Life is busy. With work, kids, grandkids, errands and social events, you may find yourself running on fumes as the day draws to an end. The physical and emotional fatigue we sometimes feel has become so common that the idea of self-care is now a well-recognized concept.
But there seems to be some misconception about what it really means to take care of ourselves.
Let’s start with the basics. The practice of self-care can mean indulging yourself in a treat of some sort, but it doesn’t mean using something to escape. You could spend an evening in your sweatpants with a delivery pizza and Netflix, but you still have to face your life in the morning.
If you are using something, anything, to escape your life, that’s not self-care – it’s checking out. Your problems are still there after that pint of ice cream, that third glass of wine, or that two-hour mindless web surf. But practiced lovingly, self-care can enhance the quality of your life.
Self-care isn’t always a beautiful scene of bath bubbles and rose petals. Sure, a warm soak is a great way to decompress, but more valuable are the more mundane acts of taking care of yourself. Like making a budget and sticking to it, for instance. If money matters are causing you stress, an overhaul and some good financial housekeeping will undoubtedly allay your anxiety and improve your quality of life.
Is it glamorous? No. But this practice, and others like it – getting yourself to the gym, cooking a healthy meal instead of getting takeout, saying goodbye to an old friend who causes you more pain than happiness – are self-care in action.
The true practice of self-care also isn’t based on consumerist ideas about what taking good care of one’s self looks like.
Indulgence is the name of the game with most industries; they sell us the idea that splurging on ourselves via material possessions equals great self-care. Not so. If you’re splurging all the time, it’s not a splurge. It’s excess. And that new pair of shoes or new fancy car you can’t really afford? Their shininess wears off just as quickly as your shopper’s high.
Herein lies the key to practicing self-care: it’s not about buying the life we see on TV, it’s about creating a good life on our own. It’s about being good parents to ourselves. It’s about doing the hard things in life because you know that, once they’re done, you’ll be truly happier for doing them.
If you love nature but hate working out, get out and hike. If you want to catch up on some work but feel guilty about leaving the kitchen messy, prioritize whichever is better for you in the long run. If you always feel rushed in the mornings, commit to a new routine and stick to it.
And if this true method of self-care feels foreign to you at first, that’s okay. Remember, it’s a practice. You don’t have to be perfect. Just explore things that make you feel energized, present, and more at peace. Self-care is an individual endeavor, and when we practice it truly, we don’t need to escape. We will have built a life for ourselves that we can live with.