“Self-care” is one of the tricky terms you see floating around. I’ve spent hours on the internet reading various posts and articles called things like “10 Simple Self-Care Ideas” or “6 Way to Master Self-Care”. The popularity of these articles is indicative of a deeper issue with our society at large. American today has a dysfunctional work-life balance. A big part of this is the systemic wage stagnation and reduction in collective bargaining across the country. That forces people to work long hours and maybe several jobs just to make ends meet. This is not a system that encourages self-care, and a lot of people want a quick fix to try to improve their mental and physical health. But “Self-Care” is not a quick-fix type of thing.
Many articles and blogs online talk about relaxation techniques and hobbies as if that is all “self-care” is. And for some people, that’s all they need to add to their life to improve their mental and physical well-being. But I definitely need more. I actually watched a Youtube video by Anna Akana about techniques for self-care, and I agree with her on what actual self-care looks like. Self-care is not easy and it’s not necessarily fun. Self-care is doing what you need to do to take care of your body, mind, and soul, even when you don’t want to. Self-care is dragging yourself out of bed to exercise in the morning. Self-care is eating more fruits and vegetables. Self-care is cleaning your house. Self-care is dragging yourself to a party, because you know you need the social energy. Self-care is canceling on your friends because you know you need to recharge. Bettering yourself and your environment is not easy. It takes constant practice, habit-building, and, most important, self-forgiveness.
The final aspect of a good “self-care” routine is self-forgiveness and compassion. Self-care is hard work and everyday is a challenge. You should be proud of yourself when you succeed and check off all the boxes, but you need to also show self-compassion and forgiveness when you fall short. Beating yourself up over missing a work out or eating a cupcake isn’t going to help you develop good habits or take care of your physical, mental, and emotional self. Self-care is also showing yourself forgiveness for your natural falls and getting right back up on that horse.