Get a massage. Drink a green smoothie. Slip into a bubble bath. Eat dark chocolate. Read a book. Light a scented candle. Walk five miles. Smear on a mud mask.
All in the name of self-care.
Self-care is one of today’s buzzwords. Spend just two minutes on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll see the latest self-care must-dos being thrust into our already over-abundant to-do lists. I don’t know about you, but sometimes this self-care stuff seems like one more thing I should be doing. Or “practicing.” That’s the word the Insta experts use. Practicing self-care.
But here’s the problem, some days practicing self-care seems more like a distraction than a solution to me. When it adds stress, is it actually self-care?
Have we turned life’s little luxuries into band-aid fixes for ongoing problems? Meditation, smoothies and physical fitness are good things—great things, actually—but all the hot yoga and fluffy coffee drinks in the world will not fix your overbooked calendar, your overstuffed inbox and your overstressed life.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in taking care of our bodies, minds and spirits. I enjoy immersing myself in a good book. I’ll take any excuse I can to book a deep tissue massage. And yes, I can indulge in a grande Caramel Macchiato with extra whip like it’s nobody’s business. But, in reality, self-care is not always so sexy. It may include ratty sweatpants and shoving your girls into a stretched out, seven-year-old sports bra for a before-the-roosters-crow fitness class. It may mean sticking to a strict budget to reduce that pile of ugly debt you accrued in college. It may mean saying no to a toxic relationship or another volunteer commitment, and yes to spending more time at home alone.
While that massage may feel good and help you relax at the time, you might want to ask yourself, “Is this a temporary fix to a larger problem?”
That larger problem is the s-word. Stress. What are you doing to help reduce your stress? Are you knocking it back right at the source or are you hiding it under a blanket of self-care rituals? How are you changing your lifestyle so you’re not constantly exhausted and too anxious to function? Do you need to adjust some of your commitments or expectations so you don’t feel the need to escape by diving head-first into a lavender-scented bubble bath?
Is it possible your “need” to practice today’s self-care trends, may be because you’re actually disconnected from real self-care? I believe real self-care is less about treating yourself to a bottle of merlot and more about making intentional choices that prioritize your long-term health and wellness. Wouldn’t it make more sense to create a life that doesn’t drain you?
Imagine your life with less anxiety and fewer feelings of inadequacy, where wine and yoga are ways to center and celebrate your life, not escape from it.
How can you get that life you long for? For starters, remember you get to be the boss of you. So search for perspective and take back your power! Instead of making excuses, start really caring for you—ALL of you.
Tend to your roots, not just your flowers.
Forget what looks good to others and do what IS good for you.
Spend less time on social media comparing your life to others and more time creating the life you want.
Surround yourself with a tribe of supporters who fill your tank with goodness, kindness and honesty. Return that favor by being the friend you’d like to have. Look at your schedule and self-expectations with a realistic eye. Seriously, my friends, there’s no way to squeeze twenty hours of work into an eight hour work day. You can’t do it . . . so don’t set yourself up to fail.
Now I know you have lots of responsibilities and people depending on you. I get it. It’s hard. But remember, you can’t take care of others, if you are depleted yourself. Think about the last time you flew on an airplane and the flight attendants gave the initial safety presentation. They told you what to do if the cabin were to depressurize. They explained that oxygen masks would drop from the ceiling and they told you to first put your own oxygen mask on before helping out the person seated next to you. After all, you’re no good to the child next to you—or anybody else—if you’re passed out on the floor of the plane.
This theory applies to your everyday life, too. You can’t adequately care for others if you have nothing left to give. So, please, my friends, start with you. Enjoy your baths, wine and yoga. Breathe in your essential oil-diffused air. But also choose to dig deeper and be intentional with your time and energy.
You are worthy of real self-care.