There’s a lot of unhelpful chatter about self-care. You might see a Facebook or Instagram picture of a friend’s pedicure and a glass of champagne, with a flowery self-care description that ends with “namaste.” Or someone may travel 800 miles and get a massage in a cave to help fill her #selfcare cup. (Real thing. That I did. A few weeks ago.)
The luxuriousness, or the appearance of it, borders on the ludicrous. It’s a lie. And my cave massage, while amazing and ruinous of all future massages (I mean, LOOK at that picture →), smacked me in the face when I returned home. Smacked me because it was an anomaly. Something special. A drop in the proverbial self-care cup.
Don’t get me wrong. I love pedicures and massages and caves and champagne and these types of things absolutely enjoy a place in a healthy, productive self-care practice. But these luxuries shouldn’t be the focus of our self-care routine. Self-care is an everyday practice. Self-care means eating whole, nutritious foods. It means getting outside and moving your body. It’s the daily connection, hopefully face-to-face, with loved ones about anything and everything. Self-care is your daily walk with Fido. It means taking a shower, doing the dishes, laughing and reading. Glamorous? Probably not. Boring? Maybe. Necessary? Absofreakinglutly.
Maybe you don’t struggle with doing the dishes or showering, but maybe you struggle with eating regularly and healthily. Or exercising. Or being kind to yourself. Or maybe you don’t know where your self-care is deficient. Which means you’re 100% normal. I’ve worked with some very self-aware folks that lacked the level of awareness needed to see the holes in their self-care practice. Sadly, most people think they’re doing an awesome job with self-care because they get a massage every month while subsisting on caffeine, stress, over-scheduling, lack of exercise, must-see TV, and not connecting with friends the rest of the month.
Everyday self-care is like the foundation to your house. When it’s poured and hardened, it holds up the walls and roof when a nasty storm blows. A strong foundation means the house can withstand loads of abuse. Similarly, if your self-care is a matter of routine, you’re nimble and ready for action when you receive bad news or endure a period of stress. Put another way, if I start my day with a healthy breakfast, meaningful connection, or a sweaty workout, I’m way more capable of dealing with my law job demands effectively and efficiency. Or remaining calm as a client yells at me about something completely out of my control (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…). It goes the other way, too. If I fail to make everyday self-care a priority, my house begins to collapse. If I fail to exercise, I’ll become quick to anger at work. Which anger then leaks over to the home. Which means I drink more to dull the edge. Which means I’m not getting up the next morning for my run or spin class.
But to create that strong foundation, you gotta get real about your everyday self-care. You need to know what matters to you, where your practice fails, and how to create boundaries around your practice. It takes some work, yes, and once you’ve got the routine in place, you become resilient when the winds howl and the snow fails. You can handle the shit life throws with grace and dignity or, if things turn especially bad and your everyday self-care falters, you can easily pick up where you left off. You slowly but surely gain resilience. Tune in more to yourself and what you need. Become a better YOU.