Self care is about feeling better and this is a story about getting better at feeling better. Let’s just get this out there. I am terrible at self care. I could say that I don’t have enough time between work and kids and everything else. I could say it’s because I was never taught the importance of self care. Regardless, the fact that I am writing this means that I am about 100 times better that where I started (nowhere).
I don’t at all know all there is to know. But here’s what I’ve learned so far…
- There are some prerequisites. First of all. you have to want to feel better and be well. If you don’t, it won’t work. Also, you need to have some self-awareness. You just do. You need to be able to recognize that you aren’t well or that you are feeling stressed or whatever else you may feel…
- Self care is different for everyone. What regulates or recharges one person may be completely different than another. I am the kind of person that has a hard time sitting still, relaxing, being chill. I also have a lot of anxiety surrounding my environment. There is no way that I can recharge in a messy room. It just won’t happen. Just knowing there are things that need to be done even will prevent me from relaxing. So, for me a huge self care activity is making a list of to-dos (i.e. straightening the house, cleaning the kitchen, taking out the trash) and then identifying an activity I want to do (i.e. writing, reading, etc.) and completing my to-do list so I can enjoy the activity.
- You have to put yourself above everything else. In the world of family, kids, work, and more, it is easy put yourself aside due to (lack of) time, others’ needs, or whatever else. For me, I have to remind myself that without (the well version of) myself, those other things will start to fall apart, I won’t do my best work, I’ll get snippy with the kids, my relationships will suffer.
- Self care takes time and practice. At least for me, you don’t just decide in your head one day that you are going to practice good self care and poof, it happens. It can take time to figure out what activities will help. For me, it depends on the moment, the mood, the level of stress, anxiety, depression.
- People don’t talk about self care. Well, too bad. I’m talking about it.
So, here’s what it really looks like for me. I’m chugging along in life. Slowly, almost unnoticed, I start to develop a tiny bit of worry. It’s not even there really. But, it is. My every interaction is framed by it. Maybe a petty argument occurs. My mood is affected by these little negative things that are happening. I start to get preoccupied. It doesn’t matter what the tiny bit of worry was that started this whole thing. It’s now a different and much bigger bit of worry. It may even be full on anxiety. Maybe my wife asks me, “What’s wrong?” I say, “Nothing.” A couple of days pass and this is usually where I start to realize that I need to do something for myself (I aspire to realize this about eight sentences back). So, I make time. I tell my wife I need it (she’s painfully supportive every time, mostly because she knew two days ago). Alas, I take a walk. I read a book or paint a picture. Sometimes I put together puzzles or read comic books. I do whatever it is that I need to do to feel better.
What do you do to help yourself? Do you experience a similar cycle? How do you take care of your mental health?