Do you take care of yourself? No, this isn’t a trick question.
Most likely your response will be: Yes, of course, I take care of myself.
After this, it gets dicey. Most people are unable to describe just how they take care of themselves.
As a psychologist, this is a discussion I often have with others and myself. Self-care is receiving a lot of attention and has become a bit of a buzzword. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest; all of them are awash with ideas, posts and lists on self-care routines, strategies and ideas. And that’s all great. There is however the risk of it becoming a fad, where people do not actually engage in actual self-care.
Self-care is anything we purposely do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Unfortunately, some aspects of self-care get more attention than others, and in some sense has become something we talk about today as a “feel good” activity. As a part of my own personal growth, I have come to the realization that there is a major aspect of self-care that most people ignore, myself included.
Yes, self-care should feel good.
Have a mini-self-pamper session. Get a hug, meditate, declutter your mind. Affirm yourself. This is in no way meant to downplay the importance of these activities.
But also get deep down into the unhealthy, confused, toxic parts of yourself.
Self-care is only truly done completely when we are willing to roll up our sleeves and get into the murky bottoms of our mess. It also means hard unpleasant work: some tough love. These are vital parts of self-care that won’t feel good, but will ultimately enable you truly win.
I share 4 major aspects that I am personally working through as part of my own self-care routine, and that I encourage people to work through. I am sure you can relate to one if not all four.
1. Self-care also means holding yourself responsible for your thoughts, emotions, words, decisions and actions, even if they are a reaction to something or someone else.
Take time out to reflect on your thought patterns, how you regulate your emotions, your communication habits and behavior. Focus on taking ownership of them. Check yourself when you start to tell yourself or others I did this or said that because she did that.
2. Self-care also means owning up to the toxic parts of yourself.
Anyone who has lived even a little bit of the human experience has picked up or developed some toxicity. This bleeds into our thoughts, emotions, words and actions. We put a lot of focus on getting rid of the toxic people in our lives. Self-care involves recognising and accepting that sometimes we are the toxic people. Start to cultivate the habit of critically reflecting on how you interact, communicate and treat other people. Examine your motives and intentions and what patterns exist in your relations and friendships. It can’t always be someone else’s fault.
3. Self-care also means digging up the causes of our unhealthy attitudes & behaviour.
Why do you think and behave the way you do? When did certain behaviour patterns and habits start? In what ways are you reinforcing them? In what ways are you enabling them? Reflect on these hard questions regularly.
4. Self-care is also acknowledging the role we play in creating some of our own problems.
Developing the habit of reflecting on our problems and recognizing and naming the role we play in creating them. When we are able to be honest with ourselves we see that a lot of times we are major players in the problems we face.
None of this is easy work, not by any means. But the payout far outweighs the pain. Seek the help of a trusted friend or a therapist if you can.
And please, by all means, share your self-care stories or routines. We are on this journey called life together.
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