The problem with self-care
Self-care is a tricky topic in several ways. On the one hand, it can seem so simple and obvious that it's not really worth talking about. I can picture a crowd of educated adults, busy parents, and successful professionals rolling their eyes and feeling slightly offended as they inwardly remark, "Of course I need to exercise and get sleep." At the same time, acting on such advice can be complicated, sometimes even bordering on absurd in suggesting that extra activities can easily be inserted into an already busy life. I can picture the same crowd rolling their eyes and feeling slightly offended, thinking, "Yeah, sure, I'll just snap my fingers and create more time for working out and sleeping in."
The term self-care can also feel like it carries a banner of bad news containing parental-like reminders of everything that's off-limits: all the pleasurable indulgences we shouldn't be consuming. It can feel like an encouragement to strip away life's color and excitement, leaving us dull and lifeless.
When the idea of self-care seems too simple, the execution too hard, and the concept too restrictive, it's a sign that we need to approach the whole thing in a different way. I find it much more useful and engaging to frame self-care as being about maximizing our capacity to live fully— ensuring that we have the energy and vibrancy we need in order to pursue our life goals and to sustain the activities that offer meaning, fulfillment, and joy to ourselves and those around us.
For many people, it helps to focus less on what they shouldn't do, and more on what they're aspiring to move toward in their day-to-day lives. With this shift, self-care becomes more straight-forward and exciting. It becomes a process in which we're asked to call upon our own wisdom and life-experience as opposed to merely relying on guidelines presented by others.
This inner-discernment is essential, especially for those of us living busy lives. We often can't afford to give more time than necessary to self-care activities, and we can't afford not to give enough time to that which allows us to continue with our commitments and activities. We have to bring the best of our intelligence and self-awareness to the process, along with equal doses of discipline and flexibility. We also need to participate in an ongoing conversation with ourselves.
For starters, we can ask:
"What's the best way for me to take care of myself today?"
"How can I best use the time I have to support myself?"
What responses come to mind?