When you are a new parent in the trenches of infancy, sometimes self-care is inviting friends and family over to socialize and sometimes it is setting boundaries and saying “No. Today I can’t entertain though I might enjoy it.” Sometimes it is staying out for a second drink with friends. But sometimes it is sticking to one drink so that you can go home early and wake up for your early morning run. Sometimes it is not going out with friends at all! As an introvert, with a healthy and robust social life, taking care of myself means making sure I have enough alone time to recharge.
The stipulation that we should enjoy self-care is also hard to apply to actions taken to boost our physical health - eating salads or going to the gym, or those tedious routines you need to attend to in order to stay on top of life like folding laundry. Sometimes we do feel like getting our sweat on! Sometimes we don’t though. This is especially true when we are struggling to establish a new routine. These actions do refuel us. But it takes discipline to get to the point where you can honestly say that you enjoy working out. And me personally? I don't think I will ever get to the point where I enjoy eating a salad. Some salads are better than others, but I would still prefer an ice cream sundae.
Self-care: What It Isn't
Self-care is not done solely so that we can provide for others. I think this is especially important to point out because most self-care articles are geared toward women - usually middle-class white women. We hear repeatedly that we need to put on our air mask first so that we can care for everyone else. Yes, we are better able to provide for others when we first care for ourselves. This is a legitimate reason to engage in self-care. What I take issue with is the implication that this is the sole reason we should take care of ourselves. You can and should take care of you, just to take care of you. It is okay to prioritize yourself for no other reason than you deserve to be your best self. Working on you is not a self-indulgence.
If these statements leave you itching a bit. You aren’t alone. Self-care guilt is real. So real that we will address it separately in a coming article.
Self-care is not a stop-gap measure when things get overwhelming. Sometimes self-care will look like a grand gesture. Sometimes despite your best efforts, life gets away from you and discipline is not enough. But that is not all self-care is. You cannot ignore self-care and try and ‘fix’ things with one girls weekend. It might make you feel better in the short term, but it is only putting a bandaid on a bigger problem.
To me, self-care is a deeply personal discipline comprised of deliberate actions taken to improve my mental, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical well-being. What is self-care to you?
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Ariel and Brianna are friends who met while working in a library. Now they collaborate to develop life-enhancing book club experiences.
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