It’s been some time since “self care” launched itself as the latest trend in the wellness world. It’s a bit sad that there was even room for this to become a trend, like, duh, isn’t it inarguably important to take care of yourself?!
The problem is that we’ve now started to classify everything as self care…wine, zoning out in front of Instagram, binge watching our favorite show…but not everything that feels good is automatically self care. And if we’re going to make self care a whole wellness category, I say let’s do it right.
For me, self care has to satisfy both our short term and long term well being. Because yes, tequila might do a lot to take you out of your work week misery but no, blacking out is not suddenly self care. I like to think of self care as more of an investment in the bigger picture. It has to feel good in the moment (or very shortly after it’s done) and it has to have longer term benefits.
Take meditation: I never want to do it. I find it boring to be honest. I kinda hate it during. BUT it feels good the second I’m done (short term satisfied) and over time I notice I’m a little bit more zen when I stay consistent (long term satisfied).
Take a glass of wine with dinner: it feels really good in the moment (short term satisfied) but it’s disruptive to my sleep (not good in the long term). Does this mean I won’t have a glass of wine? No! I still love it and enjoy it without guilt. I’m just not going to fool myself into thinking it’s “self care.”
Why do I find this distinction important? I think there are a lot of habits we create with the tag line “I deserve this.” This helps us create a long list of seemingly innocent habits that create a longer term problem. Now this “self care” categorization is the newest tagline we add to habits that are actually not self care, as an excuse to continue them.
By being an adult about every decision, we can create a lifestyle that truly points us in the direction we want to go. When we evaluate our habits and what they do or don’t do for us long term, we can choose (or not choose) to keep them around. When I blindly label my glass of wine at dinner as “self care” but then I wake up 400 times that night and feel like crap in the morning, I’m not able to point and go – oh yea wine disrupts my sleep, maybe I’ll save that for a weekend night when I tend to sleep better. Instead, I’m stomping my feet, like WTF, I take such good care of myself why am I not sleeping well. The first version is being an adult, the second is not.
The first step to creating a conscious self care routine is to actually distinguish which habits really do represent self care. This can take a lot of honesty and self exploration to understand the longer term impact of our choices. You’ll get the hang of it. The second step, is to not let the idea of self care become stressful. A good example of a good thing becoming stressful: the concept of the “morning routine.” In theory, doing a few beneficial things in the morning is obviously a good idea. But then all of a sudden we have to journal, meditate, run a half marathon, make a smoothie with 342 organic ingredients, journal again, take a cold shower, do yoga, and save the world all by 6:15. Whoa…no wonder most of us stay in bed. Self care is like this, we hear about it so much that we start to feel guilty about our lack of self care and then we want to add in everything at once. That’s then it becomes counter productive.
Self care is not rocket science. It doesn’t have to be the trendiest, most expensive, and complex activity. It doesn’t have to involve a new 3-hour daily routine that makes your head spin. It can look like this:
Waking up 15 minutes earlier so you can make a warm cup of tea and
take 3 deep breaths before the kids are up.
Getting a long bath in one night a week.
Taking the time to exercise or just go for a walk consistently.
Investing a bit more money to buy organic.
Saying no to a friend because you really want a night in this weekend.
Asking a friend if she wants to go for a hike instead of a boozy brunch.
It could be doing all of these things, or it could be just choosing one and
sticking with it for a while until it feels habitual.
Example: Every single morning I have alone time to drink my matcha (which is filled with lots of good-for-me ingredients). There’s no conscious part of me that goes “okay self care time!” It’s just something I do, every single day. It’s still self care, but it’s stress-free self care. It’s automatic.
Go ahead and make your list of one hundred self care items that fit the short and long term criteria. Then choose ONE to integrate into your daily (or weekly, or monthly) routine. Keep it integrated until it’s habit. Then add something new in. Eventually, your self care becomes like armor you wear all the time. You won’t get to a place where your desperate for a 300-step self care routine because you do the small, stress free things daily.