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What is “Self-Care?”

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The holidays can be a hard time for people. Whether you’re someone who struggle with mental health issues, are experiencing some kind of major change or loss, or are buried in financial problems, the holidays can create an excessive amount of stress that make this “season of joy” anything but. As I mentioned earlier this week, I was already beginning to feel anxious over the approaching holiday social gatherings I will be expected to attend. Now, in addition to that, I’m trying to cope with the loss of my fur baby, Nooch. 😥

…Oh, have I mentioned that my therapist has been on vacation for 3 weeks now? Does anyone else smell a major mental breakdown in the air!? *Joker laugh*

I’ve seen countless reminders on the internet lately reminding those of us who struggle during this time of year to practice “self-care.” But what does that mean, exactly?

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure it out. For the longest time I thought self-care was mostly about taking time to pamper yourself with soothing baths, massages, etc. For some reason, images of women lying in the bath tub, surrounded by candles and cucumber slices placed over their eyelids often accompanies articles on self-care, so I don’t think I’m entirely to blame for the confusion. (Side note: as a woman, I feel like a complete failure for never having the desire to buy produce and put it in my eye or smear it on my face. Maybe there are even more things wrong with me than I thought.)

On the surface, self-care is pretty self-explanatory. It’s about taking care of yourself and making sure your personal needs are being met. Taking care of your body through food, exercise, and regular sleep is a good place to start. But is it really that easy? If you’re someone like me than,  unfortunately, the answer is sometimes no. My eating disorder struggles can make eating a highly stressful, tantrum-inducing situation. My depression can make it hard to get motivated to even get up and shower, let alone exercise. My anxiety can keep my brain running at the wee hour of the morning, when I should be sound asleep.

What about other needs? Aside from the basics that we require to keep our bodies functioning, there’s your mental health to consider. Depending on who you are, your needs will be different. They might even change daily. Sometimes you’ll need more alone time, other times you’ll need more social time. Sometimes you need more “fun” in your life, other times you’ll need more quiet time on the couch with a book. For me, trying to figure out what I need to keep my mental health in check can be frustrating. When you’re being pulled in all directions, between work, holiday shopping, family obligations, etc., it can be hard to even figure out how to keep things balanced. If you decide that you do need more alone time, how do you ensure that you’ll get it? Does that mean neglecting some of your other obligations? If you do that, will it just make things more stressful later? What about the unexpected things that will inevitably pop up? How are you supposed to fit it all in?!

I don’t have a clue.

I do my best to practice self-care every day, but it doesn’t always happen. I try to reserve my lunch breaks for spending time at the bookstore, drinking coffee and reading a book. Even though it’s only 40 minutes or so, it helps keep me sane during my work day. I try to set aside time for blogging/writing, dance, and my crafty projects. I take baths periodically when my muscles are feeling tense and need to unwind a little. But is all of that enough? Am I doing it right? I truly don’t know.

Last night I forced myself to go walk around the bookstore for a little while. After spending the better part of the day laying in bed, sobbing over my cat, I knew I probably needed to get out of the house. Truthfully, it didn’t help as much as I needed it to, but I tried. At one point I found myself sitting on the floor of the dreaded self-help aisle, with tears in my eyes. I don’t even really know what I was looking for. Anything to make me feel better, I guess.

Did I do the right thing by forcing myself to go out and try to be “normal?” Is this what I’m supposed to do in the upcoming weeks, as the holiday stress starts to gnaw at me? Can I just skip all the holiday bullshit or is that just “hiding?” Do I need to put more cucumbers on my face?

Again, I don’t know. It’s all quite frustrating.

(Side Note: I really need to stay away from the self-help aisle at Barnes & Noble.)

9 thoughts on “What is “Self-Care?”

  1. I think if it will genuinely make things worse, skipping holiday BS is totally valid. I’ve been going through similar struggles recently too, and doing normal things helped but only certain normal things. I went to work and studied for school and went horseback riding, but I stopped doing things I felt like I had to do because they were “normal.” For me, keeping busy really helped, and seeing my close friends helped a lot too. But I think self-care is different for everyone, and it can be hard to find what works for you. Hopefully things get better soon ❤

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  2. I’m not sure there really is a true “self-care”. Every therapist I’ve ever talked to had a different opinion of what that term implies. For me, it’s sitting all by myself listening to what’s now called “classic rock” (when I become classic??), at a volume one number below “make your ears bleed”. And as a former musician and DJ, that’s pretty loud. (Somewhere around 11 – if that’s not too obscure a reference). Add in a few, ok a lot, of craft beer and I can cope. We started putting up the Christmas decorations today and wifey insisted on playing Christmas music. Oh! The humanity! I despise Christmas music. So I go and do other things until I’m needed to do the things that she and the little girls can’t reach. Kirsten I don’t know your coping mechanisms. For me it’s beer, food and music. And not necessarily in that order. But I know the feeling of laying in bed just crying. Whether it’s over the loss of a beloved pet or for no damn reason at all. Hang in there girl. We can get through this together. Like you always say, I’m here if you want or need to talk about it. Peace, B

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh for the love of humanity, NOT CHRISTMAS MUSIC. 🤢 Christmas music is THE WORST. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. That’s like the worst part of this whole season. It’s even worse because they start playing it in like October.

      I’ve had therapists tell me different things, as well. I guess it makes sense. Everyone is going to require their own different forms of self-care, whatever that may mean. It’s weird that it requires so much effort for some of us. It seems like it should be an intuitive thing.

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  3. Self care is tricky – I agree with Ally above. Plus, it’s only natural that you’re going to be very sad about your cat – when my dog passed away I couldn’t stop crying for a full week – as soon as anyone looked at me. Everyone was like creeping around me afraid to set me off again. I couldn’t help it, my emotions needed to come out.
    Hope you find what works best for you 😀
    Lynn

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  4. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through a rough patch here, Kiersten 😦 Losing a pet is such a traumatic experience and on top of that having to deal with not having your therapist for three whole weeks is even worse.
    I’m so sorry about Nooch 😦 Just know he’s probably in kitty heaven right now, playing with his friends and enjoying a delicious salmon ❤
    Definitely keep trying to find what you can do for your self-care routine. It's not easy but don't give up!
    I think leaving the house is super important, even if you don't feel like it. Yes, it may hurt a lot, especially in the beginning, but keep forcing yourself and invite someone along if you can. Try to distract yourself as much as possible. That's key, I think.
    Wishing you all the best ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I really appreciate it. It’s gotten a little better this week since I’ve been forced to leave the house and go to work. I still miss seeing Nooch’s little face every day, but I keep trying to remember all the happiness he brought me and all the good memories I have of him. ❤️

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