The term "self-care" has become synonymous with internet influencers posting perfectly posed photos of a bubble bath, a movie with a glass of wine, doing a face mask, and other similar activities. But true self-care isn't so perfectly picturesque. So I want to take time to talk about other forms of self-care and why self-care is so important.
I'm sure we all know someone who uses the term "self-care" to talk about spoiling themselves a bit. I've also met people who have used the concept of "self-care" as an excuse for laziness or procrastination. Between the obvious misuse of the term "self-care" and the misrepresentation by internet influencers, I actually grew to hate the term "self-care" for a very long time. Whether done intentionally or unintentionally, the term "self-care" has lost its true meaning along the way. I genuinely believe that most people who casually toss the term "self-care" around use it with good intentions. They don't mean to be sarcastic or poke fun. They are simply missing the full picture.
So what exactly is self-care?
Certainly, there are times when self-care includes spoiling yourself a bit. But it's a lot more than that. I'm going to challenge you to take a minute and think about everything that you need in order to get through the day. What about the week? What about the next year?
To get through the day, you likely have basic needs that need to be fulfilled. A good night of sleep, something to eat, some water to stay hydrated, that first cup of coffee in the morning, or other common day to day things like that. As you expand further to what you need to get through the next week, month, and year, those needs will change. The needs you have now are much bigger and include things like work, housing, education, and health, to name a few.
By recognizing that your own personal needs can look different depending on the setting, you can recognize that the way you address your needs may vary. Let's go back and evaluate the picturesque examples of self-care that internet influencers toss out. Whether it's a post about a fancy meal or kicking back watching a movie, those posts only represent caring for their most immediate needs. They're fulfilling their hunger or alleviating their stress. But it's not representing more long-term self-care.
Another term that has become more popular recently is the term "adulting." For example, when a person goes and runs errands or does their taxes or gets an oil change in their car, they may refer to those tasks as "adulting."
So now to step back and look at these tasks as the fulfillment of our needs, try looking at them as examples of self-care. When you run your errands, like grocery shopping, you're taking care of yourself by getting the food you'll need when you're hungry. When you're doing your taxes, you're taking care of yourself by preventing legal trouble. When you get an oil change in your car, you're making sure that your future self doesn't wind up with car problems in the future.
I try to remind myself that my responsibilities are investments in myself and my future. Sometimes those investments are a total pain. For myself, writing essay after essay for school can be one of the most draining things to do. But I remind myself that I'm doing it for future Hannah. I'm taking care of future Hannah. I'm giving her a more fulfilling future. I'm doing all of this work for my future self.
Going to therapy is another way that I take care of myself. It takes a lot of work to be so vulnerable and address some of the most upsetting parts of my life. But I know that it will help me overcome so many challenges and become a better version of myself. I'm taking care of myself by doing a lot of hard work.
By addressing the other forms of self-care, I'm not negating the influencer version of self-care. Those moments are necessary. We need to know when to take a step back and recharge. We need to be able to have those moments to recharge in order to continue moving forward. If you don't take time to rest, you'll burn yourself out. I've done exactly that to myself. I'd been so stressed and so worked up for weeks and weeks on end. I also packed so many extra things on my plate. As the saying goes, I was burning the candle at both ends. That type of behavior isn't sustainable. I overwhelmed myself and didn't allow myself any time to get proper rest. Naturally, I got sick.
I wasn't overly surprised when I got sick. I knew that I had been overextending myself. My body needed rest and it took me getting sick to finally give in and allow myself to rest. For a few days, all I could do was sleep and watch a lot of tv and movies. I knew that I had a lot that I needed to do. I had homework to do, dirty dishes to clean, heaps of laundry, and plenty of other household tasks. But that's not what my body needed.
Self-care is a balancing act between taking care of your present and future selves. In order to be able to take care of our future selves, our present selves need to be cared for first. If your present self isn't okay, you need to take care of those needs first. But don't forget to care for your future self as well. Invest in yourself. Continue to grow. You'll be grateful that you did.