Self-care is one of my favorite concepts- the idea that we can can take care of ourselves so that we don’t end up with no energy for ourselves or others (sometimes even to the point of sickness). But, actually making self-care happen is kind of a tough thing for modern women. I can’t tell you how many times clients talk about it- the need for it, the lack of it- or women friends share how guilty they feel that they haven’t solved all their personal problems via self-care.
So I want to say: if self-care is not happening for you, or it’s tough to get to, you’re not alone. And you’re not crazy and there’s nothing deficient about you or your life. Self-care is kinda hard.
One of the main reasons self-care is hard is that there you are the only ‘social structure’ who cares about it (generally). Your partner and/or kids might see the value of it, but you are probably still the one in charge of making space for self-care. It’s not like there are social rules and practices for making self-care happen. In fact, quite the opposite!
The opposite of self-care is a work arena where women are paid less than men, which makes it rather hard to have the extra $$ for bath salts or a weekend retreat. If women are not making as much money, they might need an extra job to pay for basics – again leaving women little/no time or money for self-care.
The opposite of self-care is relationships where women do much of the emotional work (I bet you know how everyone around you is feeling, right? Noticing that and handling it is called ’emotional labor.’) Who feels like ‘taking care of themselves’ when they’re ass-tired from dealing with people’s emotional shizz all day?
And the opposite of self-care is alienating women and making them feel badly for not doing self-care. So then we hide away in shame- both social and self-inflicted. So then we’re judging each other instead of judging a crappy system. A crappy system that depends on us and our work, but doesn’t sustain us.
And it doesn’t work for making self-care happen.
So let’s talk about what does work for self-care.
First off, the opposite of all of the above: equal pay, shared emotional burden in relationships, and not shaming ourselves or others for not doing self-care. Yes, having those things in place would be awesome. But short of that (because those changes are the long game), what are we gonna do?
I think the biggest thing we can do about self-care and not getting it, and feeling like some kind of dud for not getting it, is to relax and let go of the standard.
Because you know what? We’re all doing the best we can.
I know that for sure.
If you can’t get to self-care, let it go. I know you’re doing 10,000 things that help you and your family and your community. And if you’re managing mid-life hormones or the Sex Surge stuff on top of that- you’re probably barely handling it all. And maybe self-care is just not gonna work this week. Or this month. And that is okay.
Another way to work with it is to know you can always, always return to the basics of being a human and call it ‘self-care’: enough sleep, adequate food that gives you energy, and movement. In fact, movement is known to be a huge stress-reliever and mood-improver. Do those things; they are self-care, too.
Lastly, when the idea of self-care feels like a downer or brings up judgment, you can simply breathe. Take the deepest breath you can, filling your lungs up all the way doooowwwwnnn to the depths of your chest, and then let it all out. You can release your shoulders as you breathe, or you can groan or give a deep sigh as you let the breath out. Try it two or three times and see if it helps- sometimes I envision a balloon popping as I breathe out, or a balloon flying away- just a mental act of letting go to parallel the physical one.
We all know that our physical and emotional and spiritual selves need care. But sometimes self-care is hard to get to- for reasons that are sometimes within our control, and sometimes not. Instead of letting self-care, and all its apparent rules, get us down, we can just forgive ourselves and let. that. shit. go. And take a breath. That is good enough.