Conversations and advice on self-care are everywhere right now, and yet somehow so many of us are struggling with burnout, stress, and anxiety. This might be an unpopular opinion, but maybe…just maybe….self care isn’t the answer.
The way we talk about self-care is falling far short of helpful. Most conversations around self-care leave people feeling like it’s one more thing they are not doing well enough, and if they could just do better at self-care, their problems would be solved. Not to mention that somewhere along the lines, the term self-care was adopted as a marketing technique; diet culture and the beauty industry are the only ones benefitting from that.
What I see in my therapy practice (and in myself, too) is that seeking out the next trend in or expert on self-care is actually a turn AWAY from our Self. It’s outsourcing the decision of what will make us feel good, which ultimately leaves us feeling worse.
So instead of Googling for self-care tips or beating yourself up for not getting around to doing that face mask that’s been in your drawer for months now, try turning inward instead. This can feel pretty foreign and a little daunting at first, so I always suggest starting pretty small:
- Schedule some touchpoints or check ins throughout the day. Maybe even put an alarm in your phone. When it goes off, no matter what you are doing, ask yourself how you are doing, and what you need right now. Even if you are in the middle of a meeting or cooking dinner or something, this can be a cue to unclench your jaw, soften your shoulders, or take a sip of water.
- Be intentional during moments of transition in your day. Anytime you move from one activity to another (beginning/end of your work day, naptime for the kids, getting dressed, etc), take a moment to ask yourself how you want to feel during this next activity or block of time.
- Pick one small thing that will feel great right now, and do the thing. Maybe you play your favorite song, slather on your best-smelling lotion, or stretch a muscle that feels tense. Notice how you feel while you do it.
You’ll notice that none of these things will change your life or fix your problems right away. Over time, though, these small connection points can create habits that support your ability to assess and meet your own needs on a regular basis. That, ultimately, can look like a life where you actually care for yourself in the things you are already doing, rather than a life where you fight to schedule in your “self-care”.
Hopefully, you’ll also notice that these suggestions cost virtually nothing in terms of money, time, or energy. So give them a shot…what is there to lose?