Can I just say how much I’ve been loving how loud the self-care corner of the internet has been recently? Maybe I’m just paying more attention, or maybe it’s because it’s been on my mind a lot more recently so it stands out more.
I’ve always been one to follow healthy lifestyle accounts on social media, but it seems like so many of us are now opening that spectrum to include self-care as a part of healthy living and I am loving it!
I’ve also been thinking a lot about why self-care can be so dang hard sometimes, and how it seems to be especially hard when we need it the most.
I had a minor revelation while talking to Rob (hubs) about this last night. We were talking about why it’s so hard for him to drink enough water (he is prone to kidney stones so it’s especially important for him). He said that he doesn’t like having to pay so much attention to it all the time because it feels like kidney stones are running his life. When he thinks of drinking water as a prescription or something he has to do to prevent stones, it feels like a chore and it focuses all of his attention on kidney stones.
That was eye opening for me.
There are a lot of things that I do as preventative measures that foster positive mental health, but I never think of them that way. Working out, eating balanced meals, keeping my blood sugar stable… there are also things that I almost never do even though they would probably be powerful tools. It’s because I view those things as chores. Things like meditation, keeping my living space clean, keeping a super regular sleep schedule, a morning routine…
This is super fascinating to me. Both categories of things go a long way for my mental health, but I only regularly do the things I don’t view as “work”.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in a kitchen full of dishes with my skin crawling (because there are few things I hate more than a messy kitchen) trying to decide whether or not to just wash them and deal with dirty dishes for 5 minutes, or leave it for the morning and subsequently– leaving the dirty dishes on my mind for far longer than 5 minutes. I typically pick the later, even though the mental weight of it drags on longer and ends up being worse for my mental health– all in the name of not wanting to touch dirty dishes. This is absolutely a thing I view as a chore.
Going to the gym on the other hand… sure it’s work, but it’s work I enjoy doing and for the most part I experience instant gratification from it (and by gratification I mean endorphins). I never view the gym as a chore. I view it as an act of self-care. Something that I know is good for me, that is paramount to my health, that will set me up for positive decisions for the rest of my day.
Getting into the mental aspect of self-care can also be super messy, and I think it’s also important to recognize that many people might struggle with self-care because we struggle with self-worth.
Let me ask you this: do you view yourself as someone who is worthy of care?
You might say, yeah sure, of course– but there is that ever sneaky self-talk that is constantly running in the background that might be so normal for some of us that we don’t even notice it’s there anymore. It’s there. And it says mean things sometimes, and sometimes we listen to it without even realizing what we are doing.
It tells us that we don’t deserve to eat. We don’t deserve to rest. We don’t deserve to be happy. That we are being selfish if we do any of these things.
We all deserve self-care. We are all living, breathing, feeling beings that not only deserve care– we need it. You wouldn’t neglect a plant, or a pet, or a child that was letting you know it needed something. You’d water it, feed it, nurture it. Try viewing your inner self in that same way.
Don’t deny yourself care because that mean little part of your brain says no, or because you just don’t feel like it. You need it– and this is why it can very often feel like a chore. This is why self-care isn’t always fun and pretty.
But what if we shifted our perspective and self-talk a bit and told ourselves that we deserve it?
This does take fairly consistent mindfulness, and that can be something that makes it difficult for many of us.
I know that we all wish good habits were these magic tricks that, if performed enough times in a row, we will just automatically do without any effort or thought– but I think we also realize that isn’t how it works. Habits are just things that you continue choosing every day. I can’t think of a single thing I do that doesn’t require thought and decision making still. I don’t go to the grocery store every week mindlessly buying whatever is in front of me. I don’t wander out of bed in the morning and head straight for the gym without any decision making involved. These “good habits” that I have aren’t really habits, they are just things that I continuously choose to do. There’s never a time that I don’t have to think about it.
So when we view self-care as something we have to do and something we have to think about every single day, of course it can seem fairly arduous. Especially if you’re expecting that eventually you won’t have to think so much about it. You’ll always have to think about it. You’ll always have to be mindful of it.
Instead of thinking about self-care as something you have to do, think of it as something you deserve. Because you absolutely do. Each one of us is worthy and deserving of the highest form of care we could possibly receive. We need to take care of ourselves, but we should also want to take care of ourselves.
A lot of my thoughts on this are still in progress, and this post may be a little messy without a definitive conclusion or way to wrap it all up, because I’m still learning too. I am starting to think of these arduous tasks as acts of self care and reminding myself of how much better I feel when I am proactive about these things.
It doesn’t mean that mental illness is running my life. I run my life, and I continue to choose things I know will put me in greater control of my health, my emotions, and myself.
If you are someone who also struggles with self-care, I challenge you to take on this perspective of being worthy, and being in control. Whatever mantra you need to keep for yourself, say it every time you feel yourself slipping into negativity. Let simple acts be self-care, and know that you are worth the effort of doing so.