My child-hood friend struck a conversation with me on self-care the other day. He said that he devoted every Sunday to a jamming session with a couple of friends, followed by a salad lunch that he wasn’t exactly a fan of, and allowed himself an hour of video games every day. That was his way of taking care of himself, he said. He asked me what my way of self-care was, and I showed him an image I had stumbled upon on the internet. It said I had to let myself have a long soothing shower sometimes, treat myself to a wholesome spread of breakfast, read a book, write down my thoughts, and explore the city on my own. And he frowned then laughed.
With everyone extensively participating in conversations on mental health now, the concept of self-care taking the forefront is inevitable. It is almost a necessity. The internet today dictates thousands of ways that one can incorporate self-care into their routines. Bubble baths, healthy food, meditation, exercise, and some everyday practices; that is what self-care has become all about. Although there are a few indulgences that are important in bringing peace and clarity to the human brain—meditation, physical movement, physical pampering, and the likes, we often tend to miss the most core essence of self-care and why it exists.
Treating yourself to certain luxuries can feel well-deserving when your mind and body have been exhausted at the end of the day or the week. And you probably do deserve the same, but that is not how you take care of yourself. Pampering yourself with certain amenities is what you deserve and need to replenish your mental and physical strength but only for the time being. It may or may not be uplifting in the long run. Sure, allowing yourself to have that extra slice of pizza and booking yourself a spa on the weekend are things that easily bring that bounce of energy on an ordinary day. And those are forms of self-care, but it doesn’t begin or end there.
We often confuse self-care with a distraction, an escape, or an excuse to partake in some liberties. Fighting off the gloom of a bad day by staying in, binge-watching a new series and calling in for some cheese sticks may be a temporary resort, an escape for the time being. And sure, it helps. However, taking care of yourself in the real sense would be to confront your thoughts and feelings—foul or pleasant, and to embrace them. These temporary escapes and distractions will definitely ease your mind, but the source of your bad mood won’t leave your mind; it will just retreat into a corner, sitting there, making painful appearances every now and then. And you can’t resort to a new series or comfort food each time that it does.
Running hot water over your body is comforting and easy. So is saying no to a date because you’d rather stay home than fight off your anxiety and pestering thoughts. However, self-care is ugly. It isn’t beautiful. It is coming face to face with your thoughts and emotions, embracing them instead of reprimanding them. It is about saying yes to things that scare you. That is self-care in real terms. You are not restricting yourself there. You are taking care of yourself by being out there, stepping out of your comfort zone, and becoming familiar with the conundrum in your head.
Finding temporary mood makers and escapes in activities and things that are comfortable and blocking the negativity that actually needs attention is not self-care. And it is different for everyone. I may be comfortable with writing to acknowledge my thoughts and feelings, while you’d rather talk about them to someone. The jamming session that my friend has every Sunday with a few friends is self-care for him because he enjoys the activity in their company. The salad meal right after is self-care too. It is an attempt at incorporating a healthy diet into an otherwise unhealthy habit. At the same time, having an extra slice of pizza after sticking to your set diet is self-care too. And the hourly everyday gaming ritual is simply him trying to break away from the addiction amicably; from gaming for hours every day to limiting it to just an hour. That is self-care for him.
The list of self-practices that I showed him were a bunch of things that may or may not work for everyone in general. However, they aren’t mine. If I do follow that routine, it will be just me robotically trying to take care of myself in ways that the world believes is good for me. It may help me, but I wouldn’t know what I really need to do and why, unless I sit and have heart to heart conversations with my fears, secrets, weaknesses, strengths, inhibitions, and where I want to be.
References: Anastasia Dedhia, Mind Mantra
Photo by Ehimetalor Unuabona on Unsplash